Judas is so easy to hate.
The betrayer, the snitch, the bad seed,
his name synonymous with treason.
No one cries when we hear he’s hung himself.
We all think, “Finally he gets what he deserves.”
Cast into the darkness of disgrace for all time,
who mourns for Judas?
But Judas was there from the beginning,
called like every disciple,
leaving behind everything to follow Jesus.
He was there in the boat, watching Jesus walk on water.
His hands touching the five loaves and two fish
multiplied by Jesus to feed the crowds.
From Samaria to Caesaria, from Galilee to Jerusalem,
Judas walking with Jesus, talking with Jesus,
listening and learning.
Jesus trusted Judas.
Matthew the tax collector was the money man,
but it was not to him that Jesus entrusted the purse.
Did Judas siphon cash away?
Jesus was not worried about this, if he did,
although John in his gospel is scathing
in his condemnation.
When the woman anoints Jesus,
John points the finger at Judas,
saying it was Judas who complained,
Judas who stole money.
In his gospel,
John is eager to further ruin Judas’ reputation,
if that is even possible.
After Judas’ betrayal of Jesus,
Judas disappears from John’s gospel.
John will not spare one more word for him.
He could not care less.
It is in Matthew the tax-collector’s gospel
that the story is filled in.
Matthew says all the disciples complained
about the money wasted in the anointing.
In Matthew’s gospel we learn that in the garden,
Jesus greets Judas with the word “Friend”.
Many years later, as Matthew sits to write,
does he remember that night in the garden?
Does he see the look of love on Jesus’ face?
Did it remind him of the relief he felt
the first time he realized that Jesus loved him,
a tax-collector, friendless in Israel?
Matthew’s gospel tells us of Judas repenting,
returning the money, naming himself as sinner.
Can we know why Judas did what he did?
What is the motivation for any sinner?
We can only know that Jesus called him friend.
Greater love has no man than this,
than that he lay down his life for his friends.
It’s easy to hate Judas.
But joined together in repentance
we are friends forever with Judas
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Forgiveness is the water on the horizon,
and we’re the pilgrims in the desert
who cannot possibly walk there.
Tied up tight,
revenge is a hot little bundle
we hug to our chest.
We are plagued with hurt;
the betrayal, the murder,
the verbal barbs, the abandonment
the lack of love, whatever.
We have been robbed
and god almighty it hurts.
Our pain is the one sure thing
and someone has to pay.
We drag ourselves on our way
burdened with what will not sustain us.
Anger warms the belly for a while,
righteous justice can fire the mind,
self-pity burns inside.
On this most barren of trails
grace falls like rain,
a deep benediction.
Even here, forgiveness can blossom
like a delicate desert rose.
These past weeks we’ve thought about the journeys we are on with forgiving others. We’ve used the story of Joseph as a mirror to help us. We talked about the influence of Joseph’s Uncle Esau on his life. As a young boy Joseph witnessed his Uncle Esau falling on Jacob’s shoulders and forgiving him. It undoubtedly left an indelible impression.
Then I think about my own forgiveness journeys. Lots of times I just get tired, “I can’t think about this anymore.” Or I give up, “This will never get resolved.” Or I like to hold onto a hidden little bundle of revenge, because I still feel hurt. It seems all in my court…will I offer forgiveness or not? And the implications are clear…this relationship will either continue for me, or it will end. It seems pretty cut and dried.
But I look at Esau’s decision to forgive…he probably had no idea that what he was doing might be setting the stage for what happens in the next generation of the family. Maybe what I need to ask is not so much, “Do I want to forgive?” as “Is this the legacy I want to give to the next generation?” That next generation might be your own children, your nieces or nephews, your grandchildren, or children in the church who watch a conflict unfold. Will you leave blessings or curses behind you?
Prayer for today: Open my eyes to see the power of sin in my life. Open my eyes to see the power of forgiveness you offer. Help me choose to pass on blessings not curses.
Most Christians believe that lying is wrong. Do not bear false witness. It’s pretty clear. But even the early Anabaptists struggled about whether it was necessary to always tell the whole truth all the time.
