Jesus

Last Words

With poetry by Emily Dickinson

 

Introduction

 

Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.

Luke 23: 33-34

 

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Luke 23: 39-43

 

Woman, here is your son! ... Here is your mother!

John: 19: 26-27

 

My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?

Mark: 15: 33-34 and Matthew: 27: 46

 

I am thirsty.

John: 19: 28-29

 

It is finished.

John: 19: 30

 

Father, into your hands

I commend my spirit.

Luke 23:  44-46

 

Ashes to Easter

 

 

Where Thou art – that – is Home –

 

Where Thou art – that – is Home –

Cashmere – or Calvary – the same –

Degree – or Shame –

I scarce esteem Location’s Name –

So I may Come –

 

What Thou dost – is Delight –

Bondage as Play – be sweet –

Imprisonment – Content –

And Sentence – Sacrament –

Just We two – meet –

 

Where Thou art not – is Woe –

Tho’ Bands of Spices – row –

What Thou dost not – Despair –

Tho’ Gabriel – praise me – Sir –

Emily Dickinson

 

 

Luke 23:  44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the suns light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Having said this, he breathed his last.

 

 

How else might we imagine Jesus’ commendation of his spirit? 

As with Peter in an earlier day – asking Jesus where he might go apart from the presence he had grown to trust – how might Jesus have considered the disposition of his spirit – but by placing his trust in the hands of his Father?  God’s hand was upon him from before he was born in Bethlehem.  God’s hand remained on him still.  Where Thou art – that – is Home / Cashmere – or Calvary – the same – the location is not esteemed by this Son.  Wherever the Father may be: that is home.  And where might Jesus not find the Father?  Where indeed might omnipresence hide?  He finds him on Calvary.  Among the opposed and the oppressed he is there. 

The veil of the Temple now torn in two, no longer is God confined in a room, by a mind, in a thought.  No fabric can contain him and no space can define him.  Jesus is at home and can commend himself to his Father, his ministry accomplished.

Just We two – meet – at the crest of a hill outside a City wall.  Outside the familiar and the acceptable, Jesus discovered that Bondage is sweet, and Imprisonment contentment.  His sentence is carried out at the insistence of the whole world.  His offering becomes then for him and now for us sacrament. 

What we have witnessed together these few hours points beyond itself hidden and exposed in darkness and demonstrates grace characteristic of God’s promise to give us that which we so desperately need: forgiveness. 

The Word of God took on flesh and it is here that his glory is demonstrated.  Grace and Truth are seen dimly on a Cross, cradled in the hands of God.

Had the meeting been at another time and at another place we might well have missed it.  Had the assembly been avoided or cancelled we would not have come here today.  But from beginning to end, the darkness filling the afternoon of this spring month of Nissan wrapped hope that might be known, and a promise made, remembered and kept.

Our reclamation is no product of a punitive God meaning to scare us more than we have been frightened already in this life.  Our redemption, rather, is the glory of God for the truth of his promise: a covenant sealed in the blood of the Lamb seen by those who see beyond the agony and shame of crucifixion.

The time is coming, indeed it now is, that a pledge is written on our hearts – a pledge that we have been forgiven and that our secret Crime is remembered no more against us.

Our salvation comes at a cost.  That cost is not weighed by a pound of flesh nor measured by the count of the lash.  The cost of our salvation is the obedience seen through to a conclusion that has the Son of Promise commit his spirit into the hands of his Father. 

Our rescue is not reduced to a timely escape from the pain of conscience or penalty.  Rather, it is the gift of forgiveness in spite of all, that has been a thread throughout this afternoon’s story of the Cross and the Crucified. 

Who has been forgiven?  Well, you have… and so have you… and you as well; and so have I.   There has been no time on this hilltop for liturgy or penance.  Why, we didn’t think it necessary, did we?  While we may have feared for the punishment of untold Crime, we considered forgiveness a less likely alternative. 

No, the time spent here has allowed us to keep the darkened company of soldier and priest, of Mother and disciple, of felon and curious onlooker – withdrawn and hopeful.

The Century’s confession of faith becomes the natural response to Jesus’ initiative of forgiveness: This is God’s Son.