Wednesday in Holy Week

Wednesday in Holy Week
Text: John 13:21-35

March 23, 2005
Chapel of St. John the Divine
Seabury-Western Theological Seminary

May the words of my mouth and
the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord,
our rock and our redeemer.

What did you during Spring break? I watched South Park – just one episode – really! In this episode, Kyle – always impulsive, but not always too bright – asks his parents if he can attend the Raging Cats concert with Cartman, Stan, and Kenny. His parents, not unpredictably, say “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” Kyle’s friend Cartman says – also, not unpredictably – “DUMMY! You don’t ASK if you can go! I’m telling my parents I’m staying at Stan’s house, Stan’s telling his parent’s he’s staying at Kenny’s house and Kenny’s not telling his parents anything cuz they don’t care.”

Not willing to give up, Cartman hatches a devious plan that will rid Kyle of his parents. The plan is so successful that all the children follow suit. Soon South Park’s entire adult population has been carted off to prison. After ten days of ongoing mischief, the South Park kids realize that life was really better with their parents around. They raise up a giant banner that reads “Welcome Back Parents!!!” As they are waiting for the parents to return, Kyle wonders, “Do you think they’re gonna be mad at us for lying and sending them all to jail for ten days?” Stan offers, somewhat optimistically, “Well, they can’t be TOO mad. I mean, we made them a BANNER!”

South Park to Holy Week – this might get a bit bumpy, so hang on!

Judas is a traitor AND a disciple. He is consumed by Satan AND chosen by Jesus. John’s Gospel takes pains to ensure that we hear this both / and by always pairing the name Judas with a reference both to his ultimate role as betrayer AND with a reference to his membership in the group of chosen ones. Today’s gospel lesson is no exception. Imagine we are guests at this intimate supper – a supper Jesus is sharing with his friends. Judas is among those counted as friends. You and I are among those counted as friends. Through the sharing of bread, Jesus offers hospitality and love to those gathered. Through the sharing of bread, Jesus designates the one who will betray him. Knowing what Judas was about to do, Jesus nonetheless gives him the piece of bread – he shares his hospitality and his love with the one whose very actions will lead ultimately to his crucifixion.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Judas – dare I admit – I recognize myself in him from time to time. My own betrayal of Christ is surely not as overt as that of Judas – my betrayal is perhaps more like Peter’s later denial of Christ – and yet, every time I do not love another as Christ has loved me, I betray Christ. When I am asked, “What do you do?” and I respond, “I’m a student” – deliberately choosing not to admit that I am responding to God’s call to become a priest and secretly hoping they will not ask me what I am studying OR when I walk past the homeless man or woman on the street, avoiding catching their eye, because I am in a hurry or don’t want to be bothered – am I not betraying Christ? Through ours sins, known and unknown, through things done and left undone - are we not betraying Christ? Yes, I have a soft spot in my heart for Judas. . .

. . . because there is hope in the story of Judas. From the beginning, John’s gospel makes it clear that Jesus knew Judas would betray him and still Jesus chooses Judas to be a disciple. After Judas leaves the table, Jesus commands his friends, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Jesus shares a meal with his friends and shows them his love. Judas was counted among them. You and I are counted among them.

As we journey through Holy Week, we hold out hope, like Stan in South Park, that despite our betrayal of Jesus, he will nonetheless see the sincerity behind our banners – banners of worship, belief, love, and repentance – and that Jesus will ultimately welcome us home. That is the promise - the Good News - that awaits us at the end of our Lenten Journey.