REMEMBERING OUR JOURNEY: When We Realized Who We Were

 

The Wedding Feast at Cana, Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, 1819

Scripture Passage:  John 2: 1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 

So do you remember that day at the wedding?  The wedding was grand and glorious.  The bridegroom and his friends made their way in procession to the bride’s house. It was in the dark of night with a spectacular torchlight procession.  Then there were speeches and expressions of goodwill before the couple made their way to the groom’s house for the banquet.  And then the unthinkable happened.  The wine ran out.  Wow, that was actually pretty embarrassing. (And there are commentators that have noted that litigation was even possible in a case like this!  How odd!  Not to mention REALLY embarrassing!)  Most of the guests didn’t seem to know what was happening, but Jesus’ mother was in a panic.  And so she looks to her son.  “Jesus, fix this!”  And, miracle of miracles, he did.

This has always been an odd story for me. I mean, really, wine? Why didn’t he turn the water into food for the hungry or clothing for the poor? Why didn’t he end the suffering of one of those wedding guests who were forced to live their lives in pain? Why didn’t he teach those that were there that God is more impressed by who we are than what we do? Now THAT would have been a miracle. But instead Jesus, in his first miraculous act, creates a party, a feast. Maybe it’s a reminder that we ought to just relax and trust God a little more, maybe even enjoy basking in the very Presence of God. Maybe it’s trying to tell us that God is indeed in every aspect of our life. And maybe it’s telling us that life is indeed a feast to be celebrated.

And think about the wine itself. It begins as ordinary grapes. Well, not really. If you go even farther back, you start with water. Are you beginning to see that, really, everything starts with water? And then those ordinary grapes with just the right amount of water, the right amount of sunlight, and the right amount of nutrients fed to them from the rich, dark earth begin to seed. And then we wait, we wait for them to grow and flourish and at just the right time, they are picked and processed and strained of impurities and all of those things that are not necessary. And then they are bottled and tucked away while again, we wait. They are placed in just the right temperature, with just the right amount of light, and just the right amount of air quality, and we wait. We wait and until it becomes…well, a miracle.  And Biblical theologians have over and over pointed to the relationship that this story has with the Eucharist. Think about it. We take ordinary bread and ordinary wine (or in our United Methodist case, ordinary Welch’s Grape Juice), and through what we can only describe as a Holy Mystery, a veritable miracle, those ordinary things become holy. They become for us the body and blood of Christ, the very essence of Christ to us, for us, and in us.

And remember that when the wine ran out, Jesus did not conjure up fresh flagons of wine. Rather, he took what was there, those ordinary, perhaps even abandoned vessels of ordinary, everyday water and turned it into a holy and sacred gift. Water and a miracle…Wine is water–plus a miracle.  But in case it is lost on us, remember that our bodies are roughly two-thirds water. No wonder the ancient sages always used water as a symbol for matter itself. Humans, they taught, are a miraculous combination of matter and Spirit—water and a miracle—and thus unique in all of creation. No wonder that wine is such a powerful, sacramental, and universal symbol of the natural world—illumined and uplifted by the Divine. Wine is water, plus spirit, a unique nectar of the Divine, a symbol of life.  And we, ordinary water-filled vessels though we are, are no different. God takes the created matter that is us and breathes Spirit into us, breathes life into us. We, too, are water plus a miracle. 13th century German mystic Meister Eckhart said that “every creature is a word of God.” It’s another way of reminding us that we are water plus a miracle, beloved children of God.

Jerusalem is just within our reach.  Our journey holds it in sight.  And so to prepare for what is to come, we remember who we are.  We remember that time that seems like only yesterday and also a lifetime away when Jesus showed us who we were.  And thinking back to this day, thinking back to that first miracle, we realize that it’s not about wine; it’s about us.  This was Jesus’ lesson in who we are.  It’s a reminder that WE are the miracle–created matter, water-born and Spirit-breathed.  We ARE the good wine, saved just for now.  We are water plus a miracle.

There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)

There are only days left in our Lenten journey, days left to gather ourselves for the Cross.  Who are you?  Who were you created to be? What would it mean to live your life as though you were a miracle, as though all that God created is a miracle?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

Package Deal

 

Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1490.

