A Reflection on Gethsemane By Revd Norma Higgott- Chaplain at Highland Hospice, Inverness.
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
As we begin another Sunday on lockdown I thought I would just share a short reflection on the passage I was preparing to preach on this Sunday. Our lives at the moment are so very different, as I drove to work at the Hospice today I was very aware of the empty roads, apart from a few very necessary delivery lorries, and of the lack of people moving about. However I was also aware of the birds singing and the sounds of the wind and rain as I walked into the Hospice and I was very aware of the tensions that abound as I talked to folk who like me are continuing to work and bring comfort and compassion to patients and that is so very hard for some folk to cope with – we are fearful of what might be about to happen to us, although prepared to be there for the folk who rely on us and need our care. We are all, whether we are out working or staying at home, seeking some way of coping with that fear and the unprecedented changes that are happening around us!
Today’s passage talks to us in this situation because Jesus here is also afraid, he is sorrowful and troubled and overwhelmed, just as we are, and while he is feeling that way he shows us one way to cope with it – he goes apart a little way from his disciples with just a few chosen ones and he goes to pray. Now we may not be able in the current situation to go with others but we can all pray with others at a distance – we can pray at the same time – we can go online and hear others praying with and for us all – we can pray quietly by ourselves knowing that others are doing the same.
But what should we be praying? Perhaps again exactly the same as Jesus – , “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Maybe we won’t be able to escape this virus, even if we really want to and do everything we can to make that happen, but if we can pray as Jesus did, not as I will but as you will – we can then likewise commend ourselves to God’s loving mercy and support through what may happen. Jesus knows what is about to happen to him and he would really like for it to pass him by but he knows that he can’t control things and he freely offers that control to God, to his loving, compassionate Father with the words “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Perhaps we too may have to drink the cup but if we do, let’s do it in the sure knowledge that God loves us and will be with us each step of the way.
Prayer is a wonderfully powerful thing and shared prayer is incredibly healing and comforting but at times like these we sometimes forget that even if we are not in the same space we can all be in the same place as we pray together/apart. Let us hold one another and all those affected by what’s happening in loving, healing prayer and look to Jesus who truly is the best example we can have of how to accept what is happening while commending ourselves and the situation to God.
Holding you all in loving prayer with some words sent to me recently by one of my fellow hospice chaplains as encouragement in this time of fear and anxiety.
God most high and holy,
all things are in your hands.
Your holy Word invites us to trust in you
and to be fearless
even when the earth gives way,
when the mountains fall into the sea,
when the waters roar and foam,
when nations are in an uproar,
and even in the valley of the shadow of death.
Hear the cries of your people
as we live in a world full of fear.
With your unlimited power,
with your boundless presence,
with your knowledge of all things, fill our hearts
with your peace that surpasses understanding.
When things are uncertain,
and crises are unseen, draw us to you,
to your certain Word and promise,
to your dear Son who suffered for us,
and to your enduring promise
never to leave us or forsake us.
and uphold us
in these difficult
and confusing times.
Fill us with faith in you,
with desires to serve our neighbours in love,
and to be strong and take heart
as we wait for you to work your good purpose
for the good of those who love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Source: Paul C. Stratman, A Collection of Prayers, March 16, 2020, during the COVID-19 / Corona Virus crisis.
With love and prayers. Norma (Revd Norma Higgott)