Saturday, February 10, 2024

Thought for the Day 24th January 2024


God is our refuge and strength, - a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear proclaimed the psalmist...but our reading from Matthew’s gospel leads us into very different territory, as we are taken into the darkness of fear and uncertainty, anticipating the events we will experience once again in a few short weeks as we join Jesus in Gethsemane.

It seems to me that in this passage we encounter Jesus at his most vulnerable...He NEEDS his friends, because the weight of all that is to come is overwhelming, unbearable. It has been suggested that the name “Gethsemane” derives from the Hebrew word for an olive press...Certainly this is the time when Jesus is pressed almost to breaking point.

Is it the anticipation of the physical pain of crucifixion or the knowledge that he may feel himself cut off from his heavenly Father that grieves him, even to death? Is the cup that he longs to set down one of physical suffering or the deep emotional and spiritual trauma of carrying the brokenness of the world and all its pain? We can’t know – and I’m not sure that it matters. The point is that on this, the night before he died, Jesus went from the light and companionship of the passover meal out into the darkness where, even in the company of his disciples, he found himself alone.

The disciples are vulnerable too. For all their longing to support Jesus, they cannot keep awake...falling asleep repeatedly so that Jesus faces his ordeal, wrestling with himself and with God without any tangible human support.

Perhaps its perverse, but I find this ultimately comforting. If JESUS longs to step aside from suffering, if he too would prefer to take another, easier route, if he finds himself at odds with God as he contemplates the way ahead, then it is surely OK for me to to protest against even the second-order challenges of my life and my faith.

In my earliest days of ministry I was sent to visit a lady who had been shaped and supported by her faith all her life long. By the time I landed, a shiny new curate in the church she loved, she was already well advanced on her final journey, housebound as her cancer took its inexorable course. As I spent time with her during those final weeks, she told me something of her fears. No stranger to pain, she was worried that she might face an agony that nothing would alleviate, though her MacMillan nurse promised that it would be managed. Then, one afternoon, she suggested that she was letting God down.

“I’m afraid. Afraid of dying. Afraid God might not be there. Afraid of my own fear”

I was SO inexperienced and for a moment gripped by total panic – but then, wonderfully, this passage landed. Can you think of a time when Jesus felt like that I asked….

Silence, so I prompted “What about Gethsemane?”

There was another silence but then a smile of pure joy spread across her face.


I see.

He’s been there.

He knows how I feel.

It’s going to be OK

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