Scripture Text:  Romans 8: 6-11 (Lent 5A)

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

So many times, this Scripture is one of those that is read as if being “human”, being “flesh” is bad, as if somehow body and spirit are not compatible existing together in Creation.  That’s not the way it was intended.  After all, didn’t God created us as “flesh”?  For Paul, of the “flesh” is not “human”, per se, but rather a perversion of who we should be as humans. But it is the “way of the Spirit” that brings life.  Without the Spirit, the essence of Life breathed into the body ultimately dies.  The two belong together.  God’s Spirit brings breath and life.  Paul’s words are not mean to be dualistic, separating two unlike things, but, rather, transformational, depicting the salvific act of transforming sides of a whole that need each other.

Once again, it is a good Lenten passage. We tend to get wrapped up in those things of the “flesh”—our needs, our desires, our fears. Paul is not saying that we dispense with them as bad. Paul is making the claim that the Spirit can breathe new life into them. There is no sense in fighting to sustain our identity apart and away from God. It will ultimately die. Paul has more of a “big picture” understanding than we usually let him have. He’s saying that the flesh in and of itself is not bad but the Spirit brings it to life. I don’t think he is drawing a dividing line between darkness and light, between mind and Spirit, between death and life; rather, he is claiming that God’s Spirit has the capability of crossing that line, of bringing the two together, infused by the breath of God. It is a spirituality that we need, one that embraces all of life. It is one that embraces the Spirit of Life that is incarnate in this world, even this world. I mean, really, what good would the notion of a disembodied Spirit really do us? Isn’t the whole point that life is breathed into the ordinary, even the mundane, so that it becomes holy and sacred, so that it becomes life?

And here’s the important part.  Verse 1 of this chapter from Romans says that there is “no condemnation”.  In other words, through Jesus Christ, we are more than flesh.  We are more than those things that we think “make us”.  We are more than the identity that the world inflicts upon us.  Through Christ, we are “flesh embodied”.  Our flesh and our spirit, our body and our soul, our humanness and that piece of the Godself that was so lovingly and graciously supplanted in us is one, undivided.  It is that total self that God loves–not just the Spirit, not just the things that are not of this “flesh”, but everything.  We are a package deal.  Don’t you love package deals?

In his book, Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr says that “in mature religion, the secular becomes the sacred. There are no longer two worlds. We no longer have to leave the secular world to find sacred space because they’ve come together.” In essence, our body and our spirit are one. That is what Paul was saying. Life in the Spirit is an embrace of our whole being. There are no parts that are elevated above the others. It is a new way of learning to see. It is a new way of learning to be. Everything becomes one in God. There are no good parts and bad parts. Everything is waiting to be transformed in the Spirit.

Here’s another way to illustrate it. How many of you like to eat raw eggs? How about a nice tasty tablespoon of flour? Or, perhaps you would rather have a wholesome cup of sickeningly sweet Karo syrup? Well, obviously, none of those things sound that appetizing. In fact, for most of us, they all sound downright disgusting. (I say “most” because I do know someone that eats syrup.  He knows who he is!) But if you take those things and combine them, along with some other ingredients, you get my Grandmother’s pecan pie. Alone, they are worthless. But as a whole, they are wonderful.

We cannot pick and choose what parts of our lives we want to be with God. All of the mail is opened and read. For if one is to live a true life of holiness, there is nothing left out or hidden from sight. There is no secular. It is all sacred. There is no thought in our mind that is not part of the spirit. And there is not one of us that is of lesser importance than another in a true community of faith. Every part of us, no matter what it looks like, no matter what is tastes like, is necessary to make the recipe wonderful. Life in the spirit means that everything belongs in a perfectly balanced recipe for life that perfectly reflects and perfectly reveals all that there is and all that there is meant to be. That’s us–we’re a package deal.  Thanks be to God!

The rare moment is not the moment when there is something worth looking at, but the moment when we are capable of seeing. (Joseph Wood Krutch)

On this day in your Lenten journey, think what it would mean to embrace your whole life, every part of it, as the gift that God meant it to be.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

When We Realized Who We Were

 

The Wedding Feast at Cana, Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, 1819
The Wedding Feast at Cana, Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, 1819

Scripture Passage:  John 2: 1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 

So do you remember that day at the wedding?  The wedding was grand and glorious.  The bridegroom and his friends made their way in procession to the bride’s house. It was in the dark of night with a spectacular torchlight procession.  Then there were speeches and expressions of goodwill before the couple made their way to the groom’s house for the banquet.  And then the unthinkable happened.  The wine ran out.  Wow, that was actually pretty embarrassing. (And there are commentators that have noted that litigation was even possible in a case like this!  How odd!)  Most of the guests didn’t seem to know what was happening, but Jesus’ mother was in a panic.  And so she looks to her son.  “Jesus, fix this!”  And, miracle of miracles, he did.

