“It is finished.”
Jesus speaks these words.
Bows his head.
Gives up his spirit.
It is finished.
Those words must have been confusing to hear.
Terrifying for his few followers,
close enough to hear, or for those
who soon would learn of this tragic outcome.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
His followers did not understand.
They did not yet have the fuller context of the story
that we have as we walk this journey.
As we do our own re-membering.
If we are honest, we do not fully understand it, ourselves.
That is why we must this repeat this ritual.
As we go about our lives, we may be graced with moments
when we experience flickers of clarity.
But we keep coming back.
To hear the story again and again.
We walk the stations of the cross.
We re-member what Jesus has done.
What Jesus is doing in our midst.
In us and through us and for us.
We’ve all lived long enough to know that
we can’t allow ourselves to be limited to
a softly glowing Hallmark Jesus who
looks at us from a distance.
We need a Jesus who is real and touchable.
Who will get in the deep mess of our lives with us –
with every single one of us.
Jesus who is everything, everywhere, all at once for us!
We need this Jesus who is more vast than
anything we could possibly grasp or imagine.
This week, in meditation, I recalled one of those
special moments of grace – an unexpected and
deeply personal encounter.
It had to have been 30 years ago when
I attended an Episcopal Church Women retreat
as a lay person.
One evening at worship, in a beautiful candlelit room,
those who were so moved had the opportunity to
come forward for prayer.
After a few minutes, I found myself in line without
any idea of what I wanted prayer for.
But deep in my chest I could sense
the groaning of the spirit.
As the priest placed his hands on my shoulders,
And the words came to me.
I leaned in close: “I want to be healed of the core of
shame deep inside me.”
He placed his hands on the sides of my head.
and said “Cast it on him. Cast it all on him.”
Suddenly everything around me fell away.
I was on that hill at Calvary.
The sky was angry and dark.
The wind was blowing.
I was at the foot of the cross, sensing Jesus’
all encompassing love even in the midst of his suffering.
He hung there not so much to pay a price but
to take my burden from me.
As I returned to my seat I wept quietly,
the deep sense of release that comes with healing.
Jesus knows us in all our complexity and contradiction.
In this week’s journey somehow we sense this.
We repeat this ritual, because we yearn to
recall the story in a way that is relevant to
our lives — right now, for this moment.
We long to access that ancient DNA that resides
deep in our bones,
that inhabits the most distant star in the farthest galaxy.
It ties us to everything that is.
It is the imprint of God.
This is the perfect Body into which Jesus calls us.
We need not be troubled too much by
the imperfect institutional Church and its inevitable
ups and downs.
We will weather these storms, provided we continue to
center our hearts, minds and efforts on the
One who was sent for us all.
No thing. No one. Is to be left out
of this perfect equation.
A dear friend of mine has been an Episcopalian
for nearly 20 years now.
When she felt drawn to find a church home,
another friend encouraged her:
“Try the Episcopal church!”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because the fence is real low. They let everyone in.”
When Jesus walked among us, he knocked down barriers.
Or more accurately they seemed to fall away in his presence.
He continues that work and counts
on our collaboration.
One of my seminary professors Gordon Lathrop –
a gentle soft-spoken Lutheran — preached one day
He said “Whenever you draw a line in the sand to
separate yourself from others,
you’ll always find Jesus on the other side.”
I found that statement to be unsettling and disturbing.
Not to mention incredibly inconvenient.
I also find it to be true.
Jesus was lifted high upon the cross to
draw all things unto himself.
All of creation.
He offered himself up to make all things whole.
Together as One.
“It is finished,” he declared.
Let us give flesh to the work he has completed.
Let us live into the way of Love deeply.
Let us love our way forward with care — not rushing,
but trusting Jesus to transform our fear and our shame
into something beautiful.
Something life-giving and true.
This homily was offered as one of a series of meditations on the last seven words of Christ at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Jacksonville, FL, on Good Friday, April 7, 2023