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.

 

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Lord I want to be a Christian

There is a famous prayer (paraphrasing here) from St. Augustine saying “Lord, make me a Christian, but not yet…”

Apparently Augustine had a lover and a kid with her. He wanted to be a Christian and a priest, but he would have to give up his mistress and his child. So he went to a garden and prayed. “I want to be a Christ, but not yet.”

These next three days I will journey through the stories of Jesus’ last supper, the prayer in the garden, the excruciating trial and crucifixion. And eventually, death not having the last word.

I cannot pick a favorite story of the bible, or a favorite scripture, or even a favorite book. I can tell you why I would choose Mark or John’s feeding of the 5000 story over Matthew or Luke. Why the prayer of the shema is so important to me. Why the Old Testament stories add such a complexity to my understanding of family and human life.

I can also tell you I am a Christian today because of the prayer Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I am the daughter of a catholic and a mainline protestant [and the step-child of two southern baptists(ish)]. Although church was on and off, my family is Christian, I was raised with church on Christmas and Easter and some times in-between. I was also raised with the concept that these were the things we did before the family gathered for the holiday meal.

Despite being “raised” Christian, there is no question when I “became” Christian. I know when I accepted that God was working in my life, I can look up the dates I was baptized and joined the church, I can tell you the story of my first communion and I can also tell you the moment I became a Christian.

An aside: saying “the moment I became a Christian” is really creepy to me. Having been raised for a time in the southern Baptist tradition I have to say this is a little too close to “when were you saved” but there really was a definitive moment I decided to be Christian.

Life wasn’t good and I struggled. I received my call to seminary when I was 18, but life happened, or continued to happen I should say. I ran from God for 2 years after this call. I know, not that long, but I ran hard, my life crumbled. I moved to Memphis running away from my hometown, I moved to Louisville, running away from Memphis.

I ran from Christianity most of all, not from God, but from religion. I could not give up on God… ever. But I wasn’t so sure about Jesus and the church.

My junior year of college I transitioned from a Music Education degree to a BA of Arts in music with a religious study minor. I studied world religions and I loved it. I was not “seeking” for a specific religion but wanted to learn and study all the different ways people knew and experienced God.

To fulfill the requirements for the degree I had to take a course in Christianity, admittedly I was not as happy about this. Yet, Introduction to New Testament I went… The class was taught by an ordained southern Baptist and was full of bible-thumping born-again engineers fulfilling their humanities requirement. I hated every moment of it.

Except, I had to read the New Testament. And I got to the moment of the Garden of Gethsemane (I like Matthew’s version the best). And I was transformed.

I read this prayer, and I had prayed this prayer:

“Now that’s a guy I can follow.” I even said out loud in my apartment. This guy gets it. This God gets it. I can follow him. I can teach his teachings, I can pray to a God who gets it. This Jesus gets me, he understand what it is to live this life. That life is hard and complicated, that there are impossible choices to make.

“Please don’t make me do this” Jesus prays. “I beg you.”

Yet at the end of the day, I believe in the gracious mercy of God and I am at God’s will to be used in the way God would have me be used – for love and compassion even if that means pain and heartache at times.

This is why Augustine left his mistress and child. This why I not only went to seminary but why I am in church on Sunday morning. Even more than that – it is why I don’t actually care if anyone shows up for service tonight, or tomorrow, or on Sunday. Their loss if they don’t.

Because I am a Christian who believes that God knows me through and through, because God – present on earth, fully human, in the form of Jesus – was alone in a sea of followers who worshiped him. Abandoned, he begged and pleaded, for life to be different – for this life he was living to be different. He begged to not have to make an impossible choice. He begged that someone else would take the burden away – make the decision for him. But God doesn’t work that way…

And Jesus knew it. And so do I.

God doesn’t stop the human feelings of burden, of wishing it wasn’t so. I know what I must do, ultimately what I will do, but until then, I beg you, don’t make me do this.

So I will be in worship tonight, I will serve communion, and I will read Matthew’s version of the garden of Gethsemane. I think it would be great if you were there.

Will you stay awake and pray with me a while?

Christ-Gethsemane

 

Commandments and Dirty Feet

ImageToday is Maundy Thursday.  Maundy coming from a Latin word (which I won’t bore you with) meaning “commandment” tonight in John 13, Jesus will reveal to us a new commandment “love one another as I have loved you.” Now I love Jesus, but I don’t do so well with commands.

Yes, commandments and commands are different, but I will totally admit my Americanized rebel hears Jesus telling me something I have to do and immediately wants to reply like an 8 year old, “Oh Yeah! Make me!”

But that’s the thing about Jesus, he’s not going to make me, he’s not going to require me to do anything, I don’t HAVE to follow him on this journey, I don’t HAVE to love others as he has loved me.  But I should, and not just should I, but I should HAVE to.

You know that scene is The Break-up with Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn when they are fighting about the dishes? and she screams “I want you to want to do the dishes!” and he screams back, “Why would I WANT to do the dishes?”

This is what it’s like with Jesus and this greatest commandment.  We should want to want to love others as Jesus has loved us.  This shouldn’t have to be a commandment.  And how does he show us how much he loves us? He washes their feet.

Yes, their dirty, nasty, smelly, sandal-wearing, desert walking, no pedicures in the 1st century feet.

Okay, I admit it, I don’t like feet. They smell and gross me out.  Which is why it’s a perfect image for me.  I admit I have never done a foot washing in any of my churches, and I use the excuse that others would not like it, but I admit it’s because I would not like it.  I have had others grace me with the gift and it has not been as awkward as I thought it would be.

However, on this night something about this offering tugs at me.  Now if you are coming to church tonight there will be no foot washing, but I know that as Jesus showed us an example, I should want to want to wash others feet.  And not just that but some other thing that makes me uncomfortable, something that is completely opposite of societal rules, something so selfless that someone would like at me the way Peter did Jesus and say, “What are you nuts? No, never, it’s too grand, too massive of a gift, too humbling, I am too uncomfortable with such an offering”

After all my life, after all my study and preaching and reaching and teaching, I pray that just once, just once in my life I may have the grace to love others and Christ has loved me.