Thursday, March 26, 2009

Leaning in Gethsemane - Lent 30

Stock image of the Garden of Gethsemane from the BBC (UK)

"Shall I not drink of the cup the Father has given me?" - Jesus (John 18:11)

I have been to Gethsemane. You cross the Kidron Valley, right under the Mount of Olives, and enter an ancient grove of olive trees. Some of the specimens have been dated by scientists at over two thousand years. There, across from the Old City, I was able to sit on the stony ground and lean against a tree - an olive that, maybe, Christ had leaned against on that awful, blessed night.

And now, sitting here at the computer contemplating the fact that it's my birthday today, I like to imagine that - deep in the heart of that particular tree and resonating in the prehistoric stones - were the literal echoes of my Savior's defiant, courageous words. Words not just to the impulsive Peter but to all who listened, all who listen still, all who can grasp the timelessness of his intention and the integrity of his willing sacrifice.

"Shall I not drink of the cup the Father has given me?" Jesus did not want to experience the coming 72 hours of pain and anguish; the power of his action is revealed in its incredible cost. He was not simply Immortal God going on a symbolic jaunt to salve the legal price of human rebellion. Not at all; he was flesh and blood, human being, faced with the horror of torture, shame and painful death. Christ was God Incarnate, bearing the cumulative burden of all our shortcomings. And he did this willingly, with his eyes wide open, of his own free will...

I saw this unbelievable advertisement one year, it came out at the beginning of Holy Week to promote the Spring Sale at a large department store. Anxious to let us all know how much we could save by shopping at their location, the merchant made this improbable gaffe: The banner read "NEVER BEFORE HAS EASTER BEEN SO CHEAP!"

How wrong is it possible to be!!?? Easter is costly to the extreme. Easter purchased my redemption. Easter even stretched the commitment of Christ to the extent that he spoke his reservations aloud, maybe to drive the point of it home to himself.

Thank God that he did. Thank you, God, that you did.

When I got to my feet that day at Gethsemane, and wandered along the rocky path up the mountain to see the magnificent view of the Golden City, Jerusalem, I fancied that I felt the presence of God more clearly, that maybe a residue of his physical nearness was resonating in my very bones - that I might carry Christ's spirit and purpose more eloquently, now that I had leaned against those ancient witnesses to such love.

PRAYER: "Amazing Love, how can it be." Thanks so much, Lord God, for making the first move in our evolving relationship. Amen

1 comment:

Bill said...

Praise be to God for his willing sacrifice. I appreciate it more than I'll ever know.