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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A Prayer for Leaders of the Community

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Photo Credit:  Amy Persons Parkes, St. Andrew State Park, Bay County, Florida -the Pier at Sunset

a prayer offered as the invocation for the Annual Luncheon of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, Bay County, Florida

God of us all, our Guide and Guardian,
your love never fails,
your courage never shrinks from the face of evil,
and your wisdom is never infected by fear.

God of us all, our Guide and Guardian,
your compassion outstretches our pain,
your justice overwhelms our injustice,
and your imagination and creativity exceed and encompass all perceived limitations.

As the palms and pines tremble in the gulf winds,
as jets crisscross the skies above us,
and as the wakes of ships ripple across the bay,
we ask for your inspiration this day.

As critical thinking is advanced in the classrooms surrounding us,
as state of the art technology is employed throughout our community
to heal bodies and to stream millions of gigabytes of information,
we ask you,
Source of Knowledge and Seat of Wisdom,
to give us the discernment to see a future yet to be unfolded for Bay County.

With your knowledge and in your wisdom,
empower the leaders of this gathering
to boldly step toward a future in Bay County
where every woman, man, and child is able to live meaningful and productive lives.

With your imagination and creativity,
reveal to these leaders possibilities,
where others may only perceive closed doors,
so that, no one within their sphere of influence is underemployed nor triflingly employed.

God of us all, our Guide and Guardian,
place the mantle of your Spirit on these
who offer their leadership for the betterment of the whole people of our county,
and give them the strength to bear both the heft and hope of this great responsibility
and summon within each of us the ability to work as one body,
for the good of all.  

All this, we pray in the name of Christ.  Amen.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2015

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.

A Prayer for Mother’s Day

Each year, I am confronted with the challenge to find a way to honor Mother’s Day in worship.  This year, I am choosing to print the following prayer on cardstock and adhere one crayon to the card. Each worshiper will receive a card. Before we offer this prayer together, I will invite each person to contemplate whether to keep the card for him/herself or to offer the card as a gift to one who has mothered him or her.  Feel free to use this if it will help you and your congregation. I do ask that you give the following credit:  “Used with permission from the author Amy Persons Parkes © 2015”

Holy Light,
your attentive care for us
passes through the prism of this world
revealing the wide spectrum,
the variegated paths,
through which you color your image in us.

On this Mother’s Day,
we praise you for the delicate hues of compassion
cast upon us by nurturing mothers –
mothers who gave birth to us,
mothers who chose us,
women who became mothers we never had,
mothers to whom we gave ourselves as children.
We praise you for the whole vibrant pallet of motherhood which reflects your Light.

We give thanks for the blessed memory of mothers
who once gilded our every days
and whose eternal life in you now tints the heavens.

We pray for peace and forgiveness
to dye the hurtful interactions between mothers and children
rendering something new from an old and worn work.

We seek hope for the mourning mothers,
upon whose canvas the darker tones
of loss and grief have brushed.
With gentle strokes,
paint your comfort.

On this Mother’s Day, Holy Light,
color us all in,
outline and shade,
daub and dab,
until we reflect
a world awash
in your covenant promise.
In and through Jesus Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Amy Persons Parkes © 2015

Emptying Power

Risen Christ,
with adoration and awe, we stand before an empty tomb
with thanksgiving and gratitude, we bow before an empty cross.
Help us to recognize the barren cross and the open tomb
as symbols of your victory over suffering and death.
Grant that we may know the power of your resurrecting love
breathing life into our dying,
sprouting seeds of love within our barren hearts,
and sweeping away the cobwebs of resignation and apathy in our minds.
Risen One, show us in the emptiness of our lives,
the fullness of your glory.  Amen.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2015

Ripe and Falling

fig

Jesus answered him, “Because I said, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?  You shall see greater things than these.”     John 1:50

For Nathaniel’s sake, I hope the figs weren’t ripe and falling.  We had a fig tree in my back yard when I was young, and the ripe figs squished between my toes when I ran bare-footed through the grass.

Being seen by Jesus under the fig tree, changed Nathaniel for the good.  Perhaps, Nathaniel was smiling or dreaming; maybe he was weeping and lost.  No matter.  Jesus saw.  Because Jesus saw Nathaniel, Nathaniel would see.  Nathaniel would see even greater things.  Nathaniel would see even greater things because the sight of God is sight shared, not sight hoarded.

I, too, am seen.  Even when I do not wish to be seen.  Even when I long to be blanketed by unknowing.  I have no invisibility cloak for this life.

Neither do you.

Like Nathaniel, we are seen.  We are seen not through the indicting stare of a self-righteous judge.  Rather, we are seen by the inquisitive and inviting eyes of a welcoming God, a welcoming God who will share God’s sight with us.  Then, we shall see.

Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree.”

Well, Jesus, you might as well have said –

“I saw you furiously washing the dishes and resenting every single popping bubble.”

“I saw you sleep deprived and blindly probing every corner of the crib for that blasted pacifier.”

“I saw you praying over urine, when the minus never became a plus.”

For all of life that we thought was unseen, because we believed the moment was too private, too petty, or too ordinary to cross anyone else’s line of sight, a compassionate God has witnessed all of it.  ALL of it.

For Nathaniel’s sake, I hope the figs weren’t ripe and falling; but just in case they were, something tells me that Jesus would not have been put-off by someone covered in ripe fig guts.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2014

One Day

one day sunrise

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.