This has always been an odd story for me. I mean, really, wine? Why didn’t he turn the water into food for the hungry or clothing for the poor? Why didn’t he end the suffering of one of those wedding guests who were forced to live their lives in pain? Why didn’t he teach those that were there that God is more impressed by who we are than what we do? Now THAT would have been a miracle. But instead Jesus, in his first miraculous act, creates a party, a feast. Maybe it’s a reminder that we ought to just relax and trust God a little more, maybe even enjoy basking in the very Presence of God. Maybe it’s trying to tell us that God is indeed in every aspect of our life. And maybe it’s telling us that life is indeed a feast to be celebrated.

And think about the wine itself. It begins as ordinary grapes. Well, not really. If you go even farther back, you start with water. Are you beginning to see that, really, everything starts with water? And then those ordinary grapes with just the right amount of water, the right amount of sunlight, and the right amount of nutrients fed to them from the rich, dark earth begin to seed. And then we wait, we wait for them to grow and flourish and at just the right time, they are picked and processed and strained of impurities and all of those things that are not necessary. And then they are bottled and tucked away while again, we wait. They are placed in just the right temperature, with just the right amount of light, and just the right amount of air quality, and we wait. We wait and until it becomes…well, a miracle.  And Biblical theologians have over and over pointed to the relationship that this story has with the Eucharist. Think about it. We take ordinary bread and ordinary wine (or in our case, ordinary Welch’s Grape Juice), and through what we can only describe as a Holy Mystery, a veritable miracle, those ordinary things become holy. They become for us the body and blood of Christ, the very essence of Christ to us, for us, and in us.

And remember that when the wine ran out, Jesus did not conjure up fresh flagons of wine. Rather, he took what was there, those ordinary, perhaps even abandoned vessels of ordinary, everyday water and turned it into a holy and sacred gift. Water and a miracle…Wine is water–plus a miracle.  But in case it is lost on us, remember that our bodies are roughly two-thirds water. No wonder the ancient sages always used water as a symbol for matter itself. Humans, they taught, are a miraculous combination of matter and Spirit—water and a miracle—and thus unique in all of creation. No wonder that wine is such a powerful, sacramental, and universal symbol of the natural world—illumined and uplifted by the Divine. Wine is water, plus spirit, a unique nectar of the Divine, a symbol of life.  And we, ordinary water-filled vessels though we are, are no different. God takes the created matter that is us and breathes Spirit into us, breathes life into us. We, too, are water plus a miracle. 13th century German mystic Meister Eckhart said that “every creature is a word of God.” It’s another way of reminding us that we are water plus a miracle, beloved children of God.

Jerusalem is just within our reach.  Our journey holds it in sight.  And so to prepare for what is to come, we remember who we are.  We remember that time that seems like only yesterday and also a lifetime away when Jesus showed us who we were.  And thinking back to this day, thinking back to that first miracle, we realize that it’s not about wine; it’s about us.  This was Jesus’ lesson in who we are.  It’s a reminder that WE are the miracle–created matter, water-born and Spirit-breathed.  We ARE the good wine, saved just for now.  We are water plus a miracle.

There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)

There are only days left in our Lenten journey, days left to gather ourselves for the Cross.  Who are you?  Who were you created to be? What would it mean to live your life as though you were a miracle? 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

Package Deal

 

Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1490.
Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1490.

Scripture Text:  Romans 8: 6-11 (Lent 5A)

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

So many times, this Scripture is one of those that is read as if being “human”, being “flesh” is bad, as if somehow body and spirit are not compatible existing together in Creation.  That’s not the way it was intended.  After all, didn’t God created us as “flesh”?  For Paul, of the “flesh” is not “human”, per se, but rather a perversion of who we should be as humans. But it is the “way of the Spirit” that brings life.  Without the Spirit, the essence of Life breathed into the body ultimately dies.  The two belong together.  God’s Spirit brings breath and life.  Paul’s words are not mean to be dualistic, separating two unlike things, but, rather, transformational, depicting the salvific act of transforming sides of a whole that need each other.

