Holy is the Name I know

Good Friday, April 6, 2012 - Christ Church (Parish) Church - Fredericton, New Brunswick

 

The Reverend Anthony Kwaw, Rector of Fredericton

The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine, Guest Homilist

 

« We approach the Cross

« Forgive them

« You will be with me

« Behold

« Why?

« I thirst

 

Christ Church (Parish) Church, FrederictonFood and drink were familiar features of Jesus’ ministry.  He ate and drank with all sorts and conditions of men.  Much of his teaching was done over food and drink.  The time it took to eat some fish and drink some wine and chew on some bread allowed Jesus to engage others and tell them about the Kingdom of God. 

I have used a similar approach.  It occurred to me early in my ministry that with a slice of cheese and home made brown bread and a mug of coffee I was all set.  The cheese and bread and coffee were simply props. 

I have never been hungry.  And I am a stranger to thirst,

Nonetheless, Jesus spoke at length about both and while he had much to say bout it, we have seldom heard his teaching and when we have, we have been selective in our reading.  In the Book of Common Prayer lectionary the Alternative Gospel for All Saints’ Day addresses the concern.  But it is an alternative Gospel Reading and it is confined to November 1st.  The likelihood of our being at the Eucharist on All Saints’ Day is slim, and that the alternative Gospel reading would be selected is not a given.  But in the event that we did find ourselves present and that the alternative Gospel selection was read we would still feel good about ourselves. 

The passage of Scripture is found in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.  The Prayer Book has read from verse 31 through verse 40.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

What we have not heard is the rest of the story.  For Jesus does not end there.  He continues… with verse 41 and continues to verse 46.  These are uncomfortable verses and apart from your private devotional reading you may not be familiar with them…

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The indictment is stinging.  It places us with the Imperial authority.  The choice is ours to respond to thirst and having the opportunity we choose either to dip a sponge in cheap wine and wet parched lips, or walk by indifferent to another’s thirst.  None of us would think of ignoring Jesus’ hunger.  We would not ignore his thirst.  We would not think for a moment of withholding from him shelter from the cold or a cloak to shield him from the rain.  If we recognized Jesus in such a circumstance he would have nothing to fear.  Our defence is emphatic.

But Jesus is incisive.  He cuts to the heart of the matter.  ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

Our sin is by way of our negligence.  In every age we hear Jesus’ words, I thirst.  And in every age we have an opportunity to respond to what we have heard.  Our healing is attested to by the many acts of compassion we extend to the disadvantaged and homeless we encounter.  This gives a startling twist to knowing Jesus personally. Our witness is sanitized.  We have preferred to be insulated.  In his Passion Jesus is as close to us as we find ourselves passing the pan handler on the sidewalk.

Men in this parish have begun to address this thirst this Lent.  The homeless and hungry and thirsty present in this capital City provide us with an opportunity to look beyond ourselves and hear without ambiguity Jesus’ words, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Who can tell how many crosses…

still to come, or long ago…

Crucify the King of Heaven…

Holy is the Name I know.

 

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