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Maundy Thursday, April 17, 2014

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:36–46
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” (NRSV)

Jesus is about to part ways with his disciples. Except for those times when he sought solitude for prayer, Jesus was always in the company of his disciples. At Gethsemane, we see the spiritual distance Jesus had to travel to be ready to go the rest of the distance alone. From here on out, no one could accompany him or take his place. He would have to undergo the rest by himself.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, we find Jesus agitated and full of grief. He knows that soon he will be taken into the hands of those who want to harm him. He is almost, but not quite, beside himself. So what does he do? He turns to prayer. Three times he separates himself from his disciples to pray to God. Each time he prays, we see the effect. Prayer grounds him deeper in the will of God; prayer calms his agitated spirit; and by helping him to accept fully what he alone must bear, prayer helps him to look more kindly upon his disciples, who, at this critical hour, let him down.

There are times when no one else can do what we must do. It is at those times that we can feel most alone. It is also at those times when, by turning to God in prayer, we can remember that we are not alone. God is with us. God will ground us. God will calm us, and God will lift the weight of resentment for having to go the distance alone. 

We thank you, God, that most of the time you have placed in our lives people upon whom we can count and with whom we can do your work. We thank you for those people. When you need us to walk a distance alone, remind us that you are with us and that you are all and more than we need. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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