24 Hours Can Be an Eternity. OURS! – Gethsemane, Our Garden

DO YOU KNOW WHAT TODAY IS? ‘1ST DAY OF SPRING. Thank God! I’ve had it with winter. How about you? (Amen?/AMEN)

Cold. Snow. Ice. Dark. Yuck! Oh, but there is a deeper, darker, more sinister winter of which I am weary. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Nuke news. Libya. Nations last-named Stan. Politics. (‘Hear this? While asking our police and fire protectors to scale back, and teachers, the legislators want to excuse the local income taxes of the new slots parlors. Hmm. Jacked up! No, SIN.) Let’s not forget sin. Not theirs. Ours. MINE. Yours. O, for a springtime to end the winter of my soul. ‘Where doubt piles up like snowdrifts. And disobedience to Heaven is more slippery than ice on the earth. ‘Where my shadows are a relief because they let me hide what is wrong in my heart. ‘Where cold font describes the look on my face when I see/hear someone in need and do little, less than I might, or nothing at all. (Any weather like that in the spirit-winter of your life?) Sooo… Thank God for Spring. And the garden! Ahhh, the sweet, sweet garden. The garden of delight, distraction and death-erasing sunshine. (Or should I spell it SONshine?!) Gardening is gorgeous. Gardening is glory. God is into gardening. Adam and  Eve meet God in the Garden! It’s there that sin and death begin. So it ought not surprise us that Christ, the New Adam, repairs to a Garden to begin to repair relations between God and us. And it is in a garden that Christ rises and death falls… forever. In this Lenten season, we propose to learn more and more about the last 24 hours of Jesus. (And the1st 24 of our eternity.) So this spring, in this springtime of the soul, let’s get to gardening, shall we?!

From Jesus’ last 24 hours to our every 24, get to the garden, come springtime. Do the earth-and-root-work that get you ready for the most extraordinary of all season changes. From death to life. ‘Gotta get down in the soil. Gotta rejuvenate your roots. Jesus does. It’s the Thursday-work of Holy Week. It’s the preparation for the cross. The day begins at dawn for Jesus and the 12. [Breakfast @ McDonalds, egg McMuffin, hold the bacon. NOT.] The walk from Bethany to Jerusalem/Temple. Jesus teaches there. About 1ish, he has the disciples buy the Passover lamb (at Temple). The priest slaughters it (slit throat, drains the blood into the sacred vessel). A 2nd priest prepares and gives over the meat. By 3 PM, the disciples are marinating the lamb, someone’s prepping the meal. The lamb’s roasted. By 7/30, they're all gathered at Seder table, the Passover begins. They recite the 3+ hour Haggada …telling the story of God setting free God’s people. Egypt. Pharaoh. Slavery. Plagues. Death passes over. HURRY! Hurry-up unleavened-bread. RUN. The water. Pharaoh’s army. Moses and the rod. Parted waters. Unmoistened feet. SALVATION Free at last. Yes! Then there’s Jesus. The new Moses. This bread, my body. This cup, my blood poured out, a new covenant, a new vessel. Only hours before, they’d seen the old blood of the old covenant, poured from the lamb, right before their eyes. Now they’re told, we’re told,  here’s a new lamb, a new covenant. (Jer. 31) Here’s Jesus turning the soil of the faith they all share. Renewing, refreshing, redefining. Now for the hymns, the songs of faith. 'Ever wonder what they actually sang? It was the Hallel… from which we take our word, Hallelujah! (Fr. Psalms 113-118.) Some of their actual lyrics: GIVE thanks to the Lord, his steadfast love endures forever! … Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered and set me free. With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?  The Lord is my strength, my song; my salvation. I shall not die, but live. The stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing;  marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Bind the festal procession with branches! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! … Now friends, why know this stuff? So we too can return to our own faith-roots. So we can reach down into the soil of gives us life and sustains us. Without the faith Jesus remembers, recites and sings, the cross is unbearable. With it, the cross is defeatable. I bid/beg you, sing with Jesus this Lent. Stir your soul-soil. Refresh your roots. One little hint. Read Ps. 118. Repeatedly. Learn it. Know it. Memorize it. It meant the world to Jesus in his suffering. It can mean as much and more for you in yours, whatever it may be.

