Betrayal

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Photo Credit: Amy Persons Parkes, August Clouds in Georgia

A Reflection for Maundy Thursday
John 13: 1-35

On this night, we hear again the story of Jesus’ betrayal.  We hear again the very ordinary story of one friend coming to the end of a friendship to the great, the grave disappointment of another.

We hear the often-told story of how a subordinate is finally fed up with the grand ideas and the vision and the direction of a superior, so fed up that he copies all the client’s files, backs-up business plans, cleans out his desk and sets up shop in a new business a few streets over.

On this night, we hear the story of Jesus’s betrayal; and we can almost see ourselves as one of the ignorant, innocent dinner guests who watch the slow motion disaster of intimate secrets of spouses shouted across the table at one another. We are left with our jaws hitting the tablecloth, as accusations are launched and other members of the dinner party indicted, when the affair and its participants, are now named, exposed among us.

On this night, we watch as the dipped piece of bread is discreetly passed, hand to hand from Jesus down to Judas; and we recall the last time words were whispered behind palms of hands “See, her over there.  She’s the one.  Yes, all $10,000 came from the estate that she wrongly inherited.”

We have seen this story of betrayal played out in the minutia of our everyday lives, when promises made are not kept, when money meant for savings was spent on a discretionary desire, when people we have trusted to think clearly and rationally have been blindsided by denial and rationalized what was, and is, irrational.

Betrayal is an everyday occurrence; and in the way only Jesus is able to do, Jesus makes the moment of betrayal a holy moment.

Jesus took bread and renamed it his body.  Jesus poured out wine and called it his blood.  Jesus was immersed beneath the waters of the river Jordan; and in those moments, he died to human desires and rose up to his divine calling.

And, now, when one of his own, one who used to keep the purse and count out the benevolent funds to be used for emergency food for the homeless or a trolley pass for the wayfarer, when this one who used to help Jesus meet the needs of the poor and offer healing to the sick, when this one intends to walk out on him, to report him to the authorities, Jesus hallows the moment and washes his enemy’s feet along with everyone else.

Let’s be clear. Judas may be the one with the most malicious intent; but Judas is not the only one who will walk away.

Judas is not the only one who will desert Jesus.

The other disciples will also desert Jesus — some in fear, some convinced that they need safety.

Some will desert Jesus because they are beginning to doubt that this path of nonviolence is really worth it. They will prefer, in the midst of the fraying fabric of friendship, a military leader not a Messiah.

Betrayal.

All of the disciples know betrayal.  Jesus knows betrayal.

We know betrayal.

We know betrayal because we have been betrayed by friends who took advantage of gifts, by family members who curried favor with other loved ones by telling the story of what happened in less than favorable terms for us.  We know betrayal because we have been betrayed by bosses who demanded every bit of energy we could muster and took all the credit for our work.  We have been betrayed by children and husbands and wives when they took the love and faithfulness and loyalty we offered and treated them like the doormat at the back stoop.

We know betrayal because we have betrayed.  We have told confidences from friends and co-workers that we promised we would never reveal — but the moment came in a conversation, and we’re not exactly sure why or what happened; but the story just slipped out. And, no matter how many days we have fretted over those loose lips, nothing –  nothing – can take it back.

We know betrayal because we have betrayed. We have bent the rules of the office.  We have hugged someone too closely, texted someone too frequently.  We know betrayal because we have ignored the needs of committed and covenant relationship too many times.

We have betrayed our children with our idle and empty and manipulative threats. We have betrayed ourselves, our values and our principles for the sake of agreement, for the sake of winning an argument, because it was the path of least resistance. We have betrayed ourselves, our values and our principles for more money, for a better job, for a nicer house, and in the hopes that someone would like us.

But the beauty of this moment of betrayal, that we remember tonight, is that Jesus takes this everyday occurrence of betrayal and makes it a holy moment.

And, he asks us to do the same.

Betrayed by Judas (for the betrayal committed in his heart before the Last Supper will find its expression in later hours), Jesus kneels and washes his feet.  One more act of love.  One more act of service.  One more attempt to let forgiveness outlast and overcome revenge.

Knowing Judas will not deviate from the script that had begun in his heart, Jesus does not cajole him, threaten him, beg him, condemn him, or curse him.  He washes his feet and lets him go.