There’s a story told about the early Anabaptist Menno Simons in the Netherlands. He was travelling by stagecoach, sitting up with the driver. Police officers galloped up and asked Menno, “Is Menno Simons in the carriage? We have a warrant for his arrest!” Menno bent over from the top of the coach and called in, “Is Menno Simons in the carriage?” The people said, “No,” so Menno addressed the horsemen, “They say that Menno Simons is not inside the carriage.” The police officers galloped away, and Menno’s life was saved.
Sometimes we think it’s OK to tell just part of the truth. Maybe it will save a life. But most of the time we tell part of the truth to keep ourselves out of trouble, or to help preserve our reputation. Sometimes we are telling only part of the truth in order to mislead someone. Can you think of a time when someone told you part of the truth? They may not have technically spoken lying words, but by not saying the whole truth, you came to the wrong conclusions.
I think one of the conditions that can help forgiveness, is a confession that is full and complete. Is that what happens in the Joseph story? We’ll conclude our series on Joseph this Sunday.
This week’s prayer: Lord, help us this week as we make decisions about whether to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help us God!
Everyone has a different journey on the road to forgiveness. Joseph was betrayed and sold as a slave. But he ends up as the second most powerful person in Egypt. It all works out for good for Joseph, which makes it easier for him to forgive his brothers.
If only that was always our experience. Someone steals your wallet, and while you are at the police station making a report you meet the woman of your dreams and you end up marrying her! Someone cheats you out of your computer software business, and you end up as vice-president of the company that replaces Microsoft. Some crazy person punches you in the mouth at the airport, causing you to miss your flight—and then the plane you were supposed to be on crashes! If only things always worked out for good that way. But unfortunately, that’s not always how the cookie crumbles.
This Sunday we’ll be looking at the different experiences of Joseph as he travels his road to forgiveness. I hope it will help us think about our own lives. Each one of us faces challenges in the forgiveness department. Circumstances can go a long way to helping us forgive someone.
Think of a person in your life that you are trying to forgive, or have forgiven. What circumstances have helped or hindered that forgiveness? Where is God in the story? What do we do with those stubborn stories that don’t have happy endings? I think the Joseph story has something to say about that too!
Thank you God that you are with me in the messy details of my everyday life. Give me clear eyes to see where I’m at with forgiveness…show me the path you would have me follow.
Our mothers can drive us crazy! It’s reassuring to see that Jesus’ relationship with his mother wasn’t straightforward. Mary’s disappointment with young Jesus when he disappeared in Jerusalem was just the beginning… Jesus’ family didn’t always understand him. They may not have seen eye-to-eye, but Mary doesn’t give up on the relationship. She becomes a true disciple. It takes some years for that to happen.
It’s sometimes hard to understand our relationship with our mothers. Our mothers relate to us from when we are very young and vulnerable, so there are a lot of layers to unpack. Some people do the mothering role really well, others do a tolerably good job, and some people are not good at it.
That makes Mother’s Day a complicated holiday. Most Mother’s Day cards idealize the relationship. I’ve never seen a Mother’s Day card that says, “Well, you gave it a good shot,” “Thanks for trying, “ or “It’s OK, I forgive you.”
I’ve often heard people comment that as they grow older, they appreciate their mothers a lot more. But that is not the case for everyone. When we are young, we tend to make excuses for our mother’s addictions, neglect, or cruelty. Maturity can mean realizing that we have a parent that has let us down in major ways.
This Sunday we’ll be talking about mothers. We want to celebrate good relationships, which is what we all would like to have. But we need to admit that in the community of faith there are hurting people…mothers who realize they have fallen short, children who are on a long journey of forgiveness.
This week’s prayer: We all need to be loved unconditionally, just for who we are. Thank you that some of us have experienced that kind of love from our mothers. Thank you that even when mothers let us down, you bring other people into our lives to mother us, in small and big ways. Thank you that even if major mistakes happen in intimate relationships, you are a God who knows the roadmaps for reconciliation. You’re always standing there with a sign saying “Forgiveness this way. ” Amen.