Friday, March 15, 2013

Prelude To A Kiss

Wow. I am still buzzing with the Holy Spirit from something I experienced yesterday. I sent the MP3 of my most recent sermon at Grace North -- the sermon where I reframed the Parable of the Prodigal Son as the Parable of the Father, within a context including my showdown with God in the summer of 1998 in Death Valley -- to a person who, in my humble opinion, is one of the more gifted prophetic preachers I have ever met. And he liked it! The thing here is that I knew the sermon was good -- see my earlier blog post from Sunday 3/10/2013 -- but... wow. It means the world to me that my sermon impressed this one particular person. God is good, indeed.

And now comes a much bigger homiletic challenge.

My next preaching date is Maundy Thursday. The RCL readings for the day are super-traditional, and I am generally OK with that... noting that, per tradition, my teaching-parish expects me to replace one of the readings with a non-Christian reading. My mentor's concordance for Maundy Thursday provided me with a wonderful Buddhist reading. It served me well, because the Old Testament reading just did not speak to me: with all due love & respect I am not particularly inspired by the instructions YHWH gave in Exodus about how the Israelites were to sacrifice the young lamb, sprinkle its blood, and roast it for food -- with its head and innards included. So, not a problem: OT reading, gone. Buddhist wisdom inserted in its place.

Now, the epistolary reading for Maundy Thursday is the text from 1st Corinthians with the Words Of Institution. Clearly, that reading is central to the Christian experience. And the Gospel reading is from John Chapter 13, wherefrom we get the foot-washing ritual -- clearly central to all Maundy Thursday services. That leaves the Psalter for my consideration. The Psalm for Maundy Thursday is 116, a beautiful psalm referencing the cup of salvation. Ok, that sounds good.


Maundy Thursday is my only scheduled preaching gig for Holy Week and I feel it is important to bring Judas Iscariot back into the light of Salvation. Judas has been a theological thorn in my side for years; in this respect, I am surfing through an issue which has vexed theologians all the way back to the earliest days of Christianity. As I perceive it, the conundrum flows as follows:

Statement 1: Judas betrays Jesus, leading to His arrest.
Statement 2: Jesus is executed by the state apparatus which arrested Him.
Statement 3: In His death followed by resurrection, Jesus defeats death itself.
Side note -- Statement 3 is my own personal take on Christus Victor.
Statement 4: The resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of God's love for us.

Synthesis of Statements 1 & 2 leads to Conclusion A:
Judas's betrayal "causes" the death of Jesus.

Synthesis of Statements 3 & 4 leads to Conclusion B:
The death of Jesus leads to the fulfillment of God's love for us.

And now things go haywire. When I synthesize Conclusions A & B I reach the following: the betrayal brings about the fulfillment of God's love for us.

So, given all of this... should we not be exalting the betrayal of Judas? The entire story rests on Judas betraying Jesus. One can certainly make the argument that if not via Judas, Jesus would've eventually run afoul of the Roman power structure and gotten Himself crucified anyway. But I am still left with a theological asymptote: God chose Judas, and God as I know God is never a capricious or unthinking deity. God has a Plan, and God's Plan is all-encompassing. The ultimate conclusion I reach as I think my way through this theological minefield is this: Judas was a harbinger of Jesus as my Christ.

And that settles it. I am removing Psalm 116 from my Maundy Thursday readings and replacing it with interpolated text from the fragmentary papyri that gave us the Coptic Gospel of Judas the Betrayer. May this act be a witness to the majesty of God through the only begotten Son, Jesus my Christ, my rock, my personal lord and savior; He through which all things are possible, the Alpha and the Omega, He who forgave and forgives us all -- even those named Judas. AMEN.

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