Joseph of Arimathaea
As noted in The Lessons Appointed for Use on the Feast of Joseph of Arimathaea on Wednesday, August 1, Joseph was a secret disciple of our Lord whose intervention with Pilate ensured a burial for Jesus’ crucified body. After the Crucifixion, when many of Jesus’ disciples went into hiding for fear of the authorities, Joseph courageously came forward to ask Pilate’s permission to remove Jesus’ body from the cross in accordance with pious Jewish practice, namely, to provide the deceased with a timely and proper burial. Moreover, Joseph freely offered his own newly dug tomb for Jesus, preventing further desecration by humans or animals.
Though we know nothing of his further role in the early Christian movement, legends developed in later centuries about Joseph’s possible subsequent leadership. However, Joseph’s remembrance does not depend upon such legends; what is known of Joseph with certainty comes from the gospel narratives of Jesus’ burial, attesting to his devotion, his generous compassion, and his brave willingness to take action on behalf of another when such action mattered.
Devotion; compassion; bravery; urgency. These words attract me in this wonderful summary of Joseph of Arimathaea’s actions, on Jesus’s behalf. Throughout time, these characteristics that Joseph displayed are shared by people of purpose; people of cause and mission. When anyone of us are driven by devotion, compassion and bravery, we most certainly are, I believe, urgent in our actions. We will “take action on behalf of another, when such action” matters.
I believe COS is at such a time right now. We need, each of us, to search our hearts and find the devotion, compassion, bravery and commitment to become urgent in our actions for COS. We must be devoted to praying and searching our hearts to discover for the first time, or perhaps rediscover again, the gift this church is to us. We must be willing to “take action on behalf of another”, where the “others” are our brothers and sisters in Christ; our children; those among us who are just coming to discover Jesus; the sick and forgotten; the marginalized and needy, and yes, COS itself.
COS is a place of compassion where our souls are nourished, and we find comfort and community in Christ. Think for a moment what your life would look like without COS. What would your life be without these beautiful buildings in which to worship? Without the serene and comforting grounds? Without the beautiful music that moves our souls? Without the lively children’s ministries? Without the fellowship and community of fellow believers? I know my life would be different without COS. So, I urge each of us to be devoted and committed to ensuring the future of this special place called COS, just as Joseph was devoted and committed to providing a proper burial for Jesus.
But we need to be more than devoted and committed for the future of COS. We must also be brave, just as Joseph was brave. Many would say that Joseph risked his life to bury Jesus. Now that is bravery! The bravery we need for COS isn’t quite that dramatic. But brave we must be. I witnessed bravery recently during the Parish Profile session on Saturday, July 21. We participants were brave in our honesty about COS and how we envision our future. I urge each of us to find our own bravery to “take action when such action is needed”. And that action is needed now. The Parish Profile committee cannot do this work alone. Instead, we must all come together as one body, one group of faithful, devoted, compassionate and brave followers of Jesus. And as this group, we must unite in purpose; we must unite in devotion; we must unite in bravery. We must be steadfast in our trust in God’s purpose for us and we must encourage and support the bravery in one another to “take action on behalf of another”.
This is an exciting, scary, challenging and invigorating time for COS. But quoting someone from that Parish Profile session, COS is also “poised” for this time. So, the question remains: will each of us be like Joseph of Arimathaea, and be devoted, compassionate and brave in our willingness to act on behalf of Church of Our Saviour?