Friday, April 22, 2011

All Alone in the Night?

Haven't blogged for a while, so I'd catch up by bringing you up to speed with my most recent actions.

If you are a regular reader, you may recall that back in 2009 I decided to change my meditation for Maundy Thursday. I did it as a response to having been to the Mount of Olives and concluding that perhaps the best place to get a feel for what happened back in the Garden of Gethsemane (if such a thing as at all possible - I believe we can only get a glimpse at best), I took my time of meditation into the wild... and sat on a hill overlooking the town.

Alas, last year I was unable to repeat the experience due to torrential rain. So this year - armed with the promise of a good weather (and what glorious weather it is), I resolved to return. I was especially nervous this year because the last time I went to the hill (last Autumn), there was a ridiculously oversized aggressive looking bull grazing there. As I reached the bridleway that led to the hill, my torch failed... so aside from the limited light afforded by the torch utility on my iPhone Sonic Screwdriver App... I was walking by faith, not by sight.

So many emotions ran through my head as I sat at the foot of the daffodil cross in the dead of night. There was the fear of being discovered by a surly farmer wondering what I was doing... or shish kebabed by an even surlier bull. I even had thoughts of bandits or rogues jumping out from the treeline. Or worse... LARPers.

That's the thing about the dark... isn't it? It amplifies everything... especially the negative. every sound you hear could be something coming to eat you... or worse. It gives you a great sense of being surrounded by threats and being devoid of support... alone.


That gives you some idea of some of the thoughts going through Jesus' head as his disciples lay sleeping in the background... as the wind blew, the tree branches clacked together ominously... and as the faint glow of torches and conspiratorial voices in the distance drew ominously nearer.

For him the threats were very real... as events on Good Friday proved.

Emotions are often one of the most stalwart and trustworthy allies in our human arsenal... they give us an impression of how we should respond to the world around us... and yet at times, they can quite easily be at odds with the facts.

Jesus above all people, knew that he was not alone in the garden. He prayed to his Father... who he shared a unique relationship with.... and yet from his words to his disciples, it's clear that he felt very much alone.

I find that very reassuring.

There are times when all of us feel alone... even if we know God... it can seem very much like we are fighting our battles alone. If the Son of God struggled with emotions like that, then we can be sure that the Father does not frown on us too hard when we find ourselves feeling that way.

The only thing he asks of us is that we are honest and give our emotions and struggles over to him.  If you look at the Gospel... that's exactly what Jesus did. How often though, do we cling tightly to our struggles? We become so obsessed with our battles and so proud about acknowledging they way we feel, that we neglect our greatest ally. Sometimes will not remove our circumstances... just as he did not remove "the cup" for Jesus (in the case of the former it's because we are not the centre of the universe, in the case of the latter it was because God esteemed humanity to be so precious to Him... that he deemed the suffering of his son as mandatory). Even if our circumstances are not changed though... we have the promise of God's presence and support in our lives and I don't think that is something we should dismiss as a consolation prize.

Another thing I've been doing of late, is rewatching Babylon 5. About a week or so ago I was in the latter end of Season 1. It was then that I hit upon the idea of trying to get to the season 3 episode "Passing Through Gethsemane" by Maundy Thursday... as the importance placed on events in the garden... are a central theme to the episode.

At one point the character of Brother Edward (played by Brad Dourif), is asked what is at the core of his beliefs. This is his answer:
"On the night before our Lord was crucified, he spent the night alone in the garden of Gethsemane and he knew that they were going to come for him and in a moment of weakness he asked if this cup could pass from him if he could be spared the pain and death that would come with morning; and of course the cup would not pass and the soldiers would come to Gethsemane; but he did not have to be there when they arrived. He could have chosen to leave... to postpone the inevitable for a few hours or even days. He knew what would happen but he chose to stay, to sacrifice himself and thus atone for the sins of others. A very fragile, human moment... and I've often thought about that night and I honestly don't know if I would have had the courage to have stayed."
Again it reinforces the loneliness and anguish experienced by Christ in Gethsemane... it also underlines his absolute resolve in completing his mission... the redemption of humanity. At the same time it challenges us about the level of our own convictions. When everything is called into question, when the cost is high and spiritual, emotional or even physical adversity loom over us... are we prepared to stand by our beliefs?

Brother Edward later discovers that he has a hidden past... he was once a serial killer who had been mind wiped for his crimes.... years later as an utterly benign and humble monk, he is forced to discover this truth when the relatives of his victims seek him out for revenge. Edward finds himself in a similar scenario to Christ... and following his example. He too, chooses to remain:


I find this scene extremely moving... especially the sincerity and compassion offered to Edward from Brother Theo (played by Louis Turenne), such is its impact on me that I actually well up with tears.

In his dying moments, Edward is filled with fear. Is there enough forgiveness for him... given what he has done? Theo reassures him that there is and administers the last rites.

If you ever find yourself asking yourself if there is enough forgiveness available to what you have done... then be assured the same is true for you. God's forgiveness is not based on a numeric accumulation of the wrongs you have done offset against Christ's sacrifice. It is dependent on only two things: Christ's sacrifice once for all, itself... and your genuine desire to repent of what you have done.

It doesn't matter what you have done. As long as you are willing to turn away from it with contrition, salvation and forgiveness are yours.

The final words Jesus chose to utter as he died on the cross are all about completion. Jesus effectively says it's done, over; the debt is paid, the law is satisfied.  From the minutest misdemeanor to the most grievous violation... everything is covered.

So my message to you today is simply this. If you genuinely seek forgiveness... it's there for you. Grab it with both hands and embrace it with all your heart.

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