(The following is a reflection written for the Good Friday ‘Stations of the Cross’ prayer walk through some of the places of significance for Australia around Parliament House, Canberra. Stations included the National Art Gallery, the High Court, the National Portrait Gallery, Reconciliation Place, the National Library, the Rose Garden, and New Parliament House. In front of the Old Parliament House is an Avenue of old trees providing shelter and shade. This was the setting for the sixth station: ‘Father Forgive Them’.)
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. (NRSV)
Jesus was a man of forgiveness. Even while the nails were being driven through him and into the unbending wood Jesus was praying that God’s forgiveness would be known to his executioners. The words that come at such times mark people for who they really are. Jesus was a man forever sowing the seeds of forgiveness.
Of course this is not the first time Jesus has extended his hands so graciously. The gospels are replete with accounts of the forgiven: he said to the man delivered by friends through a hole in the roof: ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’. I caused a stir; he refused to condemn the woman dragged before him – caught in the embrace of another. His words: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more’, and; he taught his students to pray: ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’ It is a prayer hoping that we would not only be a forgiven but also a forgiving people. Even after his resurrection, Jesus is found by the lake restoring Peter after his repeated betrayal. Jesus was a man of forgiveness.
Perhaps, given such accounts, Jesus’ Good Friday prayer was as predictable as it was extraordinary: ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’
Jean Giono once wrote a short story entitled ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’. It tells of one who spent the latter half of his life in voluntary solitude planting acorns in an abandoned wasteland. During During the time of and around the two World Wars, a period of unprecedented destruction and greed, Elzeard Bouffier planted seeds that would heal the land and be enjoyed by generations he would never meet on land that was not his own. His seeds became a forest.
Take a look at these old trees. They are magnificent and strong. Each one began life as a small seed and was planted and cared for by people of vision. They have survived drought and storm and arrived safely to shelter us today. They are the work of people with vision. And as you marvel, remember the man who littered his world with an extravigant and confronting forgiveness- seeds planted and nurtured in the hope that one day they would grow into a canopy of true shelter and freedom.
Where does our land cry out for forgiveness?
Where do we need to seek forgiveness?
Where do we need to offer forgiveness?
Where can you plant Jesus’ seeds of freedom?