A Sermon by The Rev’d Canon Jenny Wilson

In the name of God, creating, redeeming, sanctifying, … Amen.

In his book Candles in the Dark that many from our community are using for their reflections during Lent, Rowan Williams dedicates one of his reflections to the idea of meditative walking. He writes this:

In meditative walking we trace over the world’s surface the path to God; we affirm that whatever steps we take can be part of our journey home to the source of all things in Jesus who is ‘the Way’. We can do this at home and find that our pilgrimage is a matter of doing the most ordinary and everyday things. We can make a literal pilgrimage to a shrine and see it as a symbol of the upheavals and new beginnings in which our life in creation unfolds. We can make the spaces of our own church buildings speak and sing by slow, loving pacing around them.

Whether it’s the Stations of the Cross … or some other form of the Christian journey, it’s important that our church buildings breathe the invitation into prayerful journeying. [1]

St Paul’s Monastery on Cross Road, not far from the beginning of the South Eastern Freeway, has placed in one of its gardens a series of 14 statues depicting the Stations of the Cross. These stations breathe the invitation into prayerful journeying about which Rowan Williams writes. The St Peter’s Cathedral Pastoral Care Team walked these Stations of the Cross a few weeks ago for a time of Lenten reflection. Each statue in the stations depicts Christ at one of the scenes of his Passion, from the first scene where Jesus is condemned to death to the fourteenth and final scene where Jesus is laid in his tomb. The Stations were made in Italy of Carrara marble and they are placed along a path that weaves in the midst of a beautiful garden. Birds fly and sing in the midst of those who walk the path remembering and contemplating the Passion of Christ. As pilgrims walk and ponder, words of reflection may be read. The words of reflection begin in the following way:

The Way of the Cross is a road which leads through death to resurrection. Prayed in union with Christ, it is the sure way to fullness of life, to holiness, to God. As St Paul of the Cross [said] ‘the Passion of Christ is the greatest and most stupendous work of Divine Love.’  We actually find our way into that love, he adds, ‘by immersion in the sea of Christ’s Passion, which allows entrance into the ocean of God’s Love.’  This is at the very heart of the Way of the Cross. [2]

At Choral Evensong during Lent, in St Peter’s Cathedral, we, too, are walking the Way of the Cross. Each Lenten evening, we have read a portion of the Passion according to St Mark, the gospel of the year. Each Lenten evening our sermon has reflected upon the reading. After Rev’d Peter spoke about the meaning of Lent, Lynn Arnold reflected upon the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, looking at three paintings, Dean Frank has reflected upon the two trial scenes, the political trial and the religious trial. Tonight we have been given to ponder Jesus’ crucifixion and the words he spoke at the time of his death and the words that were spoken about him as he died. We ponder the shame of his death, his clothes divided among the soldiers who crucified him, two bandits on either side. We hear the mockery of those who passed by: ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!’We hear the contempt of the religious leaders: ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ We hear that even those who were crucified with him taunt him.

In the midst of all these words we hear Jesus’ words. Jesus’ words to his Father as he dies in agony on the cross. What is amazing is that he cries, that he prays. A devoted Jewish man, he prays a psalm.

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cries out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

We hear that Jesus gives a loud cry and breaths his last. And the curtain of the temple is torn in two, from top to bottom. And we hear that when the centurion, who stands facing him, sees that in this way he breaths his last, he says, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

This is not the time for a Good Friday sermon, a deep reflection on the cross, the dying of Jesus, the words he spoke and the meaning of it all. This is not the time to ponder God’s redemption of creation in the extraordinary love of this dying man. That we see God in this dying man. We are fortunate that, in our Cathedral, our Archbishop will journey with us this year in Holy Week. He will preach for us on Maundy Thursday, on Good Friday and at the Lighting of the New Fire and Confirmation on Easter day. Our Archbishop will minister to us at that time.

Tonight is a time to ponder, instead, the walking of the way of the cross through Lent in preparation for Holy Week. As we spend this time in reflection, perhaps putting to one side, giving up, something that we love, something that we love that might get in the way of God. Perhaps taking on some way of spending time with God. On the first Sunday of Lent, I spoke in the morning of the idea that what God longs for is a little time, a little of our time. Each day in Lent if we can manage it. Ten minutes, perhaps, or more. Each Lenten day. In our favourite place, with our favourite words of scripture or poetry. Or silently gazing at a tree, or an icon, or the waves of the sea. Sitting or walking, it doesn’t matter. I think what God longs for is a little of our time.

At Choral Evensong one way that we have given God time is to hear, as we do each year in Lent, the story of Jesus’ Passion. To walk slowly with it. To let it weave into our weeks of Lent, each week, perhaps, having memories of the words of scripture read, and the reflections on it in sermons and in the singing of the choir, the playing of the organ. Allowing it. Walking in it. Living our lives in it.

For this is one way of embarking on the journey home to the source of all things in Jesus who is ‘the Way’ as Rowan Williams put it. This is one way. Walking in scripture, in the most profound story of scripture, the story of Jesus’ Passion. Living our lives with the memory of it, perhaps not even consciously, blessing us, guiding us, causing us to wonder.

So that when in one week’s time, we do walk the way of the Cross again in Holy Week, the words will be a little more familiar, will be a little more part of us, will resonate for us, for having walked with them through Lent at Choral Evensong in the Cathedral that is our home.

[1] Rowan Williams Candles in the Dark, p49.

[2] http://themonastery.net.au/sacred-garden/the-journey/journey-one/