Once again, it is a good Lenten passage. We tend to get wrapped up in those things of the “flesh”—our needs, our desires, our fears. Paul is not saying that we dispense with them as bad. Paul is making the claim that the Spirit can breathe new life into them. There is no sense in fighting to sustain our identity apart and away from God. It will ultimately die. Paul has more of a “big picture” understanding than we usually let him have. He’s saying that the flesh in and of itself is not bad but the Spirit brings it to life. I don’t think he is drawing a dividing line between darkness and light, between mind and Spirit, between death and life; rather, he is claiming that God’s Spirit has the capability of crossing that line, of bringing the two together, infused by the breath of God. It is a spirituality that we need, one that embraces all of life. It is one that embraces the Spirit of Life that is incarnate in this world, even this world. I mean, really, what good would the notion of a disembodied Spirit really do us? Isn’t the whole point that life is breathed into the ordinary, even the mundane, so that it becomes holy and sacred, so that it becomes life?

And here’s the important part.  Verse 1 of this chapter from Romans says that there is “no condemnation”.  In other words, through Jesus Christ, we are more than flesh.  We are more than those things that we think “make us”.  We are more than the identity that the world inflicts upon us.  Through Christ, we are “flesh embodied”.  Our flesh and our spirit, our body and our soul, our humanness and that piece of the Godself that was so lovingly and graciously supplanted in us is one, undivided.  It is that total self that God loves–not just the Spirit, not just the things that are not of this “flesh”, but everything.  We are a package deal.  Don’t you love package deals?

In his book, Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr says that “in mature religion, the secular becomes the sacred. There are no longer two worlds. We no longer have to leave the secular world to find sacred space because they’ve come together.” In essence, our body and our spirit are one. That is what Paul was saying. Life in the Spirit is an embrace of our whole being. There are no parts that are elevated above the others. It is a new way of learning to see. It is a new way of learning to be. Everything becomes one in God. There are no good parts and bad parts. Everything is waiting to be transformed in the Spirit.

 Here’s another way to illustrate it. How many of you like to eat raw eggs? How about a nice tasty tablespoon of flour? Or, perhaps you would rather have a wholesome cup of Karo syrup? Well, obviously, none of those things sound that appetizing. In fact, for most of us, they all sound downright disgusting. But if you take those things and combine them, along with some other ingredients, you get my Grandmother’s pecan pie. Alone, they are worthless. But as a whole, they are wonderful.

 We cannot pick and choose what parts of our lives we want to be with God. All of the mail is opened and read. For if one is to live a true life of holiness, there is nothing left out or hidden from sight. There is no secular. It is all sacred. There is no thought in our mind that is not part of the spirit. And there is not one of us that is of lesser importance than another in a true community of faith. Every part of us, no matter what it looks like, no matter what is tastes like, is necessary to make the recipe wonderful. Life in the spirit means that everything belongs in a perfectly balanced recipe for life that perfectly reflects and perfectly reveals all that there is and all that there is meant to be. That’s us–we’re a package deal.  Thanks be to God!

The rare moment is not the moment when there is something worth looking at, but the moment when we are capable of seeing. (Joseph Wood Krutch)

On this day in your Lenten journey, think what it would mean to embrace your whole life, every part of it, as the gift that God meant it to be.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT: A Child of the Light

On this second Sunday in Advent, we sing the late 20th century hymn by Kathleen Thomerson entitled “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light”. Most of us like this song.  We like the thought of a warm and illuminating light pervading our very lives.  We want to follow Christ.  We want to be a child of the Light.  But think about it.  Do we really know what we’re signing up to be?

The image of light is prevalent throughout the Scriptures and throughout our understanding of God.  It starts in the beginning with the Creator God pushing back the darkness with the light, filling what was essentially an empty formless void with Illuminating Light.  The Light is in essence the very Presence of God.  This is not to be taken as merely day filling night.  In fact, part of the Creation story is the setting into place that eternal cycle of day and night, work and rest.  They are both essential; they are both of God; they are both part of the Created order.  They are one.

No, this Light of God is different.  It is God’s Presence.  It is Illumination replacing emptiness, void, nothingness, absence.  To say that we want to walk in that Light, to be a part of that Light, is to say that we want to be with God, that we want to be part of God’s continuing Creation that illuminates all there is.  We are saying that we want to live within that Kingdom of God. But do not think that this means that we all of a sudden start basking in this warm, yellow-gold light.  (That’s the sun, not God.)  The Light of God is more pervasive than we can even fathom.  It is white-hot, burning with a tender fire, as it brings everyone and everything into its flame.  The writer of the book we know as Malachi compares it to a refiner’s fire that is so hot that it can change the form of anything it touches.  There is no shelter from this light because the shelter IS the light.  No longer can we cower in the shadows of political or social correctness while pain and injustices continue to exist around us.  No longer can we move freely from one social class to the next like we move from streetlight to streetlight on a dark winter night and nonchalantly leave others behind.  No longer can we exist in a world where only a portion of us stand bathed in artificial light and are accepted or promoted or fed or insured.  We are children of the light.  We are children of a different Way.  We are the ones that are called to expose the shadows of this world and bring the radiance and fullness of God’s Kingdom into being.  In this Season of Advent we are the ones that are called to birth God, the Hope and Joy and Light of all Creation, into the world. 

