Tag Archives: Gethsemane

Sabbath Is Holy

Read Exodus 20:8-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5:16)

JCS.ht266Just recently I went to Moravian College to watch their production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. That is one of my favorite musicals and one of my favorite portrayals of Jesus. What I love about it, in particular, is how human and relatable Jesus is in that film. It makes no presuppositions of who Jesus is in terms of his divinity; rather, it leaves that open for the interpretation of each individual in the audience. While this may make some faithful Christians uncomfortable, I believe it is powerful because it presents Jesus much in the same way his disciples would’ve come to see him and know him…each with their own expectations of who he is and what they hoped he would accomplish.

And Jesus certainly feels the weight of those expectations. There’s one scene where he’s dreaming of people who are in need. First it is just one poor beggar. Then another person, this time crippled. Then another person shows up needing healing from leprosy. Jesus reaches out to help these people but, before he knows it, he is surrounded by a crowd of needy people. Each one of them want Jesus to touch them, to heal them, to make them well. Each one of them wants a piece of Jesus and, as more and more crowd him, Jesus realizes there’s just not enough of him to go around. “Heal yourselves,” Jesus cries out into the darkness as he awakens from what became a nightmare.

Jesus certainly feels the weight of those expectations. There’s another scene in the film where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying out to God to spare him from the torture and humiliating death he’s about to face. In this heart-wrenching song, Jesus pleads with God and sings these words: “I only want to say, if there is a way, take this cup away from me for I don’t want to taste it’s poison and feel it burn me; I have changed, I am not as sure as when we started. Then I was inspired, now I am sad and tired. Listen, surely I’ve exceeded expectation, tried for three years…seems like thirty…could you ask as much from any other man?”

Every time I hear those words I begin to cry. The song forces me to reflect on Jesus’ ministry and all the things he tried to say and do, all the miracles and signs he performed, in order to usher in the Kingdom of God. I think of Jesus weeping on the hill overlooking Jerusalem, knowing that this city will reject him and condemn him to die. I also cannot help but reflect on my ministry and all of years that have led me to where I am now. While I am not, to my knowledge, going to be crucified any time soon (hopefully never), doing ministry can and is exhausting work. Caring for others is draining work. Anyone who has ever cared for their sick parent(s), for family or for friends knows just how draining that can be.

There’s no doubt Jesus got tired, even exhausted, throughout his three-year ministry. But Jesus also set the example that a part of doing ministry includes caring for yourself. Jesus would take time a part from his ministry, from the crowds and even from his disciples and he would go up on the hillside to pray. There are times when we just need to be alone, to have that precious down time where we can rest, reflect and even spend time in conversation with our God.

If you are feeling tired and exhausted, if you are feeling worn down, know that it is not only okay for you to rest, but it is absolutely healthy and important for you to. Jesus did it, I do it from time to time, and you should too. You cannot minister to others if you are unable to minister and take care of yourself. Today’s challenge is for you to set apart some down time for you and get recharged for the work God is calling you to do. Sabbath is HOLY.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” Dalai Lama

PRAYER

Lord, guide me to withdraw the busy-ness of my life so that I may find refuge and renewal in you. Amen.

Journey with Jesus: Holy Thursday

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 26:17-75; Mark 14:12-72; Luke 22:7-71; John 13 – 18:27

Christ-in-the-garden-of-gethsemaneAN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

Turn, O LORD! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.* O woe this night! Jesus had us prepare for our passover feast together, and so we found this room and had it set aside for us to be together and to celebrate the night the angel of death passed over Egypt. Little did I know that death would be passing over us.

At the table, Jesus began to act very cryptically. He took his robe off and tied it around his waist like a common servant. Then he proceeded to wash everyone’s feet. I tried to protest it, but he wouldn’t let me. He told me that if I didn’t allow him to I would have no share with him in the Kingdom of Heaven! Can you imagine it. So I relented and allowed him to wash me.

Finally, he took the unleavened bread and the wine, blessed them both, and said that they were his body and his blood, broken and poured out for the a new covenant. He said that he was going to die and that we could not follow him, that one of us would betray him and that I would deny him three times! I just couldn’t believe it.

Following the meal we went to the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus asked us to stay up with him and pray. But we were so exhausted that we fell asleep. Jesus woke us up a couple of times but we could not stay awake. But then we heard the soldiers marching toward us and the night was lit up by their torches! They came and arrested Jesus, binding him up like a common criminal! I tried to stop them, but Jesus told me to put away my sword. He said that “Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.” And with that they took him!

