A Reoccurring Theme

I have told the story before, of how I became a follower of Christ. I was studying world religions in college, I connected with all of them. The respect for life in Jainism, the compassion of Buddhism, and the connection to the earth in Native American Spirituality. I really wasn’t sure about this Christian thing.

However, I was pulled and pulled back to Christianity, if felt inauthentic to be anything else. I was a  middle class, suburban white girl with an Irish/German heritage. Be Buddhist? yeah, I knew what I thought about those people. (judge me all you want for thinking this, but I did). Eastern Religious philosophy was at it’s height in making it’s way into American pop culture, and after spending some time with the sacred texts I got even more self-righteous about being authentic to my native religion. If only I could connect to it in some personal way. I found God in all the texts and none of the texts, so what made Christianity so special?

Then I found it.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” … “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” -Matthew 26:36-46 (excerpts)

If Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, whom we worship and adore could, in his most vulnerable moment, doubt. Ask God to stop this terrible, terrible thing from happening to him. Be strong enough in his faith and his trust in God to ask, beg, and plead to be saved from the terrible betrayal human do to one another, then that is a God I understand.

God says no, of course, and Jesus begins the journey we call “The Passion” narrative. First, he is betrayed by Judas with a kiss on the cheek, then by Peter where he denies knowing Jesus, three times.

We all know what happens next, Jesus is crucified although committed no crime. His last words are ones where he asks forgiveness for his betrayers and killers. Then God breaks the cycle of sin and shame and gives a big middle finger to the betrayers of the world through resurrection. I love every bit of the story and it’s symbolism. However, as I grow older the stories of Jesus, the stories of my spiritual journey change.

When I was a teenager I needed to be understood, more than anything in the world. I sought to understand, I learned everything I could, I became an active listener, I taught, but I desperately wanted someone to understand me. The story of Jesus in the Garden echoed that need.

Yet, here we are 20 years later and my needs have changed, and thus, the story that draws me in to my faith.

This summer I’ve been working through some of the hundreds of questions Jesus asked in his ministry, some are familiar and others more obscure. As I wrote the liturgy for the summer one stuck out to me, surprised me, and reminded me of the longing I had years ago for a God who “got me.”

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” -John 21:15-19

First, let me say, I feel like Jesus is Eliza Doolittle and Peter is Freddy Eynsford-Hill from My Fair Lady. Think about while you watch this…

Jesus teaches us forgiveness all throughout his ministry, but as much as the disciples are, at times, downright idiots and very frustrating companions, they don’t really do anything wrong. Person after person asks Jesus for “how to” and “WWJD” scenarios about forgiveness and he tells them to forgive an infinite number and tells the story of the Prodigal Son.

But again, I want to follow a God who isn’t just words, and I believe that God expects the same from me. This brings us to Peter. Jesus trusts Peter with everything, he is the rock on which the church will be built. Jesus hands Peter his baby and says, “raise it like your own”.

When he is resurrected he first seeks reconciliation with Peter. Peter, who made the ultimate betrayal. “Peter do you love me?” “Yes Lord, you know I do!!!” Peter is insistent and downright angry for being asked such a question. He knows he is in the wrong and is so frustrated with himself, how could he have messed up so badly? Stupid, stupid, stupid!

And, like Eliza, Jesus responds with, “then show me.”

Love as I have loved, nurture the poor in spirit, humble yourself. You have my grace, my mercy, and even forgiveness, now it’s your turn to show me I was not wrong about you. Have as much faith in yourself, as I have in you. Follow me.

Faith is a wonderful thing. I love God, I love Jesus, I love my neighbors, but if I neglect for one minute to feed and tend and nurture than I have betrayed Jesus all over again. I do not worry about his grace being extended, this is his promise, but faith demands action, Jesus demands action, not just words.

 

Betraying for Jesus

We just finished the second season of Daredevil on Netflix. (It was amazing by the way, and I promise no spoilers) Although almost all superheros have a religious theme of the fight between good and evil, Daredevil is explicitly religious. Daredevil has a code of ethics. He’s Roman Catholic and was raised in an orphanage, he wants justice, but through the system. This season The Punisher shows up, the inevitable question is asked. Can people really change?

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What’s interesting about that question for me is that we only ask that question when people are “bad”. We ask “can a corrupt person ever really be good?” We don’t ask, “can a good person ever become corrupt?” Because we don’t have to, we assume/know that there is something in all of us that given the right about of pressure could take over.

