Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Glory in the Cross (For Tuesday in Holy Week)

(Photo: Hannah Cochran)
This morning I woke up early, to finish homework left undone from last night. My fingers meandered across the keyboard as the question - Who is man that thou art mindful of him? - and these words, imago Dei (image of God) echoed into the still room. As I typed, my toes wriggling a little from sleepy excitement for the topics in the paper (it really was fun to write, even that early), I heard a bird trill outside my window, startling me awake.

I cracked it open a little bit to let the birdsong and the sweet fresh air inside, and it was if I woke up from 100 years of sleeping, aching for the new day. The smell of rain and earth, the promise of spring, was beckoning and singing its way into my room. I was suddenly awake to the bigger moments of this week: the Resurrection and the Promises held in the darkness, the sky covered for those three hours.

I thought I was awake. I thought I was especially virtuous for being awake. But then these words dropped me to my knees.

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter." (Matthew 26.36-40) 

What a sleeper I have been these many weeks. He says, voice pouring out sorrow, Stay here and keep watch with me. He doesn't say die with me. He doesn't say run away with me. He doesn't say defend me or protect me. He says stay. He says keep watch with me.

And how often I sleep, waiting until the very late bloom of April is rushing into my window! How often I sleep, pretending I have all the time to join Him. How often I act as though He has asked the extraordinary, unbearable, unfathomable thing. As I preen my ruffled feathers, I hear myself saying, "How can God ask so much of me? He asks me to bear all this?" And then I sigh loud into the room and slump my shoulders and toss my mane of red-blond hair as if to say, "Well, then fine! I'll just do it all myself and see if I need YOU!" {have you ever said something like that to God?}

But what did He ask me, this week? Stay here and keep watch with me. Stay awake? Watch? And I have fallen asleep - asleep to His sorrow. Asleep to the moment when He is betrayed. Asleep to His prayers. Asleep to the glory He wins for us.

I hear Him ask me, stay awake. Do not wait until Easter morning to rise and make your way to the empty tomb. For it is the instrument of shameful death that is to us the means of everlasting life. Before the tomb is the Cross. And the glory is in the Cross.

May the Lord our God, in His merciful compassion, find us awake with Him this week.

Pray with me, from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:

O God, by the passion of thy blessed Son didst make an 
instrument of shameful death to be unto us the means of life: 
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly 
suffer shame and loss for the sake of thy Son our Savior Jesus 
Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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