I am so confused, so lost, so fearful for what lies ahead. I am going to the house of the high priest now. I am afraid that people might arrest me, but I just have to go and to find out what happens to our teacher, to my Lord. I just have to know. God help me in this hour of bitter darkness!

*Psalms 90:13-15

REFLECTION

This night, nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus was betrayed by one of his disciples, and arrested like a common criminal. He was taken away in the dark of night, and brought to the house of the high priest. Jesus of Nazareth was to be abandoned by all of his disciples, condemned a blasphemer and was to be handed over to the Romans to be tried for committing treason against the empire.

Even Peter, the rock on which the church would be built, was afraid he would be arrested and denied knowing Jesus. Like Peter, we all have done our share of denying Jesus. Like Judas, we all have had our share of betraying Jesus. In fact, when we live in a way counter to how Jesus calls us to live, we are betraying and denying the very same Christ who lives within us.

But this reflection is not being written to guilt you; rather, it is written to bring you great hope. There is hope in knowing that Jesus shared last supper with the very ones who would betray, deny and abandon him. Even in those painful hours, Jesus extended Grace, Love and Compassion to those who would not extend it back to him. Jesus NEVER stops extending his hope, healing, and wholeness to us. And that is truly Good News.

So, spend this moment now to pause and reflect on the ways that you have betrayed, denied and abandoned Christ and his mission. Take this moment to peer into your soul and search for those moments of fear, confusion and shame. Then shift your focus to the countless blessings, the endless grace God has given you despite those moments. Think of all the times God was present in your life, even in the moments of denial and betrayal. Feel God’s presence with you now and meditate of the endless love God has for you.

PRAYER

Take this time to pray a prayer from your heart.

 

Every Step of the Way

Read Ecclesiastes 4:1-6; Mark 14:26-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NRSV)

Every Step of the WayHave you watched the news lately? It seems like every time I watch the news I see politicians metaphorically throwing each other the bus, buildings around the world that are burning, families that are destroyed due to horrifying violence and other such atrocities. These stories are bombarding us every day, often bombarding us multiple times a day.

It’s to the point where I often find myself questioning what the meaning of all of this really is. Does God really exist out there and, if so, what does that say about God that the world is the way it is? Is life meaningless? Is there any point to all the chaos that people suffer day in and day out? These and so many more questions run through my head and I am sure that I am not alone in that?

As a pastor and a spiritual leader, some people might find it shocking to hear me confess moments of confusion, deep questioning and doubt. Some would say that it must mean that my faith isn’t strong, or that my doubts put into question my calling as a pastor. Many have this notion that in faith there can be no doubt; however, the Bible clearly shows that to be false.

For instance, have you read Ecclesiastes lately? If not, I must suggest that you do read it and that you read all of the twelve chapters that make up the book. It is a fascinating read. The author seriously questions the meaning of life, the point of existing in a world that is so needlessly cruel. What is the point in living out our seemingly trivial lives just to die in the end? To the author of Ecclesiastes, life seems utterly meaningless.

We can also turn to Jesus to find moments of doubt and intense spiritual questioning. The obvious place to look is in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus questions God’s will. He asks for God to remove his cup of suffering. While the Gospels make this account short and sweet, they do say he was in the garden for hours, praying to God…and the specific prayer that they point out is the one where he asks God to not have him go through with dying.

The fact of the matter is that it is perfectly human to have doubts, because as human beings we do not, in fact we cannot know everything. What is unknown to us gives us reason to doubt, but doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it is false to assume that “in faith there can be no doubt.” Rather, it is quite the opposite. It is from the depths of doubt that arises faith. Faith is, in fact, made stronger as a result of, and certainly in spite of, our doubts.

The next time you have doubts, do not chase them away or harbor any kind of unnecessary guilt. Instead, embrace them and wrestle through them like the author of Ecclesiastes did and like Jesus in the garden did. Know that having doubts necessary to building faith and that many saints have had their share of doubts. From Paul to Thomas, from Joan of Arc to Mother Theresa, from Martin Luther to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many Christians have faced their doubts only to find themselves riding the waves of faith that were produced by the surge of the storm of doubt. You are not alone in your doubts, and your faith will show you that you are not alone in surmounting them. God is with you every step of the way!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

PRAYER

Lord, I believe! Help me with my unbelief. Out of my doubt, build up a foundation of faith. Amen.