Monday, July 19, 2010

Gethsemane

Monday, July 19, 2010 -- Week of Proper 11, Year Two
Macrina, Monastic and Teacher, 379
Adelaide Teague Case, Teacher, 1948


Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 977)
Psalms 41, 52 (morning)       44 (evening)
Joshua 7:1-13
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 26:36-46

We have a new feast joining the traditional observance of Macrina's day.  Adelaide Teague Case [Jan. 10, 1887-July 19, 1948] First woman appointed to teach at an Episcopal seminary (Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, MA). Her interests were Christian education and social reform, and she took part in many educational, social and ecumenical movements including The Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship. (July 19)
For more about the new observations in our trial calendar, go to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog.
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In our gospel reading today we are in Gethsemane with Jesus.  He has Peter, James and John with him.  The Hebrew word "geth" or "gat" means "press, and "shemen" in Hebrew means oil.  Gethsemane is an oil press.  The image is a compelling one.

Olives are harvested by hand.  The harvesters strike the limbs and gather the fruit that falls.  The olives then are placed into an olive press, a circular stone with a large stone wheel that can be turned by a long spoke, driven either by a donkey or by human power.  The heavy millstone crushes the first oil out of the olives.  This first press creates the purest oil, used mainly for lamps, cosmetics and holy anointing.  Then the crushed pulp is pressed within baskets.  The baskets serve as a filter.  As the oil seeps from these baskets in this second press, it first emerges in a blood red color.  After the oil is extracted from the olives, the leftover pits can be burned to create a fire of a very hot temperature, hot enough to be used for melting some metals.

The images fit the scene.  Jesus is in deep foreboding.  There are plots afoot to destroy him and his work.  He has offended great powers of religion and state.  The "time of trial" is at hand.  A great weight bears down on him like a millstone.  It threatens to crush him.  It presses upon him, as if to squeeze the life from him.  It is late at night.  Jesus begins to pray.  He seems to want and need the companionship of his friends with him.  He needs their support.

Jesus prays earnestly, "grieved and agitated."  He throws himself on the ground begging to be released.  "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want."  As Jesus agonizes, his friends find they cannot stay awake for him.  Speaking to Peter, Jesus says, "So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?  Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 

Even with that urging, the disciples are unable to stay awake and support Jesus.  The story repeats Jesus' actions three times, heightening the intensity.  When this prayer is over, there is no turning back; things are set in motion.  "See, the hour is at hand...  See, my betrayer is at hand."

I have noticed that when I am in times of deep pressure and agitation, I will often retreat into sleep.  I will find myself lethargic and tired, without energy.  I will curl up in my bed -- maybe to escape, maybe to hope things will go away, maybe because I feel squeezed and drained, carrying a weight beyond my strength. 

Every day we pray Jesus words that ask God to save us from the time of trial.  (Here is an example of why the updated translation of the Lord's Prayer seems so much better -- "save us from the time of trial" is both more accurate and seems more deeply compelling than "lead us not into temptation.") 

How much do we sleep during the great trials of our neighbors?  There are so many people, even whole cultures, that live under the heavy press of injustice and grief.  The life is being squeezed out of so many people.  The word "oppression" carries with it the sense of being crushed, pressed by great weight, like the stone press a Gethsemane.  Those who bear these heavy weights ask us to stay awake -- to see them, to be with them in some way.  To pray and intercede when nothing can be done; to act and save when something can be done.  How much do we sleep while the heavy weight presses down on the innocent?

Lowell

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Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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