The Question of the Cup

Something is coming.

My awareness is shifting to the arrival of something extraordinary and this moment is blessed with anticipation.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Advent but hasn’t this whole year been a year of holy, grace-filled waiting? Pope Francis called it the Year of Faith and so it was as I became more intentional about my faith, more fully aware and in awe of God’s presence.

So what will come next?

 

The title of the passage is deceiving in its simplicity. “Jesus Prays in Gethsemane.” Sure, he prays. He prays hard for an answer from God, for relief that just won’t come. In the quiet of the garden, he is vulnerable and utterly human. The Son of Man indeed. And knowing that the cup set before him will not pass, Jesus readily drinks from it.

Henri Nouwen wrote a whole book about it, about the question that comes in the shape of a cup. The question with the power to “crack open a hardened heart and lay bare the tendons of the spiritual life.”

So.
Can you drink from the cup?

Jesus asked the disciples and then God asked him and now He asks us.

Can we say yes to life? A life with God and all that it entails?

Because until faith is given hands to work and knees to kneel, we are merely talking about life with God. We are called as we are, where we are, but too often I use this to excuse a lack of action and I lapse into a kind of spiritual apathy. Does this mean packing up and leaving all to fight injustice or feed bodies more dead than alive? No. Still, I must drink from the cup.

And how long has the cup sat before me, patiently waiting for an answer? A whole lifetime? If so, then Brother Lawrence is right: “let us redeem the lost time, for perhaps we have but little left.”

 

The year to come will still be a year of faith but also a year of faith-work.

The cup, the question, it is always being posed to us but we have only so many days to give an answer.

And how else do I answer but through the living itself?

 

Here, the day before the beginning of Advent,  I read it again. How he kneels low in the garden, in the darkest dark. And he trusts what God gives. In this brief scene I see what a life with God can look like, the faith-believing and the faith-doing, and I find myself in Gethsemane too; a moment made eternal by a questioning cup.

 

 

Missing Peace

Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe it’s this season in life.

Lights get strung around roofs and windows, making the nights a little less dark. And the songs all turn to joy and peace in a world that too often seems to have neither.

And me? I feel a restlessness.

While people are looking at the star hovering over the birth, my eyes have been drifting to the cross. At a time meant to be about birth and celebration, I’m leaning hard on the tree he hung from. 

 

This time of year, well, it’s downright hard.

From Thanksgiving right on till Christmas Day, it sometimes feels like there’s so little to be thankful for. Why give thanks at all? Why rejoice when we know that the man on that cross was once that infant at her breast?

My throat tightens and I swallow hard at the mere thought of it.

But I know there is something in missing in all of this. The story is missing a piece.

 

More often than not, it happens like this.

I’m reading one thing which leads to another which leads to my bible being thrown open. And with a pen I begin the search. I track it down the pages until I really get it.

Peace.

Peace, the missing piece.

 

It doesn’t end with the cross but rather begins at the cross. Something was lost and there was pain but only for something even greater to be born. And we carry this in our bodies, his life and death and resurrection. Paul says it in 2 Corinthians and I feel it deep.

“I am always with you,” Jesus said (Mt 28:20). I pause and let that sink in. It was days ago that I wrote that down, quickly, just for myself, but it’s only now that it’s all coming together. The missing piece sliding into place.

 

How can I house such a restless heart when the peace of Christ is in us? How could there be room for anything else?

That restlessness, it tugs and pulls and threatens to undo me completely. But it won’t. Because I’ve redirected myself to the cross. How many people do that this time of year? I don’t know. Still. As the body of Christ our story begins at the cross where true peace was delivered.

“… let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” says Paul, “and be thankful.” (Col 3:15)

Peace is a person and He is always with us. And this is where I will reside and rest and be thankful indeed.

 

 

Call and Response

It is only during the early days of winter moments such as these exist. When clouds hide what’s left of the afternoon light and snow falls like a sheet over a sleeping body.

And the house becomes quiet this time of day, this time of year. All warm and dimly lit with books stacked high and cats curled tight.

So when I read it, everything felt just as it should be. Like the words had been saved for this particular moment:

He will come in His own time, and when you least expect it. Hope in Him more than ever; thank Him with me for the favors He does you, particularly the fortitude and patience which He gives you in your afflictions. It is a plain mark of the care He takes of you. Comfort yourself, then, with Him, and give thanks for all. (Brother Lawrence)

I hovered over the words, read each one slowly, again and again.

Here, I thought, is the greatest blessing we could ever receive and perhaps our biggest challenge too. Because how do you respond to such steadfast love?

But God, I suspect, is more easily satisfied than us, for he knows how we were made, he remembers that we are dust.

 

And a few pages later, there is this:

Let us make way for grace; let us redeem the lost time, for perhaps we have but little left.

 

It comes to me fast and without any fuss and I hesitate at how simple it is:
We respond to grace by making room for grace, here, in the present moment, by giving thanks.
I almost wish I had more to add, an insight of my own but no, this is more than enough.   

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting the Fog

When Jesus said only one thing was necessary, I heard him but not really.

The words trickled in but only a few. It just couldn’t get past what I thought this one-fabric life should look like. And what I thought of as a life made of beautiful mismatched patchwork was something denser and colder. I had trapped myself in by what I thought a life of faith should be.

 

Grace at every meal. Church every Sunday. Scripture, daily.
And I would look at my own life and see little, if any, of this reflected back. So I would dwell  on someday, one day, later – it will all be different and better then.

 

But God isn’t experienced in some distant future or by comparing the now with a vague later.

God is in the present, right here with us, demanding that we be present also.

Being present to the Presence is the necessary thing.

 

Still. Being present is hard for the worriers of the world. The sense of guilt and urgency engulfs us like a thick fog. We cannot see what is before us or even where we stand.

Our saving grace is the knowledge that light burns off the fog. The darkness we shroud ourselves in is nothing compared to to the Light of the World and the Light is always with us because the darkness does not overcome it.

 

If I’m honest, the fog isn’t completely gone. Maybe it never will be.

But the life I am making for myself, I can see now how it’s less about doing and more about being.

The one-fabric life I so long for is not just made of moments and actions woven together; rather it is made with the knowledge that my life is already interlaced with the Holy. And here, in this, there is relief.