Shortly after the last supper in the upper room, Jesus went to pray in Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). Right befor he left, he predicted Peter's betrayal and the disciple's desertion. He knew what was ahead and how he would suffer. His heart was heavy.
Jesus asked the disciples to "Sit here while I go over and pray," (Matthew 26:36) Jesus expressed a need for companionship and comfort from those who knew him well and who had walked beside him in ministry.
But what happened? The disciples fell asleep while Jesus expressed to his father, deep sorrow and anguish. (Matthew 26:37-39). They were unable to "sit with" Jesus and be present to his needs even for a short time.
Sitting Shiva - A Jewish Tradition
The Jewish faith observes a tradition called sitting shiva for seven days following a death. The family gathers at one location where family and friends can come, spend time and offer comfort and sympathy in the days following a loss.
When my husband's father died suddenly on Sunday December 20, 1983, word spread quickly among the two congregations he was serving. By mid-afternoon only a few hours after his mother called to inform us of his father's passing, our small parsonage living room was filled with people who came to sit with us.
We were still in shock. A steady stream of people came by well into the evening to let us know by their presence they were keeping us in prayer. They offered comfort and companionship, letting us talk as we began the process of grieving our beloved father, father-in-law and grandad. These people were sitting shiva, so to speak with us.
Sitting with Others
Almost a year ago, I "sat with" a friend and her extended family while her daughter, who is also my friend had surgery for a brain tumor. The chairs in the hospital waiting room were arranged in a circle. We didn't say much during the two hour surgery, mainly making small talk to break the tension and pass the time. But we didn't need to say much because God's presence was felt in those moments of anxiety and uncertainty as we sat in a circle of love.
Sitting with others, especially when few words are spoken, let's God's presence and love come through. When we sit with another, we make room in our hearts for him or her, just like God does for us. When we sit with someone, we demonstrate and model how God is present to us through giving our time, listening, offering reflection and prayer - precious gifts to those about whom we care.
Sitting with someone can also be a for a happy occasion. A few years ago, my friend, Ann, who lives in Vincennes, had a doctor's appointment in Indianapolis the day before my birthday. She decided to spend the night with a daughter who lived about a mile from me to help celebrate my birthday. I prepared lunch and Ann came over. She sat with me, as we shared what was happening in our lives. I still remember the joy of Ann's gift of time. I even drew a picture to honor our visit.
When I can express what I feel God is telling me or I draw a picture when I don't have the words to say, God comes and sits with me.
When I rest with a few verses of scripture and ask God to enter my study, God is sitting with me.
God Sits With Us
Psalm 139 verse 5 assures us of God's presence. "You are all around me in front and in back - and you have put your hand on me." Reflect on how God comes to you and you will identify how God sits with you.
I am sad Jesus did not have love and support from his close friends during his time of great need. We feel his disapppointment and frustration with the disciples who failed him, when he said in Matthew 26:40, "Peter, how is it that you were not able to keep watch with me for even an hour?" Knowing Jesus' feelings, can inspire us to be present to others in any circumstance or event.
1. Recall an occasion when someone "sat with" you ? How did this companionship make you feel?
2. How have you "sat with" others for happy and sad occasions? Reflect on your experience.
Prayer: God, you are indeed all around us - in front and in back. You sit with us in many ways offering silent companionship we can hear in our hearts and feel in our souls. Deepen our faith and trust in you so that we can increase our awareness of how you "sit with" us. Guide us and direct our visition to those who may need us to "sit with" them. Amen.