Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Betrayal and Love

Today is silent Wednesday. It is called silent because when scripture scholars recreate the events of Jesus final week before his crucifixion there doesn't seem to be any activity on Wednesday.

The texts for today are:  Isaiah 50: 4-9, Psalm 70, Hebrews 12: 1-3 and John 13: 21-32.

In the John text is a description of the betrayal of Judas which is open to interpretation.  Jesus is troubled and announces that "One of you will betray me." He seems to identify Judas:

" “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him."

And then Judas goes "into the night" to do this act of betrayal.  Which will lead to Jesus hanging on the cross. The process of crucifixion involves more than the betrayal of Judas as eventually the political and religious powers that be work together, with the consent of "the crowd" and in the absence of protest from the disciples.  Everyone is part of the betrayal.

The text stops short for me today because if we continue to read John 13, Jesus says:

33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It is the easy and shallow read to scapegoat Judas as the betrayer.  What this story continues to remind us of is the brokenness and wrongheadedness of humanity.  We all have the capacity - and the history - of various forms of betrayal.  Of God and Jesus, of people we love, of ourselves.  And so what I find myself pondering this morning is the fact that this new commandment is for everyone as we live in our challenging family situations and churches and work places.  Because we all have them.  And as I consider what I am dealing with right now, I know that my greatest temptation is to judge. dismiss  and reject others.  Not to love.

What I see as Jesus is hanging on the cross is that he is not defending or dodging the pain but absorbing it.  And truly that is what happens to us when we continue in relationship with the imperfect people in our lives.  We find ourselves absorbing pain.  We can say the sin of the world or the betrayal of the people that he came to love and save.  He is taking it on.

But that is not the end of it.  The darkness, the death does not have the last word.  Period the end.  That is the message of Easter.    And for us who hear and respond in love even though we do at times experience betrayal ( and are ourselves betrayers!) God's grace prevails.  That is the good news.  That is my faith.

What I know is that as a pastor I found myself absorbing pain in lots of ways and it was only through times of deep prayer - often silent retreats - that I was able to allow God to release it so that I could experience grace and literally feel lighter. The words of the Psalmist today speak to this.  We cannot love one another without experiencing the pain of betrayal  at times  - but God truly is our deliverer.

Psalm 70

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me.
     O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life.
Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me.
Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame. 
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you
Let those who lvoe your salvation say evermore, "God is great!"
But I am poor and needy, hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer , O Lord, do not delay!

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