Bright Prayers in a Dark Garden

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Olive Trees in the Traditional Garden of Gethsemane, Photo source: http://eternalscheme.com/getting-to-the-story/olive-trees-in-the-traditional-garden-of-gethsemane/

I was sitting in church at the local parish church up the street Thursday morning, waiting for a special prayer service to start with the kids from the parish school.  I’m Presbyterian, but the Roman Catholics worship God every day, so it’s with the beautiful and faithful parishoners of the wonderful and dynamic church up the street that you’ll find me many mornings.

We love Jesus, I have no apologies.

I only grabbed my J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English to take with me as I scooted out the door (quite literally — there was a Razor scooter involved as my primary mode of transport up the street).  Service was sweet, though not particularly deep — it was like a typical little kids’ chapel service.

In flipping through to compare Last Supper and Passion narratives, I found no traditional, liturgical “Last Supper” narrative in the Gospel of John, but I did find John 17…and in the “fresh” voice of Phillips breathing life into this text, I was absolutely blown away — how could I have somehow “missed” this chapter?  This was what I read, in the translation in which I read it, in a chapter titled Jesus’ prayer for his disciples — present and future:

When Jesus had said these words, he raised his eyes to Heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son now so that he may bring glory to you, for you have given him authority over all men to give eternal life to all that you have given to him. And this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent — Jesus Christ.

“I have brought you honour upon earth, I have completed the task which you gave me to do. Now, Father, honour me in your own presence with the glory that I knew with you before the world was made. I have shown your self to the men whom you gave me from the world. They were your men and you gave them to me, and they have accepted your word. Now they realise that all you have given me comes from you — and that every message which you gave me I have given them. They have accepted it all and have come to know in their hearts that I did come from you — they are convinced that you sent me.

“I am praying to you for them: I am not praying for the world but for the men whom you gave me, for they are yours — everything that is mine is yours and yours mine — and they have done me honour. Now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am returning to you. Holy Father, keep the men you gave me by your power that they may be one, as we are one. As long as I was with them, I kept them by the power that you gave me; I guarded them, and not one of them has been lost, except the son of destruction — that the scripture might come true.

“And now I come to you and I say these things in the world that these men may find my joy completed in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, for they are no more sons of this world than I am. I am not praying that you will take them out of the world but that you will keep them from the evil one. They are no more the sons of the world than I am — make them holy by the truth; for your word is the truth. I have sent them to the world just as you sent me to the world and I consecrated myself for their sakes that they may be made holy by the truth.

I am not praying only for these men but for all those who will believe in me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, live in me and I live in you, I am asking that they may live in us, and that the world may believe that you did send me. I have given them the honour that you gave me, that they may be one as, as we are one — I in them and you in me, that they may grow completely into one, so that the world may realise that you sent me snd have loved them as you loved me. Father, I want those whom you have given me to be with me where I am; I want them to see the glory which you have made mine — for you loved me before the world began. Father of all goodness, the world has not known you, but I have known you and these men now know that you have sent me. I have made your self known to them, and will continue to do so that the love which you have had for me may be in their hearts — and that I may be there also.”

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I still question how in the world I lived and loved God so long, and yet somehow “missed” this chapter. These seem like simple words, but are powerful words for the intercession of Christ on behalf of his disciples…past, present, and always. These is always a lot to think about in all the events surrounding the Garden of Gethsemane, but this chapter takes it to a whole new level.

Blessings for this Good Friday. I’m on my way Downtown for mass at the Cathedral. Presbyterian though I may be, those Roman Catholic roots run deep, and NO ONE does Good Friday like the Catholics. — VKS

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