Stay With Me: The invitation during Covid-19

Posted on April 09, 2020

I cannot imagine more apropos words during the coronavirus confinement than Jesus’ words: “Stay with me.” We have heard loudly the injunction to “stay at home,” and for many this has led to isolation, loneliness, or confinement with people of whom we can only endure small doses. But Jesus offers companionship, “Stay with ME.”

(Of course his injunction to “Watch and pray,” also has new meaning as we all turn on our devices to watch our holy week services.)

Years ago I remember watching Stewart depart for a Maundy Thursday service he was leading while I stayed behind to care for a sick child. I remember a tremendous disappointment that I was going to miss a service that has meant so much to me, that I had waited for all year. I remember complaining to the Lord, “My desire to go and worship and be with the Church on this night is a good desire. Why did this child who is never sick have to be sick tonight?” I quickly heard in my spirit the whisper of the Lord, “Stay with me.”

This year as we have processed being denied our rich Holy Week through which we are deeply fed, I have wrestled with the sentiment, “maybe we should just skip Holy Week, at least in our expectations.” And yet, Jesus whispers, “Stay with me. Do you want me as much as you want the rich rituals of the worship experience?”

Should I expect that God could meet us in our own homes? It reminds me of Psalm 78, the Psalm we always read on Maundy Thursday, in which the psalmist echoes the Isaelites’ doubt, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” Dare we ask of God that we be fed this weekend? He fed the children of Israel with the bread of angels in the wilderness. May we ask for this bread in the wilderness of our own homes?

When Stewart and I visited Jerusalem a couple of summers ago, I laid no expectation on myself for having emotional encounters with the Lord at holy sites. I wanted whatever Jesus wanted to give me. I would not have expected my highlight of the whole trip to be the Garden of Gethsemane. I entered the garden and could imagine Jesus blind with grief touching the craggy and twisted olive trees, now some being over 1,000 years old, moving to a place where he would pass a night of shadowy anguish, haunted by the looming threat of morning and what it would bring.

But it was the Basilica that really took my breath away. The large brass doors with olive trees opened into a space where many domes were covered with painted stars. Every stained glass window was a simple cross, depicting the reality that everywhere Jesus looked he was surrounded by the impending cross. The stone before the altar where Jesus allegedly prayed that night was surrounded with a wrought iron crown of thorns.

And from the crown of thorns emerged at various intervals a cup, the cup of suffering that Jesus had to choose to drink.

Why would Jesus ask me to stay with him here? It is in the garden that he invites us to kneel and begin from where we are but not where we want to end up. It is here we face our fears, our hesitations, our weak wills that shirk from embracing the cross that is ours to take up. It is here that we are honest about everything in us that wars against his kingdom.

This year I know I am bringing into the Garden of Gethsemane my own fears of our global future, my fears of what it will cost me to be a vocal Christian in my own context, the resentments I have nursed instead of embracing forgiveness, my physical pain, and the questions of still unanswered prayers. Here in the garden I want to embrace the kingdom. I want to love Jesus more than all of these other things I carry. I want to say with Paul, “...that I may know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” (Phil. 3:10-11)

Sometimes the Lord keeps us in the Garden of Gethsemane for a long time. Some of you feel like you live in the Garden of Gethsemane. I have lived through seasons when I start the day begging the Father to let a cup of suffering pass me by and wrestle with him until evening when I can finally say, “Not my will, but yours be done,” just to get up and do it again the next day. But as I surrender my will and stay with the Lord, I find his companionship transformative. I can drink the cup of suffering because it is also the cup of glory to be shared with my suffering and triumphant Lord. For it is only by embracing the cross that I can share in his resurrection power and life.

As I was kneeling and praying at the stone where Jesus prayed, I was moved to tears by the artist’s imaginative rendering of birds perched beside each cup.

These birds were there to comfort Jesus, to be with him in his sorrow. I was touched by that caress of comfort, that small grace in the form of these little birds. The birds stayed with him. To me those birds have been a symbol of the many graces God extends to us in our loneliness and sorrow, a reminder that Jesus has sent us his comfort.

Though we want to run, to act, to do anything to escape suffering, and we are invited to STAY, the invitation does not set aside all action. We are called to watch and pray. Watching implies some sense of expectation that something is coming; something is stirring; he calls us to be aware, alert, to contemplate, take notice so that as we pray we will be guided to know how to pray. And we pray.

I believe the Church is praying more globally than we ever have before. During this Covid-19 crisis in which we are staying in, let us stay with Jesus, let us watch what God is doing, let us pray. Let us be in the Garden of Gethsemane, and simply be with Jesus in the midst of the suffering of the world and pray to embrace the way of the kingdom, which is the way of the cross. Jesus invites you, “Stay with me.”