In this same freedom, Jesus encounters us – betrayed and betraying — and he loves us, serves us, woos us.  But, in kind, we are gifted with freedom to respond, to receive and walk into newness of life.

Jesus takes the everyday occurrence of betrayal and makes it a holy moment.

And, Jesus, bids us, his followers, to do the same.  “Love your enemies. Do not repay evil for evil, but repay evil with good.  They will know you are my disciples if you love one another.  Wash one another’s feet, even as I have washed yours.”

Thanks be to God who has loved us beyond our lovable-ness and sees the possibilities within us that we have tarnished within ourselves.

May we be transformed by such a love.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2016

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The Obit

*I have asked my ex-spouse, with whom I have a congenial relationship, for permission to publish this piece. However, due to the nature of the content and the unfortunate possibility that some might post inappropriate comments, I have turned off comments for this reflection. Thank you for understanding.*

The book of eulogies I have written would not welcome an obituary on my marriage. But if the book would share a page for two, I would start with the end. I would choose the inspirational scripture, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” It’s a Proverb. And, true, for me.

Then I would write of all the virtues gained in a marriage lived and learned; and I would leave out the distasteful parts, the hidden arguments and the tension which ran into our gutters, stewing and restless, sloshing in the sewer of committed relationship. I would remind the gathered congregation of all this is good to come from such a union, and I would bid them make their peace and release into the hands of God the possibility of healing in that life. I would offer them the school pictures of my children and ask them to focus love and hope and kindness on a future yet to unfold. I would ask them to put aside any wandering curiosity to know the nature of the disease or the ill effects on the deceased. Rather, let it go, dears; let the mortality of the marriage be what it is. Decaying, the shell of what once gave life, now returns to the dust on my TV and the sand on the front stoop. From this dust, I believe, God made Eve and her Adam.

Which Bird Will Fly?

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“What do you think? A man had two sons. Now he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
“‘No, I don’t want to,’ he replied. But later he changed his mind and went.
“The father said the same thing to the other son, who replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ But he didn’t go.
Which one of these two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first one.” Jesus said to them, “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you.
                                                  Matthew 21:28-31 (Common English Bible)

We have no greater threat to our life with God than this: an inconsistency between what we say and what we do. We cannot afford to be mockingbirds who blurt out melodies of faith arising from pretend experience.  Let what we say be naked doubt or pylons of assurance, but may we stray far from an impostor’s song.

The greater threat to a life lived in peace with God is not whether we confess belief.  Rather, the greater threat is whether or not we act consistently with our confessions.

“Are you able?” Jesus asks.

“Yes, Lord, we are able!” we answer, right alongside of Peter and Judas and the other ten who, in fact, were not able.

I like words.  I want words.  I want to hear them pass across my consciousness and disrupt the quiet unease I feel when no word is there.  I yearn for the distraction of a word, the engagement of a word. I fear, too quickly, I jump full sail into the words which dribble from my loose lips, but no paper towel can whisk away the mess I often make with my words.

If I am to say a word, may the word be full – full of my heart, full of my mind, full of my body.

If I am to form a word and let it fly out of me into the wide open world, let it be like this:
The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.

One Day

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Sunrise, Manly, NSW, Australia by Jeff Turner, Creative Commons on Flikr

Good and Loving God,
thank you for this one day.
Thank you for this one day that you have opened with the sun’s rising
and that you will close with cool breezes and star light.

Thank you for this one day
in which we will hear children laugh
and in which waves will rise and fall upon our shores.

Thank you for this one day
when we will witness the bravery and courage of first-responders
and in which we will receive care and compassion
from nurses and teachers and kind friends.

Thank you, God, for this one day
for it is all that we have.

The past days are boxed up
like old photos we will look at one Christmas.
And the days to come
dangle in front of us like a baited hook;
we have no idea what they will lure and catch.

And so, we say, “Thank you, God, for this one day.”

On this one day, God,
may our good exceed our harm.

On this one day,
may love far outweigh fear;
and may patience outlast rash thinking and behavior.

On this one day we have, Good God,
may we see and be more light than dark in this world.
And, as in all life, let us enact these principles
in the little things of our one day.

Lead us to return a smile to a frown.
Empower us to wait our turn,
to be open to another’s opinion,
to say “thank you” for a kindness,
and to slow down and see the person beside us.