Pruning, cutting, severing, pulling up, letting go. These are the essentials of spring gardening. Especially in the spirit garden. Look to Jesus. He’ll show the way! He leaves the Upper Rm. ‘Cross the Kidron Valley for the Mt. Of Olives. You know the 23rd Ps. (Yea though I walk through… evil… rod, staff…. ) Don’t miss this. The Valley of Jesus’ last night is also known as the Valley of Jehosaphat. The prophet Joel says it’s the site of the Last Judgment. Did you know that? Jesus did. So when Christ prays on the Mt. of Olives, he’s facing the Golden Gate of Jerusalem (Lit. Expl.). He sees the sacred site over which he’s shed tears, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… woe… because you didn’t know God’s moment when it came.” To his left is the Valley, the Judgment Valley. He can see the torches coming, with Judas and the rest. His Upper Rm. Choir’s now fast asleep, though he’s asked PJJ to be with him in his agony.  He’s not asked their help. Opinion. Protection. Just that he not be alone. You and I, we know this moment. Sometimes the sufferer. Sometimes the wait-er. (Hosp., Dr., wd. Child/driver, job/promo, pass, faith decis. etc.) ‘Always the One from whom the non-essential, or unfruitful risks being cut away. Often new-life we can’t see is coming. But clearly there’s suffering all around and deep within. Hmm. Only God abides. Oft’ the One who seems to be asking/taking away. But there. Always …there. God knows. “It is not good that [we] should be alone.” And it is in the Gethsemane Spring Garden that this loneliness is most deeply confronted and conquered. Christ agonizes as we. (Even the Devil attends.) Is this (cross) the right course; need it be; why me/now; is there a way out? Will the thing (Jerusalem)/the 1’s (disciples, etc.) I love survive? What will be/how can I stand the pain? And then, of course, there’s Judas. Friend/Betrayer. Unkindest cut/kiss of all! All flee. Oddly, only Judas, of all people, appears to go with Jesus and the mob back to town and trial. (We know not in what way, only that he’s there.) Unwitting comfort, captive, goad, witness? Who knows? But… there. What are we to make of Judas? What did Jesus. Only this for sure. The need to ask. Is there any of him… in us? Of us… in him? (E.g.s) No garden could stand the pruning, were it not for the new life dawning. As with our garden, so with Christ in his.

‘Odd thing about winter, we see in the spring. Life was growing all along. Out of sight. Below the sod. In the dark. Some urge to reach the light and restore, renew, resurrect.  Against all odds, it seems. John’s gospel contains 3 onlys of this Thursday scene. Only he tells us this all happens in a garden on the Mount. Get this. Only he tells us Christ was at the creation (“Without him was not anything made that was made.” Christ is witness to Paradise at the start. And to Paradise Lost as well. How fitting God places Christ in a garden then, to reclaim his fallen children (you and me). While others write of the ruckus of the sword in the disciple’s hand and the wounded “arrester”, only Luke the doctor re-counts that Christ healed the victim, and only John gives the vic. a name. Even in his agony, no sufferer is unattended or nameless to our Lord. Here is utter mercy in the face of undeserved menace. And that is the seed of our new life in this garden. Oh, you might wanna note, only John says the resurrection tomb is in… a garden… and only he says Mary (of Magdala) mistakes the Risen Christ as the gardener. Perhaps that was not so great an error as we are led to believe. Jesus, after all, turned the soil and unbound the roots of faith. I pray you and I will do the same. Jesus endured the cutting and the pruning time, the lonely and alone time, clinging to the hope of God, who works: out of sight, and even beneath the sod. I pray that through it all, our grip won’t slip. So this week, hold on. Hold on. Hold on. (Likely, honest, searching, maybe even searing prayer will help. Do commit to prayer!) And then there’s this. When they killed our Jesus and cut him down, they headed with him for the tomb. And they sealed him in with no known way out. Only, you see, the tomb lay in a garden. God does his best work in such places. He reminds us of that every spring. And it was from this resurrection garden, that Paradise was regained. Christ the first fruit, but some day, some time, us too. Friends, it’s gonna be a warm week. Whatever you do, get to a garden. Take a look. Listen. Touch the soil. It yields a way out … of whatever may entomb you… and a way up, to the One who wants more than anything to embrace you…while eternity rolls!

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