judas is the first to be forgiven...

Today I rewrote my Easter homily. I did all the research and crafted a fine message for Easter Sunday 2017 while I was in Ottawa last week. But something was haunting me about it being too "mainstream" in style and these times are anything but main stream. So acting on a hunch - the blowing of the Holy Spirit ? - I reworked my message so that it better fits what I sense the Spirit is saying to the churches through me. Then we rehearsed our Maundy Thursday "tenebrae" liturgy. This ancient monastic retelling of Christ's betrayal uses readings, song, silence and the extinguishing of candles and can be moving but needs careful orchestration lest it descend into sloppy sentimentality. 

This will likely be my final Holy Week and Easter serving this congregation. For me, it is a time filled with quiet fears and joys unlike any other. Tonight as I led the readers through the sacred texts of Holy Thursday - and collaborated with them one more time on the best way to choreograph the lighting with our faithful sexton - I... had a moment. I am grateful to be with this crew this year in ways that transcend words.

When I got home, I prepared my favorite fattoush salad for our supper and read these words from Buechner:

THE SOLDIERS ARE there with their swords and lanterns. The high priest's slave is whimpering over his wounded ear. There can be no doubt in Jesus' mind what the kiss of Judas means, but it is Judas that he is blessing, and Judas that he is prepared to go out and die for now. Judas is only the first in a procession of betrayers two thousand years long. If Jesus were to exclude him from his love and forgiveness, to one degree or another he would have to exclude humankind.

Maybe this is all in the mind of Jesus as he stands there with his eyes closed, or possibly there is nothing in his mind at all. As he feels his friend's lips graze his cheek, for an instant maybe he feels nothing else. It is another of his last times. On this last evening of his life he has eaten his last meal, and this is the last time that he will ever feel the touch of another human being except in torment. It is not the Lamb of God and his butcher who meet here, but two old friends embracing in a garden because they both of them know that they will never see one another again.

- Originally published in The Faces of Jesus


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