Sermon number two was from Mother Anne-Marie.
Reading: John 18.1, Mark 14.33-36
Jesus went out with His disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.
He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little further, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want but what you want.”
There in the garden of tears
My heavy load, he chose to bear
His heart with sorrow was torn
Yet not my will but yours he said.
Jesus was fully human and fully divine. Here in the garden of Gesthemane is the human Jesus. His heart with sorrow was torn. Jesus was a man of emotion. When his friend Lazarus died he wept as we would weep and grieve. In the temple when he sees the money changers and the commercialism and greed that have come into the temple, his father’s house, he gets angry and he shows that emotion turning over the tables. In the garden he prays a very human conflicted prayer. Remove this cup from me – please may I not have to go through this. But he prays also “yet, not what I want but what you want.”
He is at his most human, dreading what lies ahead, praying with his whole being that it may not happen. And yet……………he knows his destiny, he knows his Father’s will and knows what must happen.
The hymn the Servant King tells us that it is our heavy load he bore in the garden. He faces arrest, torture and crucifixion for “my heavy load”. What is this about? What is my load? And why was Jesus bearing my load in the garden?
The death and resurrection of Jesus are the heart of the Christian faith. It is through Jesus’ death that our broken relationship with God is restored. We, as human beings, have fallen far short of what God wanted for us. We have not lived as he wanted us to live. In Christianity we call this sin – not an easy word to use or understand. But I think all of us have a vision of how God wanted the world to be and can see it isn’t quite like that. And I think all of us can see that human beings are very much part of why the world isn’t like God wanted it to be. If we can see that, understand that, then we probably begin to look at ourselves and how we contribute to the world not being how God wants. We can see our failings, our weaknesses, our temptations, our love of things and money, our failure to help and to love. If we dwell on that too much, we will wind ourselves down into gloom and despondency. We will see how far away we are from being the person God wanted us to be. Those thoughts can become a great burden. And living our lives, not as God wants, separated from God, will weigh us down. It is our heavy load.
But the death of Jesus restores our broken relationship with God. Through his death and resurrection we are reconciled with God.
I expect we all have someone we have fallen out with in our lives. We may not even know quite why the relationship has been broken, why that person never contacts us anymore. Often we have a family member we never speak to. We may still be angry with them over something that happened years ago and we cannot let go of the anger. Or it may be the other way round. We have tried and tried to put things right but this person holds on to their anger or their hurt and just won’t forgive us.
It is this sort of division that Christians believe happened between us and God. The way we were, kept us apart from God. The way we are, keeps us apart from God. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus this division was healed. We were reconciled with God. Something happened on the cross that took away the sin, our burden, that separates us from God. We can begin to be the person God wanted us to be. Through being reconciled with God, through being at one with God, we can be at ease with ourselves, grow into being that person God created, be at ease with knowing God loves us and that whenever we fall short of his ideals, which will be daily, he still loves us. Nothing we do wrong can ever again separate us from the love of God because Jesus carried our burden to the cross and through his death and resurrection we were set free.
Theologians have argued over the how and why of this – they have their different theories. But there is an experiential truth that goes beyond an intellectual explanation. This truth is that millions of Christians over the centuries have just known and experienced for themselves this liberation through the cross of Christ. As Jesus wrestled with his conflicting feelings in the garden, he somehow knew that it was his Father’s will he went through this. That something of great magnitude, cosmic significance was going to happen through this. That somehow he would take humanity’s burden with him and enable a new relationship between God and the people he created.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is probably the best image the New Testament gives us of this reconciliation. The young man has gone off with his inheritance and spent it all on a profligate life – eating, drinking and womanising. He is penniless and starving. The gospel tells us this: I will get up and go to my father and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:18-2)
Father of all,
we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off
you met us in your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love,
gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life;
we who drink his cup bring life to others;
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so we and all your children shall be free,
and the whole earth live to praise your name;
through Christ our Lord.