Daredevil uses violence, but there is a moral code, no murder, he will allow the courts to decide their fate. The Punisher believes that some people are so corrupt they can never change, and therefore the only way to rid the world of their evil is to kill them.

The Punisher has always been an interesting character, he is a killer, a murderer, but is he a “bad guy”? He refuses to kill innocent people. Yet, he is taking justice into his own hands, he is their jury, sentencer, and executor. There are no second chances with The Punisher, you’re bad, you die. (side note, the Atlantic has a GREAT article on The Disturbing Appeal of The Punisher, you should read it)

With that…let’s turn to our absurd scripture of the day, shall we?

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking.

“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.” – John 13:21-27 edited

AWE, DAMN! Judas done got CALLED OUT!

No seriously folks, what a craptastic thing to do Jesus! Totally not cool.

Like I talked about in my post Schadenfreuden for Jesus, I feel like Judas gets a really bad rap. It is a well known assumption in our faith that Judas is corrupt beyond help, he cannot be good. But when you read this text in John, one could argue he was a pawn for God.

Now, I don’t like this theory, that God needed the blood and the violence, this makes me feel very uncomfortable about the implications that has for God. I also can’t get behind a “devil made me do it” mentality. We make our own choices and should take responsibility for them.

With that being said- we wrestle. We can choose light (God) or we can choose dark (evil). Judas is in a spiritual crisis, I think this much is obvious. It’s been 3 years. 3 years of following Jesus around, they’re tired, they’re struggling for money. Not to mention, they’re in A LOT of trouble with the authorities.

I don’t just think it’s a spiritual crisis, I think it’s an existential one too. What am I doing with my life? Is this really where I’m supposed to be? Couldn’t I be doing more for the poor by serving on the streets, opening a food bank or a shelter, I mean Jesus has all the power, what I am doing, really?

In the midst of this wrestling, Jesus, whom you love and trust, but who you are starting to question totally calls you out in front of everyone and something in you snaps. “Fine! I’m done!” John says Satan or “an adversary” (Greek translation) enters him.

You can image, I don’t buy into Satan as a person or “fallen angel” but evil existing? Yes. A moment when you are so overwhelmed that you decide that you’ve had enough and you snap and allow evil to take over and you stupidly react about that?

Yeah. I get that.

Peter denies out of fear and we forgive him. Thomas doubts for good reason and we forgive him. James and John are just flat out selfish at times and we forgive them.

But betrayal is different, that is unforgivable…

I really wonder what The Punisher would do with Judas.

 

When Will People Cease Their Fighting?

I am heartbroken. Again.

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I walked by the news stand yesterday and there it was, we are sending troops to Iraq. Again. Schools shootings are all over the news. Again. I can no longer stand for it, yet I am helpless. I am enraged, yet, paralyzed; stuck in a perpetual state of confusion and anger over this world. Over the state of our souls. What causes such brokenness in ourselves?

When will people cease their fighting?

In a moment of the news yesterday I heard a man say, “it’s in our interest.” What does that mean?

What part of my interest is worth stripping an innocent life of safety? Of threatening violence? This is not just about going to war, again, about school shootings, again. This has been the struggle since the beginning of time. There is a war within us. A separation of the divine love that somewhere, somehow we were told/taught/chose to ignore.

It happened at our first betrayal. The first time we were shown “I am more important than you. My interests are more important than yours.”

I need God to work harder on us, and I need us to work harder. There is so much pain and fighting with our souls. We go inward and self hate, and when we have beaten ourselves senseless we go outward and hurt others.

“Dear God,” my prayer starts and then a pause, “How dare you allow this to happen!” I scream.

My gut says that God would scream back and say, “how dare you…” but then again maybe God would not react so defensively. Maybe God would caress my face in the midst of my anger and say, “I’m sorry this is happening to you, to those around you, to the world. I am here in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the betrayal.”

I believe this about God-yet every fiber wants to yell expletives. “Yeah, you are here in the midst of the pain and the struggle? You are in the abyss? You are in the war? Well then fuck you.”

St. John of the Cross once wrote, “With all humility I say, it is God who should ask for forgiveness, not we, God. Someday you will know this. A saint could explain.”

Have we lost our humanity? Or more importantly our divinity? What say you God? When will people cease their fighting?

I am heartbroken. Again.