“I Thirst” (Joe)

14 Apr

As the season of Eastertide begins, I thought I’d post two brief reflections on the two moods of Easter; Death and Life as encapsulated in Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  The first post is from a Seven Last Words service I participated in this past Friday.  The reflection is from the words of Jesus in John 19:28

It is the most common of feelings.  Not a day, an hour, or a moment goes by in which we don’t sense the need to nourish our bodies.  Yes, at times we may feel a surge of imperviousness or invincibility, but our thirst and hunger quickly steal the thought from us.  We can’t help but be vulnerable, needy bodies.  But we expect more from God.  If we are weak, God must be strong.  So when Jesus,  a figure so powerful and wise as to be the image of the invisible God, hangs ragged on a cross of execution, we are understandly confused.  Is this not the shepherd who offered living water to a woman at the well, and here he groans for water himself?  Is this not the prophetic voice who poured into ready ears words of great expectation, and not one drop of consolation for himself?  Is this not the King who being the consummate host overflowed the cups of crowds with wine and plates of peasants with loaves, and here he has no provision for himself?  It’s unbelievable.  We look at this Shepherd, Prophet and King and we wonder who it is we’ve been following.   Unconsolable, we examine God as Job.

“You thirst?”  we exclaim, “No, its the sick and dying in hospital beds and refugee tents that really thirst. ”

“You thirst?”  we exclaim, “No, listen, its the poor who line the slums of great cities that really thirst.”

“You thirst?”  we exclaim, “No, that can’t be, its the prisoners of wars locked away so that no one hears their cries.  They are the ones that thirst.”

If God thirsts, then who will be left to attend to these for whom we plead? 

From our confusion and anger that the God and Savior we believe in could be rendered powerless, come waves of what could pass for sympathy and sadness.  Giving up on the power of God we simply admit we expected too much, after all he’s only human.  But what if.  What if his thirst was a choice?  After all, there were alternatives to this death on a cross.  You see, Jesus could have begged authorities to preserve his life.  He could have asked Pilate for a second chance.  Maybe procure a few acres of land on the edge of the wilderness and secure the safety of his followers.  There Jesus could build redemption by the sweat of his brow.  But while doing so he would have also secured the authority of Rome; pledging allegiance not to the righteousness of God, but the political powers of this world.  Subservience is surely a way to avoid the thirst of the cross, but not of death itself.   He could have also gathered an army, marched straight into Jerusalem and taken redemption by force.  That’s also a way to avoid the thirst of the cross, well at least until the next revolution comes along.   But these are all plotlines that were never drawn, the roads not taken, the cups Jesus never sipped.  

Instead “I thirst” is the price of these stories that were never written.  Jesus chooses this thirst, chooses it as one does a fast.  For on this occasion, to fast from the powergrabs of humans is to feast on the self-giving and peaceable way of God.   Just when we see thirst as this creaturely weakness revealing what we lack, God in Christ tells us  thirst can be a longing for what we deeply need.  We don’t just thirst to secure who we are, but to free us for who we can be.   Jesus gasping on the cross has a word for us.  The body may seek preservation, but the soul yearns for inspiration and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob thirsts for transformation.  So when we thirst for Peace and Caring, fasting from violence of word and deed, and  when we thirst for Genorosity and Sharing, fasting from greed and lonelineess, then we can joyfully claim as Jesus does, “I thirst!”  And God, hearing that cry will present us a cup filled with New Life and we will drink of it deeply indeed.

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