A Good Friday Reflection

As the rain comes down today and I see my packages of seeds awaiting the earth of my garden, being prepared for the death of a seed in the soil, to bring up the resurrection of something new and green–with the un-watering of the sky above; I see the correlation of Jesus’ death on the cross–to bring about a resurrection of hope and redemption offered to us all.

Today our church had a good Friday service in which we contemplate the last 7 words of Christ from the cross. I was asked to participate and I chose Jesus’ words “I thirst” as the focus of my sharing:

I Thirst

By Loretta Goddard, Good Friday 2019

“Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, ‘I’m thirsty.’ A jug of sour wine was standing by, someone put a sponge soaked with wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth.” John 19:28, 29 (The Msg)

I have been with three people as they died. One, we were trying to keep alive. I gave CPR to him as we awaited an ambulance. The other two were in hospice—one a friend, the other, my father. There were distinct differences in the death we were fighting and the others we were resigned to accept—even welcome.

Jesus’ death was one of acceptance at this point. Those who had eyes to see would even have welcomed it—for it was bringing about their way to redemption! To the Romans and most Jews at the crucifixion, Jesus was the “Dead Man Walking”* —the death row inmate already in the electric chair. To the disciples, the dismayed disciples, it was a horror they were resigned to accept. To Jesus it was the completion of something that began in the garden of Eden when Love, Who wouldn’t let go, began to formulate this plan. Moses wrote about it—the serpent’s head crushed by this woman’s seed* ; as did David, in Psalm 69*, prophesying of this very moment when Jesus would thirst and be offered sour wine.

When I sat with my friend and my father, as they lay dying, I observed that death is:
• an un-breath-ing and
• an un-water-ing.

When we fight death, we start IV lines and push fluids—we know that dehydration is part of dying. When we receive death, ice chips only are offered—or very small sips. Every breath “un-waters.” We offer moistened cotton swabs to cracked lips.

So here on the cross, Living Water was being poured out.

Just a few years prior to this, Jesus sat near a well and told a Samaritan woman: “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.” He said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”*

So now, on the cross, the Giver of Living Water Himself is thirsting. He is dry—parched—poured out—in order to quench our thirst. To bring us the living, gushing waters of saving grace, He is being un-watered with every breath.

Since this “Rock of Ages” gave water for the Israelites in the wilderness* —
Since this God-baby was birthed from amniotic fluid in a stable—
Since coming up from the waters of His baptism* —
Since that day with the woman at the watering well—
Since the dehydrated, un-watered, bleeding woman’s touch of the hem of His garment*-Since the moisture of a kiss of betrayal from Judas to His cheek—
Living, Loving, Water was being poured out.

This Word of God who formed the earth “out of water and through water,”* now allowed Himself, to be un-watered.
Life Himself became “Dead Man Walking.”
The Healer, the Great Physician, was passive. This is the “passion” of the Christ*:                 He became a patient—a hospice patient—submitting to death —
Allowing the un-breath-ing, the un-water-ing, of His death;
to bring us—
to offer us—
fresh living water.

Jesus said, “I thirst” so that we, can be filled with poured out Living Water, and “will never thirst—not ever.”

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*Footnotes:
1. Dead man walking definition: a condemned man walking from his prison cell to a place of execution. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/dead-man-walking
2. Gen 3:15
3. “They gave me poison for food and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Ps. 69:2
4. John 4:10 Message, John 4:13/14 Message, italics mine
5. “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:4
6. Matthew 3:16
7. Matthew 9:20
8. “…the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God….” 2 Peter 3:5b.
9. “The English word passion takes it root in the Latin, passio, meaning passivity, and that’s its real connotation here. The word “patient” also derives from this. Hence what the Passion narratives describe is Jesus’ passivity, his becoming a “patient”. He gives his death to us through his passivity, just as he had previously given his life to us through his activity.” http://ronrolheiser.com/the-passion-of-jesus/

Bonsai

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Yesterday I bought a bonsai.  I’ve been waiting years to have one–nearly since I have heard of them.  My bonsai is not one long cultivated by a master gardener and sold for hundreds of dollars.  Mine came in a little porcelain dish from my local Lowe’s store for $22.98.  The 20-something woman watering all the plants said she had always wanted one too.  The checkout lady admired it thinking it was a gift.

“No,” I said.  “It is for me.”

Like the genuine and respectable Enneagram 5 personality type that I am, the Investigator or Analyzer, over time I’ve studied the art of bonsai thoroughly.  I’ve checked out books from the library, visited several Japanese gardens, drooled over these intricate shapes at numerous horticultural events and landscape stores.  I even took a bonsai class and purchased bonsai pruning shears–but alas–no bonsai for me…until yesterday.

It’s likely my Enneagram 4-wing, the Romantic, that draws me to these little miniature windswept masterpieces–kind of in the way that I am fascinated with Tiny Houses, and have spent many hours watching shows on designing and building them…and yet do not own one.

To me, a bonsai is a metaphor for life– the Master Gardener trimming and twisting, pruning and shaping, bending and supporting–hence strengthening,

the plant:

me–

us–

makes us into lovely masterpieces.

I’m going through the Ignatian Exercises for a second time in my life.  I am doing the longer version and one that follows the Liturgical Calendar.  We are headed toward Lent–the time when, like my bonsai, we bend down–to receive ashes and remember that we are dust.  We trust Hands to our roots and branches–even in the valley of the shadow of death.  We know that we are a beautiful creation with the training eyes and touch of our Master Gardener.

To prepare for the exercises, the book I’m following invited me to pray a prayer by Thomas Merton:

My Lord, God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,

and the fact that I think I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always

though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

(The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life, Kevin O’Brien, SJ, Loyola Press, Chicago, 2011, page 37)

After reading Merton’s prayer, I wrote my own–and my new bonsai reminds me of my prayer during this time of spiritual cultivation and training:

God,

I want to do this for us–

for our relationship to grow.

I feel like a kindergartener*:

I the kinder

You the Teacher;

I the branch

You the Gardener.

I am wild,

and prone to return to the wild

whenever I look away

or leave your training twine.

Handle me.

Touch me, O Gardener.

Apply me to your training espalier.

Help me stay pliable–

not to stiffen up in my “knowing”

but to remain supple;

not to resist your twists

upward and outward.

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*https://www.etymonline.com/word/kindergarten