Watching and Waiting

39And he went on a little ways, fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, but not as I will, but as you do.” 40And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping and he said to Peter, “Weren’t you strong enough to wait with me for one hour? 41Watch and pray so that you don’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. 42He went to pray again, and said, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to pass unless I drink it, let it happen according to your will.” 43And he came again and found the disciples sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44And he left them again, and went to pray a third time, saying much the same thing again. 45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “

Are you still sleeping and resting? The hour is approaching when the son of man will be handed over to sinners. 46Get up! Let's go! Look! The one who will hand me over is near.” -- Matthew 26:39-46 I don't like to wait. I particularly don't like to wait for someone else to make a decision that impacts my life. I just don't like to be in that situation. But holy week, both then and now, is a time of waiting. It's a time to think about things that happen to us without our consent and out of our own control. The only question for us is just how we will react to these things, how we will act in the face of them. I see this great impatience in the way we conduct worship. Many United Methodist Churches, and I know others as well, don't hold Good Friday services. We don't like the darkness, the “down” feeling that goes with a commemoration of the crucifixion. I even felt that impatience last night as I attended the first service in holy week for our local cluster of churches. Several times one of the pastors who was leading the event said “He is risen!” We really want to get to Easter Sunday morning! And I don't blame us. I feel it too. But as we read in the creed, “He was crucified, dead, and buried.” We generally recite the creed so fast that we don't get the impact of the next sentence: “The third day he arose from the dead.” If we would take the time to pause after “crucified, dead, and buried,” we might get a little better idea of how the disciples felt. They didn't have the option of announcing “He is risen!” on Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday they were feeling pretty good. Perhaps Jesus was going to become king after all. They were still not thinking of death on the cross. As the days of holy week rolled forward for them, things got more gloomy, until at the last supper they hear about betrayal, abandonment, and finally death. Now we know that Jesus is risen, so we can proclaim “He is risen!” every day of the year. But we also have that time of waiting. We await the final consummation, the final manifestation of the kingdom of God throughout the universe, and what is more important to us, throughout our world. So we need to learn how to handle anticipation and waiting as well. We have to live through times of tragedy, as we hear about people dying, or experience it in our own lives. We see moral and physical tragedy all around us. Will we be like the disciples as Jesus was praying, and fall asleep? Will we run and hide because we can't face the danger? Or will we stay awake with him and pray, as he did, “Not our will, but yours, Father, be done?” We know Easter Sunday is coming, but perhaps we should spend holy week practicing the spiritual disciplines that will help get us through the rough times and prepare us to meet the risen Lord when he returns.

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