… to the First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell, NJ
We come to that most joyous and triumphant time in the church year, Easter! In the resurrection, God’s activity in Jesus Christ is at its most dramatic, as life triumphs over death, love over hate, goodness over evil. The early disciples, and pilgrims throughout history, experienced and continue to experience the risen Lord as a living presence in their lives. Death was not able to contain the Spirit of the living God, and this Spirit lives in and animates the risen body of Christ, the church.
One of the most vivid and poignant images of Jesus in the Bible is the evening he spent praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42 and parallels). This passage springs to life in a new way upon visiting the site in Jerusalem said to be this garden, replete with gnarled old trees, the stump of one reputed to be the tree under which Jesus prayed. While sensibilities resist identifying any one place as the place where Jesus actually prayed, knowing one is in the vicinity is still a moving experience!
What draws one to this passage is not where and when it happened, or even if it happened historically at all. What is compelling is the deep and abiding truth that we humans struggle with our place in the world every bit as much as Jesus did. “What does being obedient to God mean in my life? Am I doing what God wants me to do? How do I discern God’s will for my life?” Sadly, many persons live without any sense of God’s presence in their lives, without the life-affirming Spirit of Christ with which to commune.
The connection between between Easter and Gethsemane? All of us feel at times that the world is a dark, cold place, kind of like a tomb. We struggle with deep and probing questions about faith and faithfulness, many of which give rise to doubts about God. If you are one who struggles with what it means to be faithful to God (as we all do at some point, if we’re honest with ourselves), hopefully you’ll find comfort knowing that Jesus spent a night struggling as well. In fact, it was only through that struggle that Jesus was able to confidently trust God, ultimately uttering those timeless and profound words: “Yet not my will, but thy will, be done.”
Even in the darkness, Jesus trusted. And God did not disappoint. And friends, the same God is there to bring light into your darkness, as well. Remember, “You may feel like you’re in the tomb today, but Easter’s here!”