Prayer for Liverpool
I continue to be so grateful for my daily walks around St. James’ Gardens, especially on those lovely calm sunny mornings when it’s not blowing a hooley. Each day, it seems that the place is greening up, and more flowers are appearing. The information board erected by the Council tells me that St. James’ Mount, at the southern end of the Gardens, was the first public park in Liverpool, created as long ago as 1767. So it’s been giving pleasure, for free, to many generations of local people.
As I’ve been walking round, trying to chalk up my daily tally of ‘steps’ I was reminded of a talk I’d heard years ago which claimed that the main message of the Bible (the ‘meta-narrative’ if you want the posh word) can be summed up in ‘gardens’. The Bible starts in the Garden of Eden, and ends in the garden city of the new heaven and earth, with the river of life flowing down the centre, and trees producing fruit for the healing of the nations. In the heart of the Bible are two more gardens, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden of the Empty Tomb. Between these latter two is the Cross – the fulcrum of the whole of Scripture. On Easter morning, our focus will be on the garden in which Jesus revealed himself to Mary Magdalene, outside the empty tomb, from which he had just emerged. In this Holy Week, however, may I encourage you to dwell for a while in the Garden of Gethsemane? You can read of this in Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 or Luke 22:40-46.
To begin to understand something of the significance of the moment, we should wind back the clock to the Garden of Eden. However we understand, in literary terms, the text of Genesis 3, it is obvious that human beings, in their decision to put themselves in the driving seat, set themselves on a collision course with God’s good purposes for them. Having eaten of the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’, God could not let them eat of the ‘Tree of Life’; otherwise, his plan to send his Son as the perfect human to die for the mess we’d made of the world could not be enacted. Humans would have been immortal. So Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:22-24), in a gesture which some theologians refer to as a ‘severe mercy’. It sounds most harsh for God to do that, but it was the way in which God would ultimately demonstrate his merciful love for all humanity. As we trace the path from Eden through the Old Testament, we read of a ‘Messiah’ – God’s anointed one, who would come to drink the cup of suffering. Psalm 102 is one of the set Psalms for Holy Week, and I believe that verse 9 looks ahead to Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “For I eat ashes like bread, and mingle tears with my drink.” So it was, that just after Jesus had shared the Last Supper with his disciples, including the ‘cup of remembrance’ of the Passover, he prayed earnestly to God in the Garden, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not what I want but what you want” (Matthew 29:39). Humanly, Jesus blanched at the thought of what was set before him – he didn’t want to go through with it. It is interesting that Jesus distanced himself from his disciples in order to pray, and was completely isolated in his dialogue with God; for only he could do this. But there, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the ‘garden of tears’ (as Graham Kendrick refers to it in his hymn ‘The Servant King’) became the garden of decision. Without it, the Garden of the Empty Tomb, the Easter Garden, would not have been possible.
So let us, in this Holy Week, dwell with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, not ‘falling asleep’ spiritually, as did the disciples physically on that momentous evening. May we quietly give thanks to Jesus that he was prepared to drink that cup of suffering, right to the bottom, and that he did it for the love of you and me.
There in the garden of tears,
my heavy load he chose to bear.
His heart with sorrow was torn,
“Yet not my will, but yours” he said.
This is our God, the Servant King.
He calls us now to follow him.
To bring our lives, as a daily offering
of worship to the Servant King.
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.
And check out the following calendar of services this Holy Week as well (Links will be provided once they are made available):
Holy Week Reflections and Services
Service for Maundy Thursday
Joint Good Friday Service between the two Cathedrals
The Passion Gospel read by Precentors from Cathedrals around the Country
Performance of Crucifixus by Cathedral Choir, sung remotely
Vigil Prayers and Night Prayer by National Cathedral Precentors
10.30am Service for Easter Day, Bishop Paul preaching
Prayer for Liverpool
brought to you from Liverpool Cathedral
St James Mount
Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter.
Built by the people, for the people, to the Glory of God