Tag Archives: Garden of Gethsemane

The Light of Lent

As a child, I experienced Lent as an extra-long prelude to Good Friday. It had a dark, somber feeling to it. The themes all seem to center around the suffering of Jesus and the cross. Confession of sin was the central act of worship.  The dark sanctuary was a contrast to the bright morning light of Sunday worship.  The hymns we sang felt heavy and ponderous.   We did not walk to the cross – we crawled with scrapped knees and heavy hearts.

Is Lent meant to be so dark?  Does our Papa in heaven delight in the ways we berate ourselves?

One of the early purposes of Lent was to prepare new Christian believers for their baptism on Easter.  It was a time of instruction, and even fasting, but it had a joyous destination:  to be joined to Jesus in both his death and resurrection.

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4).

The new life in Christ was the destination of celebration which colored the time of preparation with joy and light.

Gethsemane window background removed

Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane

The word Lent comes from an old English word that means “spring.” This year at Trinity Lutheran (where I am serving as interim senior pastor), our Lenten theme will have a spring like quality: The Garden of Prayer.  Inspired by the stain glass window above Trinity’s pipe organ, we will join Jesus in prayer.

The theme verse will be “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Each Wednesday evening together we will embrace a specific Christian form of prayer.  We will celebrate the rich ancient spiritual practices of Gratitude, Confession, Intercession and Meditation.  Like a loving father or mother, God delights in spending time with God’s children.  Let us join in that delight this coming Lent.

Lent begins next Wednesday, February 10.  Encourage you to find a way to center in with God’s Love during this holy season.

I will also be using this blog to highlight these different forms of prayer.  If you want to follow along sign-up for the weekly e-mail using the form in right hand column.

How has Lent impacted your life in Christ? 

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Two Portraits of Jesus

In John 17, Jesus prayed with confidence and clarity.  After finishing the Last Supper  Jesus looked to heaven and prayed, 

Jesus looked to heaven

So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. (John 17:5)

This confidence is such a strong contrast with the prayer he prayed in Matthew, Mark and Luke when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane a short time later.  As the disciples slept, Jesus prayed for strength to face the cross:

Jesus praying in Gethsemane by artist He Qi

Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.  (Mark 14:36)

In John’s Gospel there is no prayer in the Garden.  In Matthew, Mark and Luke there is no extended prayer at the Passover meal.

Such contrasts can be disturbing for some.  I believe that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are more like portrait paintings than historical biographies.  Whereas John’s Gospel  paints a portrait in which Jesus had a laser-like focus on his “hour” to be glorified on the cross (John 2:4, 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 12:27, 13:1, 17:1), Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus wrestling with this cosmic decision as he approached the cross (Mark 14:32-41).  Both portraits are true, yet they reveal different insights.

Mark reveals that Jesus was truly human; his emotions were raw and deep.  On the cross he would cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Mark 15:34).  Jesus understood our own human dilemma, our trials, our brokenness.  Mark’s portrait is so brutally human.

John reveals the divine purpose of Jesus and his constant trust in God’s purpose.  Jesus accomplished God’s purpose of reconciling the world.  As he breathed his last breath, Jesus said, “It is finished, (accomplished, completed).” John’s portrait is so beautifully divine.

In my own life, at times I find support and comfort in Mark’s raw intimacy.  At other times, I am inspired and uplifted by John’s cosmic vision.   Together with Matthew and Luke, I have a deeper understanding of the mystery of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God.

What stories of Jesus do you turn to most often?  What stories do you try to ignore?

Lord Jesus, be my light in the midst of whatever confusion or darkness I experience this day. 

Holy Week Story – Wednesday

Jesus Arrested by the Crowd

 Holy Week Reflections for Wednesday

Read Matthew 26:47-75

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit?  Day after Day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.  But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.”

Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.  Matthew 26:55f

The Garden of Gethsemane has always fascinated  me.  After the last supper, Jesus and his disciples retreated to the Garden where Jesus prayed for a way out from the suffering to come.  He prayed, “Father, not my will, but your will be done.” Jesus found clarity, strength and courage in prayer.  Meanwhile, the disciples slept.

Then the crowd arrived and Judas betrayed him with a kiss.  At first the disciples tried to resist with a sword, but Jesus stopped the violence and reminded them that he could ask for an army of angels to fight if he wished, but that was not the plot of Christ’s story.  He would go to the cross.  Calvary was the chosen battlefield with Satan and death.

So the disciples fled.

I have tried to remember a time when I was so abandoned but all seem trivial in relation to this story.  There have been times when I felt very much alone. Once late at night I walked the deserted streets of west Philadelphia back to my college, thirteen miles, but that was my own foolishness.  To experience abandonment means others choose to leave you.  People have experienced being abandoned by their spouse, or family, or friends. I can only imagine their depth of pain and grief.  Jesus experienced such rejection in the Garden.

Still Jesus stayed the course.  He endured the ridicule, mockery, and humiliation of a religious trial.  He stayed the course because he would not, does not, will not abandon us.

The disciples fled.

He stayed.

He stayed the course towards the cross for us.  

What strengthens you to keep the faith in God and others?  What tempts you to abandon them? Where have you felt abandon?   Where is God for you right now?

Prayer: Almighty God, protect and preserve us in this world that we might keep faith in your promises and our call to serve you and one another.