Posts Tagged ‘betrayal’

Do your worst. I still love you.

April 15, 2017

Easter – 2017

Matthew 28:1-10

Marian Free

In the name of God who no matter what we do never, ever gives up on us. Amen.

I can still remember the television footage of the moment when the father of Scott Rush first met his son in the prison in Bali. Scott you will recall had been arrested with eight others for attempting to bring a 1.3 kg of heroin into Australia. I imagine that at the moment of Scott’s arrest his parent’s lives will have been completely turned upside down. Their son who had had the advantages of a comfortable upbringing and had attended a good private secondary school was now facing a lengthy jail term, if not death, in a country whose culture and legal system are very different from our own. Scott’s parents Lee and Chris had had to drop whatever they were doing to fly to Bali. No doubt they incurred considerable disruption and expense in the process, not to mention the anxiety and fear that would have attended the news of their son’s arrest. Imagine the embarrassment and shame – visiting Bali as parents of a drug smuggler, facing their friends and acquaintances at home and being exposed to intense media interest.

Media reports suggest that Scott was a drug user who was already known to police and who was wanted in Australia on an outstanding warrant for stealing nearly $5000 from an Australian bank. While he may have been caught up in something bigger than he realised, he was no innocent.

When Scott’s parents arrived at the jail surrounded by TV cameras, they didn’t remonstrate with Scott. They didn’t say: “why have you done this to us?” or “what were you thinking?” They didn’t reproach him for humiliating them or berate him for being so foolish. At what must have been an extraordinarily difficult moment, Scott’s mother Chris said to the journalists who crowded in on them: “I love him”. When his father Lee comes face to face with Scott for the first time, he says, as I recall: “you’re a good boy.” “I love him.” “You’re a good boy.” In the eyes of the world, in the eyes of every parent whose child has become addicted to drugs and especially in the eyes of the Indonesian legal system, Scott was anything but “a good boy”. To his father however, he was and remained “a good boy”.

Drugs – the addiction, the temptation to make vast amounts of money with relatively little effort – show humanity at its worst. Vulnerable people are taken advantage of, dealers use violence or threats of violence to protect their patch, to extract money for debts and to prevent people from breaking free of the habit. Addicts turn to crime and sometimes to aggressive behaviour to pay for their next fix. It is a dark and shadowy world that I am glad to have no part of. Scott might have only been on the fringes of that world, but he was part of it. Yet his father can say: “You’re a good boy”.

The events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion depict humanity at its worst. The disciple who for reasons unknown sells his teacher and friend for thirty pieces of silver, the remaining disciples who promise to be with Jesus even to death, but who abandon him and deny him, the priests who fabricate evidence against him, the solders who mock him, the governor, swayed by the crowd who refuses to do what he knows is right, the lynch mob who bay for Jesus’ death, the crowds who revile him and the soldiers and fellow criminals who taunt him. An innocent man is condemned to torture and death in order to preserve the status quo and to please the crowds.

The story might have ended there. The body of Jesus sealed in a tomb and guarded by soldiers. After all that the people (friend and foe alike) had done, God might simply have thrown up God’s hands in horror and washed God’s hands of an ungrateful and uncaring humanity. God had sent Jesus into the world to save the world, instead God watches humanity spurns the gift, as Jesus endured first betrayal, then trumped-up charges and finally an excruciating death. Imagine for a moment, God’s having to watch humanity behaving in such a debased, immoral and cruel way. Such behaviour would try the patience and love of the most loving and forgiving parent.

One might be excused for thinking that God had done enough for God’s people. God chose them from among all the nations, sent Joseph to Egypt to save them from the famine, brought them out of Egypt when they were no longer welcome and remained loyal and loving despite their waywardness, their lack of confidence in God’s power to save and protect, their failure to listen to the prophets and their chasing after other gods. As a last resort God came among them as one of them in the form of Jesus but they responded by murdering him and with him all hope of salvation. If at that point, God had decided that enough was enough no one would have thought that God was being unreasonable or vindictive. If God had walked away from creation in despair most would think that that was what humanity deserved. Yet God remained steadfast, God did not withdraw God’s love but instead raised Jesus from the dead. In effect God said to the world: “you’re a good boy, you’re a good girl – I love you.”

“I love you. You have done your worst, but I love you. You have shown yourself to be weak, disloyal, fickle and cruel and yet I still love you.”

“I still love you.” The most sure and certain proof of God’s love for us is the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection assures us that no matter what we do, no matter how far we stray, God’s boundless endless love will never be withdrawn.

Humanity can do its worst, but God’s love will always triumph.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.

 

 

God doesn’t not lose faith with us

April 8, 2017

Lent 6 – Palm Sunday, 2017

Matthew 26:14-27:66

Marian Free

In the name of God, who overlooks our faults and who restores us again and again so that we can take our part in the story. Amen.

In the latest issue of Liturgy News David Kirchhoffer reflects on the nature of sainthood. He reminds us that sainthood is not a matter of one-size fits all and that there is no simple definition that incorporates the diversity among those whom his tradition elevates to the status of saint or martyr[1]. “They all have stories, “ he comments, “their own all-too-human stories. Among the saints there are emperors and paupers, young and old, ascetics and hedonists, masters and slaves, colonizers and colonized, reformers and conservatives, and certainly more than one who, by today’s standards, probably experienced some sort of psychological disorder.” David’s point is that rather than being “shown up” by the saints, we actually find ourselves in very good company. The people who are deemed to be most holy by the church are as human and as flawed as the rest of us. Rather than making us feel inadequate and unworthy, the lives of the saints remind us that they are not so very different from us and that our faltering efforts to be holy and faithful are in fact good enough.