On this one day, Good and Loving God,
be in us and with us,
that we might evermore grow
into the fullness of your desire for us.

For this one day is all that we have.

In your name, we pray.  Amen.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2014

Written as an invocation for the Bay County Commissioner’s meeting December 16, 2014.

Don’t Fight Lions

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“Willpower is not the way of life we are seeking.  Surrender is… By surrendering to powerlessness, I gain the presence of mind to stop wasting my time and energy trying to change and control that which I cannot change and control…We learn to stop fighting lions, simply because we cannot win.”

Melodie Beattie, The Language of Letting Go

I will open that drawer
and you
will fall out.
Pieces of you
will flap
and flutter about.

I will open that drawer
and you will spill
into my lap.
Dribbling,
little beads of you
will descend.

I will open that drawer
and you will lift
a kingly mane,
nostrils flaring
for freedom
and for prey.

I will open that drawer.
I
will breathe.
You
will roar.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2014

All the Same

photo credit:  © All rights reserved. John Krzesinski, 2009.

photo credit: © All rights reserved. John Krzesinski, 2009.

The waters of my baptism were more akin to the drip of a faucet than the pushy waves of the sea under a red warning flag.

The waters of my baptism provided me no pool in which to swim, rather I was melted like a frozen chicken breast under a steady drip in the sink, thawed a bit late in the day.

Different as we are, I am no longer afraid of those who have been baptized by white caps or those whose baptism resembled the winning coach’s ice-bath.

Whether we are etched underneath a meandering stream, pelted by a downpour, or coated in a fine cool mist of a late night fog, the water of baptism claims us all the same.

Three-in-One, serve us this water as we wait expectantly at your bounteous Table, slake our thirst for belonging with a drop or a waterfall, then we will have no need of any other name than Beloved.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2014

An All Saints Prayer

A few weeks ago, we celebrated Laity Sunday in worship at Saint Andrew United Methodist Church.  The laity of our church organized and led worship while I bore witness to their faith as it was proclaimed through the reading of Scripture, in song, the preached word, and during prayer.  Sitting in the pew, pondering the gift of working alongside the saints of the church, I was awash in gratitude, gratitude for the many saints of the church who have shaped and formed me in the way of Christ.  How would I know the love of God if someone had not loved me in God’s name?  How would I know the humility and generosity of Christ if someone had not graciously served me, as a child in Sunday school, as a teen in youth ministry, and as a young adult discerning my way in the world?

On Laity Sunday, the pastoral prayer was written and prayed by St. Andrew’s incoming Lay Leader Vivian Juarez.  As an ordained person, I have been the default “pray-er” for many fellowship dinners, Sunday school gatherings, committee meetings, sick rooms, and celebrations.  When I heard Vivian’s prayer, with thanksgiving I remembered those who taught me how to pray as Jesus did.  For all the saints who from their labors rest, let us give praise to our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

Vivian’s prayer:

Gracious and loving God, You are whom we seek.  You are our comfort and our shelter.  We find refuge in you; you give us strength and unconditional love.  Without you, we could not stand.  We praise you for the wonder of your mighty love; we sing for joy at the work of your hands. Lord God, there is none like you!

We are blessed beyond measure.  Your son and our Lord gave his life that we might live eternally with you.  We are called to be your people, to show your love and light in this world. Yet, sometimes we forget to follow Christ’s teachings – we worry about things we shouldn’t, we act possessively over our little area of the world, we forget to treat others with kindness, we talk when we should listen, we hold grudges, and we don’t forgive.  Lord Jesus, we need to mend our ways.  You forgive us for our mistakes and wrong doings. Because we are a forgiven people, we have to exemplify your grace by forgiving others; we must let go of the grudges we hold, the possessiveness we feel, and the worries that we hold.  Help us to trust in you that just as the flower in the field and the bird in the sky, you will take care of us. Help us to understand that everything is yours; we own nothing. Give us courage in the face of illness and devastation.

We lift up to you the names of those we have mentioned. . .

May your spirit and your love be with each of these persons and families.  May your healing presence bring peace and comfort.  We give you thanks and praise for the joys in our lives, and we remember to pray as Christ Jesus taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

© Vivian Juarez 2013