This is the blog of the Rev. Rock Higgins: I am the Episcopal Priest to the Center of the Universe. Really. This blog goes from my ordination to the present. Sins of omission and commission are fully my own, and I am leaning on the Grace-upon-Grace in my following of Christ. I serve as the Rector of St. James the Less Episcopal Church in Ashland, VA, also known as the Center of the Universe (CotU) to the locals.
Friday, April 14, 2017
“Sour Wine” meditation Year A Good Friday 2017
“Sour Wine”: a Good Friday meditation
Year A Good Friday, 14 April 2017
St. Paul’s Episcopal, Richmond, VA: Prayers and Meditations Service 12 noon - 3 pm
He was thirsty, and they gave him Sour Wine.
Too often in this world, when we are thirsty we are given Sour Wine. It is the nature of the world. “But this is what you need,” they might say, “so this is what you get.” No matter the intent, it is still Sour Wine.
I think about, as he breathed his last, what was going through Christ’s mind? All the pain. All the sorrow. He was thirsty, and asked for something to drink. He asked the same of the woman at the well, if you remember.
So human a need for the Son of God to request. But here he was, the Quintessential Human doing what we all must one day, Jesus was dying.
And in the horror of those last moments, he asked, for something to quench his thirst.
“I am thirsty,” he said.
I wonder if he thought back to the last thing he ate, the last thing he drank.
He was at a Seder, the traditional Passover banquet, with those he was closest to, eating, drinking, laughing, remembering.
And in the midst of that night he taught, he prayed, he worshiped.
He tasted of the Fruit of the Vine, the sweet wine of the Promised Land. He drank four cups of sweet wine as part of the ritual, the fourth and final cup the promise and hope of salvation. I wonder when he sipped the Sour Wine did he think back to the sweetness of the night before?
But it was not Sweet Wine he tasted, but Sout Wine. Wine that had turned. Bitter. Acrid. Biting to the tongue. Did he think back to the Maror, the bitter herb he had eaten the night? Just as bitter to remind all partaking of the bitterness of being enslaved, the bitterness of not being free.
The Sweet. The Bitter. Both mingled in that single sip. That Sour Wine meant to quench his thirst.
The agony of death on a cross is excruciating, doctors tell us. The nails piercing the wrists sever the sciatic nerve running up the arm causing pain closer to being burned alive than a cut or puncture. The stretching of the abdominals to the point of cramping gives the feeling and horror of suffocation. The effect and intended desire is terror. And add to that the nakedness of Jesus on the cross added humiliation. Crucifixion achieved the terror and and humiliation all too well. And Sour Wine is what they gave to the Savior of the World.
What do we give?
Sour Wine has a purpose. Analgesic effects, so they say. But when someone thirsts, EVERYTHING ELSE becomes secondary. Thirst is a pain.
Thirst can drive wise ones mad.
Thirst is what Jesus felt.
It was the final concern of his all-too-brief life.
And he was given Sour Wine.
His final word, tetelestai as recorded in the Greek of St. John’s gospel, is often translated as, “It is finished.” But it is more than that.
Two weeks ago, my family did the Monument Avenue 10k. My youngest had never done it before, and the first four miles of the six point two, she ran ahead and kept pushing for us to go faster. You see, we had all done it before, and knew how far we had to go. She did not.
At mile 5, she slowed significantly, and before we were even close to mile 6 she was in obvious pain. At mile 6 she asked, “How much further?!?!” I was able to point ahead and show her the banners at the end so she could see the finish line. When she crossed it, she cried out, “That’s finally over!” But her loving father looked down, and said, “You did it! I am so proud of you!” I would have picked her up and carried her if I could, but we all know, there are some things we all must do for ourselves, and we alone can finish them.
Jesus, in pain and sorrow, looked to heaven and declared not, “It is finally over!!!” He declared to his loving parent, “It is accomplished.” And then he breathed his last.
And then the earth stood still and silent as Jesus died.