Archive for March 30th, 2007

Days in the Garden

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Today’s scripture: John 18:1-12 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Jeff Miner):

Suppose you learned that tomorrow you would die. Where would you choose to spend your last few hours?

As I read through today’s Scripture, I saw something I’ve never noticed before. Verse 1 says that, after they completed their last meal together, Jesus asked his disciples to accompany him to a garden across the Kidron valley. That would be the Garden of Gethsemane. The part I never noticed is in verse 2: “Jesus often met there with his disciples.”

For his final hours of freedom — before arrest and crucifixion — Jesus wanted to be in the park where he had spent so many previous happy hours with his disciples. This was one of Jesus’ favorite spots — the place he wanted to be in his final hours.

Several years ago I had a Golden Retriever named Turkey — stupid name, I know. She was my buddy. I often took her and her sister (a Chocolate Lab) to a country park. Because the park is rural and surrounded by fields, Turkey and her sister got to run loose. They loved it! We spent many happy hours together in that park.

Then Turkey contracted liver cancer. The vet remove the tumor, but Turkey got a serious infection. Nothing more could be done. She got to the point she couldn’t even move. She just lay on a stretcher.

When David and I finally decided that she was suffering too much, I insisted that we take her to the park one last time before going to the vet. I’m not exactly sure why. Part of me hoped that when she got there, she would suddenly snap out of her lethargy and run. Another part of me just wanted her to be able to spend a few final moments in her favorite place — to breath the thick summer air one more time, and to remember all the good times.

I suspect that’s what Jesus was doing when he asked the disciples to accompany him to the garden one last time. As he walked into the garden, he probably took a deep breath — ah, that familiar sweet smell. And then he let himself remember all moments of laughter, all the conversations, all the times he had prayed to God in this place and found peace. And those memories strengthened him to face his hour of death.

I wonder if, on those prior occasions, Jesus knew what would eventually happen in this garden — the betrayal, the arrest, the desertion of his disciples. Did he know that it would end here? If so, all those times in the garden must have felt odd, kind of like having a picnic on your future grave site. But that’s exactly what he did. He graciously accepted the good with the bad. And he didn’t let the future bad deter his joy in the present.

I guess that’s what I see in this story — Jesus’ spirit of gentle, trusting acceptance. He didn’t run from the garden; he didn’t rebel against his fate. His days were in God’s hands. Some of those days in the garden were glorious. This last one would be tough. “The Lord gives, the Lord takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Thought for the day: Life is a curious mixture of good and bad, bitter and sweet. We could tie ourselves in knots trying to figure it all out. Sometimes it’s better just to trust. We have to celebrate our moments in the garden as they come, and when God finally says, “This is the last time,” we face our end with gentle acceptance. As Jesus said, “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Today, let’s join together in prayer, and spend some extra time just listening in the presence of God. God, what do you want me to know? What do you have for me today?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. Use the item above as a starting point, or consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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