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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

Risking Yourself to Find Yourself

I have been and am still wrestling with it, right there on the ground, dirt and sweat and tears. It’s the words on my lips and the beat of my heart these days. And if I could only dig deeper, really sink into it, I just might get it.

John 1:1-18, I’m committed and it’s etched into memory. Someone has said that what a heart knows by heart, a heart knows.

Indeed.

 

Because in there is the courage to be. Our true selves are tucked in somewhere in there. Words written almost two thousand years ago know me better than I know myself. So I breathe deep and keep digging.

What I’ve unearthed is few but precious compared to the dirt that is on me.

So I roll it around in my hands and on my tongue, all of those throughs and ins and beings. I’m sure I’ve polished them smooth, I’ve gone over them so many times.

And I bring in others, theologians and scholars, to help with the task. Some are more useful than others but all contribute to the necessary work. Some make me uncomfortable as they force me outside the boundaries I’ve imagined and really, this is what Jesus calls us to do. Everything belongs, nothing is wasted.

 

Something has been raised out of the dark. What exactly, I’m not yet sure, but it’s essential. That I know.

And really, I know little else. But faith isn’t certainty, it makes room for doubt and in doing so becomes one of our greatest blessings. Faith persists despite our lived reality. Because you can’t deny that something has come into being through him and in him. Our true selves are found only in Him.

Jesus calls us to the freedom of knowing who we are, our true identities, as children of God. Born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. Here is our courage to be, to claim life with and in and of God as our own. The boldness we have, we have in Him.