Faithfully looking, listening, and understanding
36 ”Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[e]the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Matthew 26:36-45)
As we approach Holy Week, I’m drawn to remember many Holy Weeks that I have experienced in the past. For eight years, I served a church with a beautiful stained glass window at the front of the sanctuary that depicted Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane before his arrest, much like the painting by Heinrich Hofmann. In the stained glass the disciples surrounded him, fast asleep! For those years I served there in that church, and most years since, I’ve been struck by how little we are able to keep our attention focused on Jesus and what he needs from us as disciples. We are often clueless, even bored and fast asleep with the events around us. Even when so much is at stake. For we too face incredibly important moments in life and faith too.
It is difficult, very hard to stay focused on this part of the story; Holy Week reveals our sins all too clearly. Not just the ones we’ve committed, but as the old communion ritual would have us say, “that which we have done, and that which we have left undone.” We want to avoid them, and rush to the resurrection, bring Jesus down from the cross as soon as we can so that we don’t have to deal with the pain he experienced, and understand what we must be putting a loving God through every day, as God knows when a sparrow falls, he must feel it when we commit a sin, the ones we do, and the ones that result from us doing nothing, or what is left undone.
I’ve always enjoyed Palm Sunday; we usually have a parade of children with palms. This year not as likely. We know how fickle the crowd was, and we need to be truthful about how fickle we are today too. (I’m sure you haven’t forgotten, last year was a presidential election year.) If someone could just come along who would just easily fix the problems of our country and world for us. I pray for our faithfulness this week to come to terms with how we can choose to do what is best in our own lives, and faithfully look, listen, and understand what God is revealing through the week ahead. It will likely be painful, but much less so than what Christ went through for us. We will hear some familiar stories and teachings; in the power of God’s creativity, in the Holy Spirit’s Truth, we can hear and understand it all anew, in ways that help us grow and mature in God’s grace and love. I pray we stay awake, alert, engaged in our faithfulness, faithfully looking, listening, and understanding. Join us this week for worship.