Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tom's Sacrament Meeting Talk - Dec. 15th

Elder Stokoe talked on the atonement -- "Joyful for us today. . . Agonizing for the Saviour at the time of endurance."  

"Sitting in the Jerusalem Center in a sacrament meeting on Saturday, for that is when sacrament meeting is held, Saturday, one sees an inspiring sight.  The seats of the auditorium slope downward as in a Greek amphi theatre, and as the floor levels out, a huge rectangular wall of glass reveals a sweeping view of the city of Jerusalem on a hillside.  The buildings are white in colour, stacked row upon row, layer upon layer, top to bottom and side to side.  It is a marvellous sight to behold — this city, rich in biblical history, a city dear to the Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

Historically, Jerusalem was destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.  The oldest part of the city was settled around 4,500-3,400 BC making Jerusalem one of the oldest cities in the world.

Leaving the Jerusalem Center, you weave through streets till you arrive at the secluded foot of the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.  A tall wall surrounds the garden ensuring isolation from surroundings.

Forty-four days ago I entered the Garden of Gethsemane, entered the Garden Tomb where Christ's body once did lay, and stood beneath Golgotha—enroute home after serving a mission in South Africa.  As I entered the Garden of Gethsemane, I walked upon the path that encircles the 8 ancient olive trees growing there.  A low rectangular barrier prevents anyone from walking among them.  

The original trees at the time of Christ are gone.  However, when an olives tree is cut down roots can grow a new tree.  The trees there today are around 900 years old.  Through regeneration the location of each olive tree in the garden today, could be the location of each tree at the time Jesus was there with his disciples.  I gazed at the 8 olive trees and wondered where Jesus may have knelt and prayed.  Was it by that tree, that tree, or this tree.

And as storytellers of oral history pass on the tales of past event, likewise I wondered if the roots of the trees at the time of Christ, passed on to the succeeding generations of trees, what the original trees witness and felt, the night Jesus knelt and prayed unto the Father, and assumed the sins of the world.

And as I gazed, studying and pondering the olive trees, this is the story they symbolised to me.  The tree trunks are gnarled, with slanting grooves descending the turn from top to bottom—as though wave after wave of pain grooved the trunk through which great drops of sap oozed and dropped to the ground.

Along side of the grooves, are thick crusts of bark, knotted and buckled, as though forced upward due to extreme agony from within.

The lower boughs outstretched and dangling like drooping arms bearing the weight of tremendous burden, symbolised the cry (Matthew 26:39)  "Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;  nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."  At this moment a scripture comes to mind (D&C 81:5)  ". . .Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees."  This is what Jesus needs at this very moment.  (Luck 22:43, 44)  "And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him."  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

The Atonement of the Saviour in the Garden of Gethsemane culminating on the Cross at Gologtha and "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,"

And the Resurrection of the Saviour culminating in the angels' declaration "Why seek ye the living among the dead?"  He is not here but he is risen" are the greatest triumphs of the Saviour on behalf of mankind during his 33 years on earth.

Gazing at the green leaves of the olive trees, as they peacefully rustled in a gentle breeze beneath the blue sky and the radiant sun of Jerusalem, they suggested that final triumph.

People from all over the world visit the Garden of Gethsemane, and undoubtedly, each person may see, think and feel differently, and take from it what impression he or she may.  As for me on that day, standing in the Garden of Gethsemane —that is what those special moments with the olive trees suggested to me. . . "

Wonderful!  Thank you for sharing this very personal experience with us.

Sister Wood


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