Holy Week praying

 

This Holy Week I’m reading about Christ’s last week and about the Hebrew’s Exodus from Egypt. I wanted to make the connections between Passover and Easter. I have been struck by two postures of prayer. Pharoah repeatedly asks Moses to pray for him. Jesus prays for us (John 17) and for Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Pharoah asked Moses to pray to the LORD the God of the Hebrews; he’s othering God. Moses noted and told Pharoah, “You still don’t fear God.” (Exodus 9:29-30) All Pharoah wanted was relief from the plagues, and then he would harden his heart and not listen to God’s spokespeople, Moses and Aaron. The text even notes that he sinned again and lead the officials to harden their hearts. The Lord asked Pharoah, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” (Ex 10:3) Pharoah’s own officials asked, “Do you not realize Egypt is ruined?” (Exodus 10:7) Pharoah’s followers were undone by his pride. Ultimately, everyone who listened to Pharoah lost their firstborn.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane stands as the absolute opposite of Pharoah’s praying and leadership. He spoke to His “Abba, Father.” He invited friends to pray with Him, but he talked and listened to the Father rather than seeking a mediator. Christ asked that if it was possible, the painful cup of the cross be taken away, but He wanted the Lord’s will to be done more than He wanted His own way. Three times he repeats to His Heavenly Father, “Your will be done.” The Perfect One bowed with His face to the ground and told the LORD his emotions of anguish, sorrow, and being overwhelmed. (Matthew 26:39) His disciples succumbed to exhaustion derived from sorrow. (Luke 22:46) In the midst of His personal crisis, Jesus heals the servant’s severed ear. He became the firstborn Son of God sacrificed, so all can be saved.

Whose prayer life is my prayer life more like, Pharoah or Jesus? Do I want my way or for God’s will to be done? Do I have a hardened heart or a heart that fully experiences all emotions even the painful ones? Do I refuse to humble myself before the LORD or am I bowed to the ground before Him? Is my life marked by others’ ruin or others’ health and wellness?

This Holy Week, I want to sit with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Care to join me?

 

*The medieval stained glass photo was taken at The Cloisters in NYC.

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The Un-Good Samaritan

Almost a decade ago I was headed to an early morning class with a friend. We had an exam. It felt like a weighty exam. Looking back, I think I overimbued the test’s significance, but at the time my future felt in the hands of the test.  As we scooted down the highway, which was an early Saturday morning trafficless route, we passed a large green exit sign with a body laying at the bottom of it. My carpool friend/classmate and I asked one another, “Did you see that?” We changed lanes, pulled onto the shoulder of the road, and tried to sort out what we were going to do.

Our conversation went something like this:

Do you have your first aid?
No, do you?

No.

We really can’t be late to the test.

We can’t just leave the person.

He’s too far back there. We’ll have to exit. Go the other way, and come back around.

What about the test?

What will we do when we get to the body?

Do we walk back?

We could call 911.

I don’t have a cell.

Well, I do.  What do I say?

We saw a body between this exit and this exit at a base of sign for east bound traffic. Well we’re no Good Samaritan today.

And that’s what we did. I drove. She called 911. I threw in a few details, and we got to our test on time. After the exam, we told the instructor about the preadventure, and we ruefully became the un-Good Samaritans. Both of us have lives steeped in the Good Samaritan story, in compassion, in goodness, but in that moment we just didn’t know what to do.

So here I am almost a decade later, still praying for the person and their family. Knowing that if I had a do-over, I would do differently.  Still wondering if the person is ok. Still sorry I didn’t sit with them until the first responders arrived. Still kind of appalled that a test demanded more of my time and energy that a human.

Yesterday I listened to a podcast that created an Aha moment for me. Actually several Aha moments came to me. Juanita Rasmus read the parable of the Good Samaritan three times inviting the listeners to imagine being the priest, the Good Samaritan, and the man who had been attacked.

Aha #1:  The priest:  It’s complicated.

Maybe the priest was like me, focusedly heading to do something central to his purpose, his call, his future. Did he not know what to do? Did he wonder about the injured man a decade later? Did he send someone back to help? Did he think through the passing by and think about what he would do differently next time? I know the story is a parable,  but yesterday was the first time ever I thought about the priest as anything but a villain.

Aha #2:  Justice and compassion definitions

Mrs. Rasmus said that to her “Justice is love gone public.” and that her understanding of “Compassion is the experience of a heart that has known its own suffering and has been made expansive by the healing power of the love of God.”

These definitions are beautiful; they give me pause. They broaden my grasp of these words. When she defined justice and compassion this way, I am moved to look at the state of my own heart. Is it full of love? If the contents of thinking and feeling go public, what will it look like? justice? or not?

Have I sat with my own suffering? You see when I passed the body on the side of the road, I had not yet lived through moments where having someone with me mattered even when they could not do anything for me. I had not learned to sit with my own pain or how healing presence could be as an extension of the healing power of the love of God.

Aha #3:  Justice and compassion diagnostics

While listening to Rasmus’ podcast for the second or third time lightbulbs started flickering on; connections began to be made. I’m going to try on the ideas here.

Backstory: Part of my job is to remediate a student’s reading and writing. The more accurately I can pinpoint why they make the mistakes they do, the more effectively the learning vulnerability can be supported. For a simple example a student who spells dad as bab has letter reversals to work on where as a a student who spells grant as grat does not hear all of the sounds and needs to work on phonemic awareness.

I have a friend who works as an NIS practitioner, and through her I have learned that the same health symptoms do not have the same root causes. This seems applicable to so many things what looks the same rarely is.