Practical Ideas for preparing your home as a “garden” where you can stay in with the Lord:

  1. Prepare some space in your home that is a place that is a reminder of God’s presence. The Israelites had the Tabernacle, then the Temple, and within the Temple, the Holy of Holies. In our home, we have a table with a book stand on it, a cross, lanterns and candles that we light at prayer time. On the book stand, we put an icon or an open book with a picture that represents the reminder of the particular holy day. You can put flowers, open Bible, anything else that reminds you of the presence of God in your home.
  2. Consider turning all devices off during the Triduum (the Three Days, beginning the evening of Maundy Thursday and continuing through Easter Day). Only use devices for devotional purposes, ie. services and music. Do not search the web or use any social media. Tell your family and friends to call you if they need something. Because we have been thrust into a world of connection only through devices (and thank God for them during this time!!), we will need to be extremely intentional to make space for watching and praying.
  3. Get into nature and receive the comforts God is offering through his creation. Take prayer walks in the neighborhood. On Palm Sunday we went on a walk around our block singing as a family, and we have had other prayer walks, such that our neighbor got inspired to plan a block wide Easter morning sing from our respective side walks.
  4. Tune into what your church is doing. If you need Holy Week services, consider our church, Church of the Resurrection, which will be live streaming. See the link for services and so many resources for children, prayer walks, and the plan to raise an Hallelujah out of our windows on Easter Sunday at noon. and our diocesan website:

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Living Into Our Inheritance

Posted on June 29, 2018


Let’s suppose that you awaken tomorrow morning to a phone call. Some distant relative has died and left you with an ample inheritance that will set you up for the rest of your life. You have to wait to receive it in full, though, for five years. But for the next five years, you can ask for what you need, and it will be provided. How would you live the next five years differently than you live your life now? You do not have the inheritance in your bank account yet, but your future is secure. Well, in fact, this is the truth for every believer: Jesus, when he ascended, left us with an inheritance.

My husband’s grandmother died, and her daughters divided up the inheritance. The grandchildren were asked what they would like. My husband asked for a teapot from the thirteen that were in his grandparents’ kitchen. Those, we were told, were already claimed. Later we were allowed into the basement to put our names on anything leftover that we desired, and they would review the requests of all the grandchildren. We found a lonely teapot in the basement and put our name on it. We received that forgotten, exiled to the basement, teapot, which we sarcastically now refer to as, “Nana’s favorite teapot.”

Sometimes we think that God’s inheritance for us is like that basement teapot--the leftovers. It’s good and serviceable, and even brings joy. But it isn’t specifically chosen for me, set aside, preserved in love.

What is the inheritance you are receiving?

“Do not fear little one, for the Lord has been pleased to give you his kingdom.” We are being given a kingdom. This is no leftover, cheap handout. This is a costly gift. It is a kingdom that comes with a king who has given everything for you to be his heir.

What is this kingdom that is my inheritance?

Oswald Chambers says that eternal life is not a gift from God, it is the gift OF GOD. I am given God. Eternal life is the life Jesus lived here on this earth, and now it is in me. Paul calls this the mystery of our faith, our great inheritance: Christ in me, the hope of glory. In Ephesians 1:14 he says that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee or downpayment on our inheritance, until we require full possession of it. While we wait to receive ALL that is ours, we have the Holy Spirit of God. What does this look like in our everyday life?

We have ETERNAL GENES: the eternal internalized.

According to I Peter 1, we have an imperishable seed--different genes. I actually have come into Christ when I am born again, and I now carry Jesus’ genes...literally in my body. CHRIST IN ME. This is the mystery and the hope of glory.

Recently, I was angry at the way I was treated by a fellow Christian. I stewed about it for a few days. Then I felt the Lord say, “You are a Christian. You have all it takes for you to forgive. You have me. Are you willing?” I have Jesus genes from which to forge new reactions.

I Peter 1:22-23 says, “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” How do I love? I have been BORN AGAIN of seed that is imperishable. How can I let that slight pass me by? Because Christ did, and he is within me to live out his life. How can I forgive someone who betrayed me? Christ did, and he is within me to live out his life. How can I give up anxiety? I have Christ’s genes of confident hope within. Christians love because they have love genes.

The Lord does not expect that we can stir up love, forgiveness, or patience. It is not that we simply follow his example, “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do), for that becomes work that wears us out.

Instead, he puts the Holy Spirit within us so that it becomes natural for us to live in virtue only because the life of Jesus is literally filling our bodies. Virtues are fruit of the Holy Spirit, not simply choices and actions that we practice.

When I inherit God, I am inheriting tangible gifts, such as: grace, faith, life, love, hope, but only as they are nested in God’s person. How many times do we want a certain particular result to a prayer but not the real inheritance of God with me, God in me. I want a new house or healing from an illness, or success for my child, and God says, “Ask for the full inheritance.” Luke says, Ask, Seek, Knock, and he will respond, for how will he not give the Holy Spirit to those who ask!


As Christians, we can live outside of common sense with our money and our time because of who we are--in the family of God with all of God as our rich and glorious inheritance.

God not only gives us financial resources, but emotional, spiritual, and physical resources. We usually live by what we see instead of the possibilities in God himself.

