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.”
~ Matthew 26:39
This afternoon I'm spending time writing a sermon for a funeral that I am to preside over tomorrow morning. It's the first time that I have journeyed with Jesus into the garden as part of funeral sermon, but it makes complete sense in using the text.
"Sit here while I go over there and pray."
I think of the times that I have been present as people enter into places that they are uncertain about entering. Court rooms, operating rooms, funeral homes and interviews are just a few of the places I have waited just outside while others have entered. The 23rd Psalm reminds us that we journey through the valley of the shadow of death with God, but often we don't know how to journey with others. Jesus simply asks the disciples to wait, and yet, they fall asleep while Jesus has one of the most difficult conversations with God recorded in his life.
Jesus is anxious, and his whole life is about to change.
I was present the moment that this person breathed her last breath. I was present for the last time she opened her eyes and looked around. I was one of the last people to hold her hand, and felt her holding it back. I was there for the final, "You wait here while I go over there."
I am grateful for the times when I am brought into the God's garden of grace. Like Gethsemane, it is the place where I can pray, and ask of God the most difficult of things. To let things that are before me to pass, but also, to give God thanks for preventing things from happening as well.
As the hymn reminds, "I come to the garden alone," but yet God is present. We are challenged to cry out for things to pass from us, but like the woman who I am remembering tomorrow, and remembering the final moments of Jesus' life, we are to push through. To have the courage to announce that, "It is finished," and to emerge through the situation.
The garden of Gethsemane is more than facing perceived suffering. It is the place where we learn about ourselves and what we are capable of. It is where God leads, and grace sustains. Where sweat pours from our forehead, and we discover the courage to go back into the world. The garden is the place where God is sometimes silent, but yet we discover that the answer was already known.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.