I want to walk as a child of the Light
I want to follow Jesus
God set the stars to give light to the world
The Star of my life is Jesus.

Refrain:In Him there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The lamb is the Light of the city of God
Shine in my heart Lord Jesus.

I want to see the Brightness of God
I want to look at Jesus
Clear Son of righteousness shine on my path
And show me the way to the Father. (Refrain)

I’m looking for the coming of Christ
I want to be with Jesus
When we have run, with patience, the race
We shall know the joy of Jesus. (Refrain)


In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of walking as a child of the light!  You will never be able to be the same again.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli


Betrayed and Beloved

Scripture Reading: John 13: 21-32
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. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “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. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

Today’s lectionary Gospel passage begins with…”Jesus was troubled in spirit.” He knew. He knew that a friend would betray him. It made him angry and indignant. But, more than that…it had to hurt. That has to be one of the worst pains imaginable. Because…think about it…betrayal is not something that you do to a stranger. You do not speak of inadvertently cutting someone off in traffic as a “betrayal”. For, you see, betrayal…true betrayal…is a deep-cutting blade that that can only cut into the closest of relationships. As painful as it may be, betrayal only happens in the midst of true intimacy. And that is the most painful of all.

“Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” What? The disciples looked at each other flabbergasted. NOT one of us. (And even if it was one of us, it is certainly not I. I love you! You are my Lord!) So Simon Peter leans in…Jesus…come here…come on, you can tell me…who is it? And Jesus, with perfect parabolic eloquence responds…It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish. And then he hands it to Judas. Do quickly what you are going to do.

But the disciples didn’t get it. Well, of course not…because it really doesn’t make sense. So they began speculating. You know what I bet he really MEANT to say? He MUST have been telling him to buy something for the festival or to give something to the poor. (After all, just a few days ago, Judas was worried about the poor and why money was not being spent on them rather than on the extravagant anointing of our Lord!) NOW it makes sense. Because NONE of us could betray Jesus. And so the other disciples are removed from the betrayal, relieved of the blame.
So Judas leaves immediately. Even in the midst of betrayal, he is quietly obedient, knowing in his heart where he really belongs and is not going. And the passage ends as the darkness of night falls.

And, in all honesty, there is a little Judas in all of us. There are those times when we inadvertently choose the darkness, either intentionally or unintentionally. There are those times when our greed or maybe even our fears drive us to choose the security of wealth, fleeting as it may be, over trust in Christ. There are times when our own blindness toward others compels us to choose our own personal bread, rather than a community feast. And there are times when even our love for our Lord is so shrouded in the darkness of greed, and insecurity, and selfishness towards others that we once again hand him over to be crucified in our hearts. We all must ask the question “Is it I”? And we all must face the uncomfortable truth that sometimes it is. The question for us becomes: Are we more like Judas or more like the beloved disciple? The truth is, we are both. If we forget that we are like Judas, then we forget sin that always distorts our reality. If we forget that we are like the beloved disciple, then we are blocking the Spirit who makes everything new. We are the forgiven sinners as well as the created children, the betrayers and the beloved.

So where does that leave Judas? We still do not really have a clear answer as to the motivation that compelled him to betray Jesus. Maybe that’s not what matters at this point. Maybe we’re not even supposed to know. And yet, many people have spent the ages trying their best to condemn him. Dante would have placed him on fourth level of the ninth circle of hell, the lowest of inferno. I tend to err more on the side of God’s mercy.

Because, you see, the good news is that God does not love us in spite of who we are; God loves us because of who we are—the betrayer and the beloved, the Judas and the one whom Jesus loved. God loved us before any human person could show love to us—a “first” love, an unlimited, unconditional love. And here, in the midst of the shadows of this week, a light flickers in the darkness. Holy Thursday does not end with betrayal. It ends with love. It ends with life, whether we are the beloved, the ones who deny, or the ones who run away, and even for the Judas’s in all of us. So do not let your hearts be troubled. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

So go forth into the light–darkness and all!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli