URC Daily Devotion Easter Wednesday 2019

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;  and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Reflection
What a great ending to his story, as Luke tells us Jesus’ last journey began at Bethany and ended in heaven. Why Bethany? Clearly, a special place for Jesus, it is thought a community of Galilee folk lived there, home from home for Jesus, as they spoke his dialect, and shared stories of the north. Bethany has been identified as a centre for healing, sufficient distance from the ‘holy’ city – Simon the Leper lived there. How closely Jesus identified with people struggling with ill-health and handicap, with the terrible poverty and exclusion this caused. An Essene hospice was in Bethany, the last place to rest for pilgrims on their way to the temple, just as Jesus rested there. Profoundly, from Bethany Jesus began his last entry into Jerusalem, so now, his return marks a redemption of that journey of sacrifice and death to hell itself, into a journey of freedom and joy to heaven itself.

One last connection – Jesus’ friends lived there, Mary, Martha, Lazarus. I see him looking from a distance at their home, just making sure they were well, before he left this final time. Like many, I struggle with goodbyes, which only become good experiences, when I know those I am leaving will be well, and they can let me go, knowing we are safe in God’s hands. A helpful description of heaven, knowing all is well because we are all safe in the hands of God, hands that ‘flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered’ (Kendrick). At Ascension they come together in Jesus, human, divine, earth and heaven. Luke began his story with everyone praising God, young and old, shepherds and angels! No wonder the story ends with everyone invited to join the praise! But Luke will write again, for what goes up must come down – God has not deserted us, the Holy Spirit is coming!

Lord Jesus, we praise you for
your journey into the fullness of God,
shares God’s presence with us all;
your humanity and divinity are one,
shares that closeness to God with us all;
your being set free from the struggle of human life
shares that peace and love with us all.
For you promised –
“Lo! I am with you always
even to the very end of time.”

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Kevin Watson, Moderator of the Yorkshire Synod

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

URC Daily Devotion Easter Tuesday 2019

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
Reflection
I guess one of the biggest challenges for the disciples was the need to ‘see’ the risen Christ. Hearsay was not enough. Instead, there needed to be sight of the risen Christ. The Corpus Christi was something that needed to be experienced in person. He needed to be seen to be believed – even eating fish to prove it.

In the shadow of Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection Feast fades, children return to school and the normality of our lives begins to return. We return to our daily jobs and routines, which seem a million miles from the celebration of new life at Easter. The idea of seeing the risen Christ seems as far away from us now as the idea did to those first disciples.

Today we reflect the Body of Christ through the Church – the body of believers gathered around the cradle, cross and campfire. But, unlike those disciples, we cannot encounter the risen Christ in the bodily sense, with once-pierced hands reaching out towards us, but we can experience the risen Christ in other ways, both in and out of the Church: through our reading and study of Scripture; through our relationship of prayer and discernment; and through our engagement with the broken, hurt, damaged, remorseful, neglected and ostracised in the world.

As our ‘normal’ routines return, we can remember that the risen Christ encounters us in many ways, seen and unseen. And yet our Easter experience of the risen Christ gives us the duty to believe and to respond: to go out from our places of worship – our own Jerusalems – and witness to what we have seen and what we know of the promise of the resurrection. For when we do that, we can let others see the risen Christ alive in our lives and in the Church. 

Risen Christ
in the ways that we encounter you,
in scripture, prayer and the other,
help us believe in all that you promise
and inspire us to share your good news
in word and deed. Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the Trust Secretary for the Yorkshire Synod.

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

URC Daily Devotion Easter Monday 2019

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’  He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Reflection
It was the era of “How many roads must a man walk down” when I first realised you didn’t have to “go forward” at a Billy Graham convention to declare your faith, as my Sunday school teacher had, because there were many other roads. (Later, I realised the answer is “42”. With apologies to those who don’t know that joke.) For one man, possibly many, the answer was Jericho road, or maybe “up a tree”, for another it was Damascus road while for others it was the “road” rowed across a lake.   For Mary, maybe for many, it was a voice saying her name – that moment of contact with someone concentrating solely on you.

Afterwards, there is that moment of “how did I not know”, which becomes the story you always tell.  Followed by the relief when you realise others have similar moments of recognition. You, I, am not the only one who somehow failed to recognise someone so obvious until s/he had to use a well known gesture, phrase or look.  In modern Britain it’s easy to think you might be the only one, ever, to become Christian, and the relief of meeting others who think the same is thrilling. Telling the story is how we discover others of faith and share it with those who have yet to recognise a faith.  

How many times had the followers of Jesus watched and listened as Jesus shared a meal, saying the familiar berakah “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, …”.  Something they had always shared, in many places, now becomes that point of information and recognition. In the meal by which we recognise Christians round the world, whatever the language, sharing bread and wine has the same effect, whatever road we have taken.  

Blessed are you, Lord our God,
who gives to each the attention
that allows everyone
to walk the way to faith.
Thanks be to you, who gives us times when we can tell our story of faith,
that others may hear and know
that you are the Lord our God,
Lord and father to all.  
Blessed be God forever.

