God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stay Awake: Prayer in the Garden

It’s about 11:30 pm and the phone rings.  Are you the pastor?  They gave me your number when I stopped by the church.  I don’t want to live anymore.  I can’t find any work.  I was hurt on the job and the social security disability hasn’t come through.  I am living in this hotel and barely have enough to make it through the week.  … We talk for a long time.  We pray.  We speak about the how and the why.    I get a promise that in the morning they will come see me at church.

The dark night of the soul.    A time of great anguish and pain. 

Is that the picture we have of Jesus praying in the garden?  Do we see a Jesus in torment and pain?  Or do we picture Jesus on his knees with his face illuminated by the glow of heavenly light with resigned resignation on his face.  There is a serenity and peace.  There is the feel of the hymn.  I come to the garden alone.  Where God walks and talks with us and lets me know that we are God’s beloved.

This is the image we have of Jesus last night that while Jesus asked a question of God he resignedly accepted his role as the lamb of God being led to the slaughter. 

The Jesus of Mark 14 is not calm and resigned.  The night is more like those Saturday night calls I get about suicide.  Those calls of anguish and pain. 

Jesus has gone to Gethsemane to pray.  He tells his disciples to sit while he prays.  He went a little further with Peter, James and John.   And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here and keep awake.’(Mark 14:34).  Jesus invited his closest followers to stay  awake and stay nearby while he prayed. 

Jesus has prayed three times in Mark’s gospel.  The first is at the beginning of Jesus ministry when he wakes early and facing God in Mark 1:35.  The disciples find him and say everyone is looking for you and Jesus doesn’t respond to their anxiety and instead sets of to proclaim the Good News.  The second time is found in the middle of the gospel in Mark 6:46.  Jesus has just fed the 5000 and is seeking some time alone to pray.  This episode is followed by Jesus telling the disciples not to be afraid in the midst of a storm.  Here we are at the end of the gospel and Jesus who has spoken of his death and told the disciples to have courage and stay awake is having trouble.  He unable to follow his advise and keep calm and carry on.  Jesus shudders in distress and anguishes.  Jesus is facing betrayal and death not with stoicism, or contemplative detachment, but with real human fear, even terror. 
Lohmeyer:  The Greek words depict the utmost degree of unbounded horror and suffering”
Rawlinson :  suggestive of shuddering awe
Swete:  His first feeling was one of terrified surprise.. .the distress which follows great shock.
Moffat:  Appalled… agitated
Lightfoot:  It describes the confused, restless, half-distracted state which is produced by physical derangement, or by mental distress, as grief, shame, disappointment (Ched Meyers, Binding the Strong Man,  p. 366).
Jesus is shaken to the core.  Can the disciples stay with Jesus in the heart of darkness? 

They cannot.  Three times Jesus asks them to stay awake. 
37He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?  38Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ 
Yet they can’t do it.  They can’t remain awake.  Three times he finds them sleeping.  The final time he says,
41He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  42Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’
Mark sets up this contrast between the disciples and Jesus.  Jesus exhorts prayer and the disciples sleep.   

Jesus faces his struggle through prayer.  The prayer allows him to face the danger, to face his betrayal, to move his way through the darkness. 

The profoundly shaken Jesus, shows us the heart of prayer in the darkness.  For Mark has argued that all things are possible for God.  The first concern of prayer is not to remedy personal distress.  The first concern of prayer is to seek the Holy One whose desire is the healing of broken history. 

The darkness, the hour has arrived and only Jesus, praying in the heart of darkness, can summon the courage to go the Way of the cross.  Jesus prayer reflects a trust in God even in the face of the worst you can imagine.


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