Thursday, 5 April 2012

The meaning of loneliness

Maundy Thursday.

Tonight we remembered the Last Supper and the events that followed in Gethemane. It was quite a sombre affair towards the end when we sat in subdued lighting in (a very cold) church and listened to the account of your betrayal. 

Nobody waited with you. They fell asleep. They didn't understand what was happening. I can't imagine  that they would have nodded off if they'd known. You asked them to stay with you, to be there, but they couldn't. You were truly on your own. My heart goes out to you. 

It must have been terrifying. You knew what was coming. You knew what had to happen. You were waiting for the start of a chain of events that would result in agonies for you - physical, emotional and spiritual, but the loneliness must have started right here. Minutes and hours ticked by while you waited. 

One of your chosen friends betrayed you with a kiss.

Those same men who had sworn that they would never leave your side - they fled. Peter was aghast at the thought that he might disown you but he ran away. They were afraid for their lives and despite their claims that they would stand by you and even die for you they made themselves scarce in case it might be their turn next. 

You were alone. 

God, what was it like to watch your Son that night? To hear him ask if there was another way, and shake your head? To watch his sweat fall like blood, to see him on his face on the ground with sorrow and fear?  To see these weak men who were his friends run away and deny him? 

Were you proud? Were you tempted to abandon the Plan? 

He did it all that scripture might be fulfilled. It had to happen this way. There was only One who was good enough. 

Tonight we had a meal together and we shared bread and wine and we watched as the altar in church was stripped. It always moves me, to see the front of church bare and unadorned. No candles, no altar-cloth, no crucifix. It doesn't seem right. Where you are there should be majesty and glory and richness and beauty but tonight there is just a wooden table. A cloud in front of the sun. Shadows instead of streaming, golden light. 

They took you away and you knew what was to come.You were human enough to pale in the face of this last horrible chapter but God enough to go ahead with it. You asked for company and support and the comfort of friends and nobody gave it. 

You were totally alone. Jesus Christ, Son of God, led away like a criminal as your friends abandoned you. But here's the thing; I know the end of the story. I know that it doesn't end with your death. From my little vantage point in history I know about your death and I know about the resurrection. I know that your team is still the only team to be on even though right at this moment in Gethsemane it looked totally defeated. You are victorious. It all works out alright in the end. 

I have an advantage over the disciples. And yet...

Would I have run away? I'm sure that I would. 

Would I run away now if they came for me, because of you?  Oh, Lord, I hope not. 

I am like Simon Peter. I don't flatter myself that I am any more loyal, brave, steadfast than the Rock upon which you built your church. I love you, but I am easily frightened. Easily cowed. 

And yet you did all this for me. 

Even without the adornments, you are beautiful. Without the gold and the tapestry and the candles, you are still the Lord of Light. 

Walking away with your captors, allies nowhere to be seen, you are not diminished. 

I am in awe. 

You are here.
Your spirit is with me.
I lift up my heart. 
I give thanks to the Lord my God. 
It is right to give Him thanks and praise.

Thankyou, Jesus. 

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