I have longed for a discipleship diagnostic. Also, I have been confused when people I experientially know to be just and compassionate post on social media statements or articles that minimize, deny, or deflect others’ call to justice or compassion Like profoundly befuddled.

So I’m trying on Rasmus’ definitions. Maybe some people’s dismissing of other’s experiences and calls to justice come because they do not yet love the people who make the call. What’s gone public in the news, in social media, in social exchanges might be a lack of love.

And maybe there are love filled hearts who have not known their own suffering. All humans have pain and suffering, but not all of us know how to sit with our own suffering, get to know it. We

  • grin and bear it
  • hide our crazy
  • get it together
  • don’t burden anyone
  • roll with the punches
  • be positive
  • stomach something
  • hold our tongues
  • shake it off
  • suck it up

and try so hard not to pay attention to our own pain. Then when others begin drawing attention to their pain, their plight, their situation, their injustice, their natural disaster, their horror, their grief, we want them to also grin and bear it. We have little to extend because we are holding it in.

What if we started to

  • cry and share
  • show our crazy
  • let it fall apart
  • share our burden
  • defend from the punches
  • be real

Then maybe, after getting to know our own suffering, we will get to know God as the Father of compassion and God of all comfort in a new way; we will receive His “healing power,” and we become “expansive” in extending His love and comfort, His justice and compassion.

Maybe today I crossed to the other side of the social media street; I looked the other way from someone’s misfortune, pain, suffering, and maybe today I will make a new plan for what I will do next time.

Where am I not goodsamaritaning? And what suffering do I need to sit with?

The wilderness road can become a stream of living water when the Spirit of Jesus brings healing.

Look at the current event headlines and let’s ask ourselves “how can I respond with justice and compassion?” And if I don’t have these to muster, why not?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.    2 Corinthians 1:3-8

Adoption at Christmas

I picked up a vial of myrrh and frankincense because I had heard of these spices my whole life, but I didn’t know their smell. My curiosity satisfied, the vial sat on top of the microwave until the top cracked, it spilled, and I didn’t know. Craig kept thinking he hadn’t washed all his shaving cream off; I looked for veggies, fruit going bad. It wasn’t a bad smell just an unusual one. I hadn’t yet given meaning to the scents.

When I picked up oiled papers, we figured it out, and the scent lingered. I wondered if the toddler Jesus liked the smell. Did Mary put a dab behind her ear? Somehow the physicality of smelling what Jesus smelled has sent me on a humanity of Jesus Advent season. Did the hay itch? Did Mary and Joseph find Jesus naughty? He was the first child, so they were on a learning curve of what is developmentally normal and parentally inconvenient. Did He get grumpy when He needed a nap? (I know He was perfect, but I’m thinking grumpy and tired aren’t actually sinful, just human.)

Then my youngest asked about Joseph as Jesus’ father, trying to figure this all out. Using language familiar to our family, I tried to explain the complex and beautiful in known frameworks. God was Jesus’ father, and Joseph adopted Jesus. Then I started wondering how did Joseph’s attachment to Jesus go as His adoptive father? Was the angel’s visit and dream enough to explain Mary’s pregnancy when others began to comment, tease, taunt assuming the child was Joseph’s? Did Joseph’s closest friend or brother know about the dream and angel visitation? In moments of doubt, how did Joseph relate to Mary and to Jesus?

Then I thought about Jesus’ attachment to Joseph.

Since the whole reason God created humans was to extend the relational delight of the Trinity, I quickly decided Jesus’ attachment to Joseph must have been a thing of beauty and calmed Joseph’s heart of any residual pain and doubt.

Somehow, my mind jumped that the God-human baby Jesus came for an in-country visit. And I paused, wondered.

You see in international adoption some countries require the adoptive parents to come and meet the child, meet the culture, meet the judge prior to proceeding with finalizing of papers. As the adoptive parent, you fall more deeply in love with the in flesh child you have only had a photo of, you taste the food, you experience the smells and sounds; you observe child rearing practices. You watch, take in your child’s home, trying to capture this space and time, so that you can answer their future coming questions. You want to understand the subtleties of social graces; you pick up key phrases – not just the usual traveler’s greetings, store questions, but the parenting language of – toilet language, favourite food terms, safety words. What does the village look like? How do people cook, clean, dance? What happens at bath time? You buy handiworks made by people of the place to let your home represent your child. As the adoptive parent, you want to understand everything about your child, the child’s world, your mind and heart take in realities that photos and words can never show or articulate; your whole being pulses with trying to “get” your child and to bridge the child to their new world.

This is what Jesus did; he came for God’s in-country visit. While the Lord created our world and us, the human experience was not His until Christ came for the in-country human immersion. Our Heavenly Father wanted us to be able to approach Him with confidence and ease, so He limited Himself into the realities of a baby and then a man – enabling the Father to understand the adopted child’s reality empathetically. Jesus came to bridge us to life in the Kingdom of God.

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17

 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

When we were in our VERY long adoption process, one of our kids asked, “When my little sister comes, will I be half Haiti?” He captured the expansion of our reality to incorporate as much of hers as possible.

When children of God come to Him, He is fully human. Jesus captured the human experience and shows us how to incorporate as much of our human reality as possible into life in His kingdom. He came to help us be at one with the Heavenly Father, to help our attachment.

Yesterday I walked home and passed snow covered outdoor statues at a neighbourhood temple. Many thoughts later, I realized that Jesus knew what it felt like to be cold, and somehow it makes him more beautiful and relatable on bigger, harder things. Christ’s humanity helps me live at one with His perfect divinity.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family

by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

This is what he wanted to do, and

it gave him great pleasure.

Ephesians 1:5