URC Daily Devotion 23 March 2024

 Saturday 23 March 2024


St Mark 14: 32 – 42
They went to a place called Gethsemane; and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’  He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.  And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’  And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’  He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?  Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.  And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.  He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’

Never underestimate the power of ‘withness’ – of knowing someone is with you, staying with you as you endure what you must.  Even if not physically present, signs of being actively held in another’s thoughts and prayers (such as cards, messages, phone calls) defend us against feeling abandoned by God and people in our time of need and keep us connected to love by however slender a thread.

I memorably spent a night watching over a young man on a residential youth event who we had suspected of drinking alcohol and then realised was having a hypoglycemic episode.  The on-call doctor treated him and told the team to watch him overnight – and as I was not driving a minibus home the next day, I volunteered to sit with him all night whilst he slept.  As I kept watch and prayed I realised it was in fact Maundy Thursday.  The next day he was much recovered and very touched that someone had stayed at his bedside – as no one ever had before.

Jesus, in his time of trial, wants to protect his friends from their own trials.  Jesus powerfully names his feelings and his need of their presence and prayers.  His own prayer echoes the prayer he taught his followers: Abba father, not my will but yours be done (here on earth as in heaven).   His willing spirit and weak flesh will be tested along with those of his friends that very night.

Who are we being asked to stay with, to watch and pray? What situation needs our attention and prayerful intention? Which times of trial are we being called to enter in loving empathy? Can we manage even an hour today, this Holy Week? Could we keep vigil on Maundy Thursday and accompany Christ through this dark night?

Stay with me,
remain here with me,
watch and pray,
watch and pray.

Stay With Me (Taizé) [with lyrics for congregations]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OHPoVhwgnM
Stay with me (Bleibet hier). Prayerful video with lyricshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WNY7vKiMjY

Today’s writer

Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, Messy Church Team, Chalgrove


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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