If we are in any doubt as to God’s ability to overlook our deficiencies, we need look no further than this morning’s gospel, which among other things is a tale of the whole world’s being at cross purposes with God. It is not only the chief priests and elders and the Roman authorities who try to destroy Jesus and his mission. It is those in Jesus’ immediate circle – his disciples and friends – who hand him over to the authorities, misunderstand their role, sleep when Jesus most needs their support, desert him, deny him and leave him alone to face trial and death.

Of course, not all of the characters in this account are numbered among the saints, but twelve of the those in the drama are Jesus’ most intimate friends, those with whom he has shared the highs and lows of his mission, those whom he has authorized to preach and teach and heal and those whom he has prepared to continue on his work after he has gone. These are the men with whom Jesus has chosen to spend what may be his last night on earth, those with whom he will share the most significant evening on the Jewish calendar. Without exception each of the twelve will let Jesus down before the night is out and yet Jesus refuses to condemn them or to exclude even Judas from the company.

Judas, who, even before the preparations for the dinner had begun, had received thirty pieces of silver to hand Jesus over to the authorities. Judas who, when Jesus announces at the meal that one of the disciples will hand him over, reveals what it is that sets him apart from the other disciples[2]. Whereas the eleven address Jesus as “Lord”, Judas addresses Jesus only as“Rabbi” (teacher). Jesus knows that it is Judas who will hand him over to the authorities and yet when he says: “Take eat, this is my body”, he places the bread in Judas’ hands. When he says: “This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins,” Judas is not excluded from the covenant or from the promise of forgiveness.

Jesus knows that despite Peter’s protestations to the contrary, Peter will deny him – not once but three times. Even so Peter too is given the bread and the wine – Jesus’ body and Jesus’ blood. Of the eleven who remain with Jesus after the meal, not one will find the strength to stay awake with Jesus even though Jesus has shared with them that he is “grieved unto death”. Still, on this, his last night on earth, Jesus will share with them his very self and he will do so lovingly, not reproachfully, with grace and not with disappointment. Jesus knows their limitations. Before it comes to pass he knows how each will respond to the events of the night but he does not abandon them as they will abandon him.

Of these twelve, men who made promises that they failed to keep, all but Judas are included among the saints. Far from being ideals of holiness, courage and piety they are revealed as men who have feet of clay, who put their own safety before their loyalty to Jesus and who flee at the first sign of danger. They have said that they would die with Jesus but they cannot even stay awake, let alone accompany him on the journey to the cross.

Betrayal, abandonment and even opposition are the tools that God uses to turn arrest, false accusations, torture and death into something extraordinary and marvelous – Jesus’ resurrection, the defeat of death. Even though by human standards the disciples have failed not only as disciples but also as friends, they are not censured, punished or rejected. After the resurrection, it is as if God had not even noticed their cowardice, their desire for self-preservation and their failure to keep their word. Instead of condemning them for their lack of loyalty and their abandonment of Jesus, God not only restores and elevates them and gives to them the task of taking up what Jesus has been forced to leave off – preaching the good news of the kingdom.

As God overlooked the flaws and inadequacies of the disciples so too God will overlook our weaknesses, our lack of self-confidence and our tentative efforts to serve.

Though we lose faith in God, God will never lose faith in us, but will raise us up time and time again so that we too will have our place in God’s on-going story.

 

[1] Liturgy News is a publication of the Roman Catholic of Brisbane.

[2] I am indebted to Judith Jones whose commentary on the gospel was challenging and insightful. http://www.workingpreacher.or

Judas – one of the twelve?

April 17, 2014


Maundy Thursday – 2014
Marian Free

In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

Recently, the Cathedral Chapter had the opportunity to think about a number of statues to be placed in niches in the Cathedral. Most of the choices were uncontroversial – the 12 disciples, John the Baptist, Mary and Martha. No one could argue about their right to be there. The character who caused the most discussion was Judas. Should Judas, the person who handed Jesus over, be included? What would be the reaction of the Building and Furnishing Advisory Committee to the idea? If they gave permission for the work to go ahead, what would be the reaction of the Cathedral congregation, of the public? After much discussion it was agreed to include Judas and permission was given.

It is some time since the debate, but it seems to me that there are a number of arguments for including the twelfth disciple.

Perhaps the most important reason for including Judas is the fact that he was one of the twelve, he was a disciple and he was chosen by Jesus. These are irrefutable parts of Jesus’ story. To omit Judas is to deny part of the story – whether it was that Jesus made a mistake in choosing a man who would betray him, or that Jesus deliberately chose someone whom he knew would not make it to the end of the road. No matter, that Jesus chose Judas is part of the story.

It is because Judas is an essential part of the story, that he should not be left out. In fact, without Judas, there is no story. Had Judas not got cold feet, or been driven by greed the story would have been quite different. There would have been no covert arrest, no trial, no crucifixion, no resurrection. The most important part of the story would simply not have taken place. There would have been no opportunity for the centurion – a complete outsider – to declare that Jesus truly was the Son of God, no resurrection to change a group of frightened men into a driving force that changed the course of history. Without Judas, it is possible that Jesus would have lived to a ripe old age and would possibly have been forgotten by all but those whose lives he touched. Without Judas it is possible that there would be no faith.

Last but not least it is essential that Judas not be excluded because Judas is a reminder to us of our own humanity, our own propensity to let Jesus down. Whether Judas acted out of timidity or anxiety, out of greed or a desire for power, he simply represents the weakness that is in all our natures. Even then, Judas was not alone. Not one of the disciples really understood Jesus’ mission, all of them at cone time or another let him down. In Jesus’ moment of greatest need, all of his disciples abandoned him and left him to face his fate alone. Judas is not worse than us, Judas is one of us. If we forget Judas, we risk forgetting a part of ourselves.

Jesus chose twelve. If we forget one, we forget so much more.


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