One time my mother, before the days of internet searches, wanted to find a family in a 20 million person city who had been in the news. She wanted to share the Gospel with them. We chuckled a little at her confidence that she would find them. Her comment was, “I have the God of the universe who knows exactly where they are. He will share his knowledge with me, and I will find them.” We prayed in faith for this to happen. She was not surprised (though we were!) when she was at a party and found herself standing beside a cousin of the family. The cousin then set up a meeting with the family, at which time my mother shared the Gospel. I was instructed by such confidence in the resources of God.

We have an ETERNAL HOME.

We are restless down here--always dissatisfied with this place as home. May it always be so. We cannot live as if this world is our home, or we will forego so much of our inheritance while we are here. When Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth built a house in Changte, China that had wooden floors and glass windows, they did it because it would attract the Chinese to come and visit them. They would have hundreds of people go through their home in a day, sometimes for weeks. Rosalind would teach the Gospel inside the home; Jonathan would teach outside. Anything not nailed down would be stolen. Their attitude was that this house of theirs was God’s to be used as he desired to reach the world. Imagine viewing our earthly homes as a temporary place that God uses for the sake of his kingdom because we know that we have an eternal home that is prepared for us...and is beautiful beyond compare.

God’s vision for our home is eternal; the home we build here must have that eternal perspective, or we will lose so much of the inheritance he is imparting to us now...that participation in his kingdom.

Why do we live as paupers, not as if we have an eternal inheritance?

This rich inheritance that we are told actually takes revelation to grasp is a treasure that we so often leave unmined, unexplored, undiscovered. God, we complain, has all these benefits to pour out, but here I am waiting, and I’m not seeing the cascading benefits.

In actuality, God created us to pour out his benefits on us; but the benefits are bound up in his person. He gives himself. We come to God so compressed and pinched, crowded with other desires, cluttered with the wrong dreams, that we have so little room for our inheritance...which is God Himself. And God is not tame. With him comes a wind that stirs up our own ideas of life and value, image, time, money...and until we are willing for all of that to be rearranged, we will forfeit the fullness of our inheritance.

We want to feel different, but we don’t always want a disruption to our affections and our inclinations. Well, the inheritance is God, not a pack of presents, and we have so little room for God. We are much more committed to our own earthly ideas of inheritance to let go of them that easily. We love the world and what it has to offer more than God. But God can help us with this…

How does God help us access our inheritance?

He sends us trials! These trials turn us away from our complaints, our small, cracked thinking, our satisfaction with this world, to the vast, magnanimous, cosmic expanse of the Lord...if we submit to the trials. We have so little capacity to receive God. The Holy Spirit has to soften us, make the stone in us flesh so that we can absorb life, so that the atrophied places in us are able to pulse with new life.

The last twenty years for me have been an emptying out of my ideas of inheritance. The enemy of our souls creates an illusory inheritance, like a chimera that we keep chasing. God does us a favor when he frees us from that illusory pursuit. I always wanted to live a sacrificial life and see great works of God, but I wanted to be aware of myself and enjoying myself doing these great things for God. I wanted to live in the miraculous world of God’s constant provision and the obvious results of my work for God. This was more about my feeling accomplished in my life for God than in my drawing closer and closer into the mind and heart of God.

Years of diapers, and allergy diets for kids, and muddy boys, and constant demands on my minutes, my energy, my limited resources, my sleep, and then discoveries of my own impatience and anxieties left me sometimes wondering: is this my inheritance?

It was when all the capacity to be pleased with myself was gone, that I discovered what Psalm 84 talks about: in their hearts are the highways to Zion. And Psalm 36, “He has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.” God doesn’t want my performance. He wants me. He wants to be able to impart his love to me anywhere at any time.

My inheritance was all around me, just hidden like the Pearl of Great Price. God in my day, speaking to me. God in this child right in front of me, bubbling with life, God in a word of Scripture. The Lord didn’t let up and hasn’t. He wants to empty me of the expectation that in this world I could somehow be fulfilled, when my true desire is to be united with him. The beauty of our inheritance is that it begins now in the impartation of the Holy Spirit. I don't need to live on ramen while I am waiting for the feast. I am offered the bread of heaven.

I can actually say that, through trials, God is giving me such a greater level of healthy detachment from the world and a greater investment in my real inheritance. It is like unlocking a door into a universe I never knew was behind the door while I was living in a small cramped room and thinking that was all there was, when the door stood right before me.

Trials wean us from what has filled us and given us meaning so that we can find ourselves empty and ready for the filling of God.

Only in the squeeze do we see what is truly in our hearts and find ourselves ready for the transforming work that Christ can and will bring as we surrender. We are incapable of living into our inheritance of “Christ in Us” because our vessel for receiving God (the imagination, heart, and body) is restricted and pinched. The only way God can stretch us and carve out an expansive space for himself is through emptying us. And that rarely feels comfortable.

Fear not, little flock, for it is God's good pleasure to give you his kingdom. Welcome to your inheritance. Don't leave it unclaimed.

If you would like to listen to an audio of a similar teaching on this subject that I gave at our diocesan clergy retreat, you can access it by the link below. It has some of the same material, but is greatly expanded.

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