Last Words

With poetry by Emily Dickinson




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



One Crucifixion is recorded – only –


One Crucifixion is recorded – only – 

How many be

Is not affirmed of Mathematics –

Or History –


One Calvary – exhibited to Stranger –

As many be

As persons – or Peninsulas –

Gethsemane –


Is but a Province – in the Being’s Centre –

Judea –

For Journey – or Crusade’s Achieving –

Too near –


Our Lord – indeed – made Compound Witness –

And yet –

There’s newer – nearer Crucifixion

Than That –

Emily Dickinson



At midday darkness fell over the whole land, which lasted till three in the afternoon.

Gathering clouds swept in from the west removing any trace of a Passover Moon – and a Son was eclipsed.  A warm, moist wind wrapped friend and stranger alike in a tableau that has etched itself into our minds.  The scene set, bystanders now withdrew, as they shrank from one another and embraced their fears. 

O ye Light and Darkness, bless ye the Lord: / praise him, and magnify him for ever.

Dark anvils accumulated overhead, casting the City in blackness as preparations were undertaken to forge redemption in such a smithy as this.  Angels gathered for war and in the failing light eyes strained to see.  Duplicity and betrayal paved the path to this place.  It had made the journey easy for some.  The road has been maintained by denial and cunning.  It is maintained still.

Tyrant and autocrat have not summoned this scene.  Brokenness has been bidden this day.  Promise made in a Cup blessed hours earlier in an Upper Room ignored hubris and called forth authority – and in darkened crevices of this loathsome place a Cup of Blessing has allowed humility.

O ye Lightnings and Clouds, bless ye the Lord: / praise him, and magnify him forever.

The air weighed heavy on the shoulders of the condemned.  They became lost above the dust stirred into eddies in this exposed place.  The cape of a Century on duty billows helpless in the track of the growing mid-day wind.  For the curious, and for the pious, the Tallith swims from shoulders… reminiscent of an earlier day when another wind blew water dry and deliverance found sure footing where once fishes were.

O ye Seas and Floods, bless ye the Lord: / praise him, and magnify him forever.

One Crucifixion is recorded – only –  / How many be / Is not affirmed of Mathematics –  / Or History –

Some, whose names are known, and some whose names have been lost, keep watch and bear a witness to the events of the day.  As sand rushes through a glass,  hours pass.  They cannot be stopped.  Each witness has his story.  Each one has in turn been told, while most have never been heard.  And few have been recorded.

Some here have been drawn by duty, as today while others were drawn by faith.  The more courageous, brave to come closer, while others keep a safe distance.  Drawn from across an Empire, the polyglot assembly keeping Passover is reminiscent of a census taken in an earlier day, in Bethlehem.

Strangers crushed each other then and strangers gather and crush each other again.

And yet / There’s newer – nearer Crucifixion / Than that – and we find ourselves in a familiar place hearing a familiar story.  The interposed sufferings between then and now provide us with fresh witnesses.

One Crucifixion is known – too many to imagine have been forgotten.  Many predate the gospel accounts we know well.  And to the shame of human history too many have followed since the account of the Nazarene whose words we will recount this afternoon.

In recent years, and in our memory, while the implement of death has changed from one generation to another, the words discharged from the Cross remain current in their application as Mothers wring their eyes dry yet at the sight of their children’s death.  Forgiveness is no less in demand, and no easier to pronounce today than in any day before this one.  While embarrassed to admit it, the weight of loneliness and God-forsakenness is as much a companion today as ever and the existential fear of never having been resonates in every generation.

From the ashes of the ovens of Krakow and Auschwitz, to the anti-Semitism of this past week in Toronto and Montreal; from the evaporation of Japanese in Nagasaki to the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda; from the bombing of Dresden to the Parades that will soon begin in Londonderry – forgiveness and the need for reclamation has never been out of vogue – and never in such demand.

Words spoken then resonate for us today, fresh and vibrant.


Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Luke 23: 33-34