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning, Retired minister and member of Thornbury URC

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

URC Daily Devotion Easter Sunday 2019

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Reflection
Early on Resurrection morning, before the normal time of waking, the first visitors to the tomb are a band of women undertaking  the task which they would have felt to be a part of their role in society during those days. Quietly, perhaps in a sense of “going through the motions,” and probably not remembering the words of Jesus, somberly they approach the tomb.  To their amazement the stone has been rolled away. Has somebody beaten them to this task? Was there a sense of foreboding even as they made their way to the tomb? Has somebody stolen their much loved Jesus’ body? Very quickly all such thoughts are dispelled from mind as the words of the two men ring true, bringing about the truth of what had happened since that fateful day they had witnessed which we know as “Good Friday.”

From then on they seem no more women doing what might have been thought of as a menial task, but are now doubted and their accounts reported as “idle words,” that is until Peter comes on the scene. Then somehow, everything slots into place, the words of their dead Saviour become as alive as He is Himself. The words of New Life resounding loud and clear as the truth of what had happened sinks into their understanding, their thinking and their experience.

However, I wonder how often the Lord might say to us the words which the two men, usually assumed to be angels, said to the faithful women? “Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here he has risen.” Do we still dwell at times as though we are in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion rather than realising the full impact of the truth that three days later Jesus arose and IS alive? Dare I say that the only way in which we can truly be His witnesses is as vessels of this new life, living as His Easter people 365 days of the year.

Lord of new life, new hope, new victory,
we praise you!
Lord of the impossible,
bursting through the fear of death,
to release us from this last enemy,
we worship you!
Lord of our lives,
transform us with your new life,
that we may truly reflect
your resurrection glory
day by day,
we adore you!
Lord of new life,
we own you as our Lord,
the triumphant One,
this day, for time and for eternity.
Amen.

Today’s Writer

Verena Walder, Lay Preacher and Elder, Tabernacle URC Mumbles

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

URC Daily Devotion Holy Saturday 2019

Where would we be without ‘good and righteous men’? And good and righteous women too, of course… they are the people that do the right thing, at the right time. Or, at least, try to.

All too often they are that voice crying out in the wilderness. Or those inviting people on different sides of an argument to, perhaps, shout a little less and respect each other a little more.

But I sometimes wonder about our Joe. Was he really that righteous? It could be that this was just a case of wanting things to get done – he was working to a deadline, after all. The sun was about to set, Sabbath was about to begin and the issue of what to do with Jesus’ body needed to be dealt with quickly.

Maybe Joe was just a stickler for the rules?

When it comes to making decisions, choosing a path…what guides you?

Are you a stickler for the rules? Or ‘good and righteous’?

URC Daily Devotion Good Friday 2019

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate.  They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’  Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’  But they were insistent and said, ‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.  And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.  When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign.  He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate.  That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people,  and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him.  Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.’

Then they all shouted out together, ‘Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!’  (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)  Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’ A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.’  But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.  A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing.  And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’  But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’  Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,  while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.  When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.  But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

URC Daily Devotion Maundy Thursday 2019

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.  When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’  Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief,  and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him;  but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’  Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit?  When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.  Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’  Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’  And he went out and wept bitterly.

Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him;  they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’  They kept heaping many other insults on him.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council.  They said, ‘If you are the Messiah, tell us.’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’  All of them asked, ‘Are you, then, the Son of God?’ He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ Then they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!’

Reflection
The image of those disciples sat round a fire, has really struck me this year.

Jesus has been seized and led away, with Peter following at a distance no doubt to see where he was taken. After all the upheaval, and still reeling, the disciples sit around a fire and Peter returns to them.

We get a sense that others in the community must have witnessed what happened, as it seems they are keeping their own beady-eyes out for anyone connected with this Jesus character. Over the space of an hour, as the disciples warm themselves in their fear and shock, three people recognise Peter – and he denies Him – and the cock crows.

I cannot say that I would do any different, were I seeking reassurance with my friends around a fire after witnessing the one I follow being forcibly arrested.

Would I be next on the list? Next to be taken? Next to be judged and killed?

“I do not know what you are talking about!”

Whilst this is a moment for us to lament the overwhelming fear or indifference that causes us to deny those that our culture and way of life condemns to death, it is also a moment to know deep in our hearts that Jesus does not condemn us.

Jesus didn’t betray his disciples and he doesn’t betray us, even in his great fear. He doesn’t betray the lost and lonely, the fearful and oppressed. Jesus stays with us around the fire or in an upstairs room with a towel around his waist, sharing our fear and anxiety and he will stay with us even if it means his death.

It is as if we forget that we sang ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’ just a few months ago. ‘God is with us’ and nothing changes that, not even the events we know are to come…

O God,
O Come, O come, thou wisdom strange
from deep within God’s womb to range
the earth at midnight’s hour of fears
to make us wise beyond our years.
           Rejoice! Rejoice! Our God shall leap
           with light that rouses us from sleep.

O Come, O come, thou healing host
around whose table none can boast,
who welcomes home the stigmatized,
their rightful place now realized.
           Rejoice! Rejoice! By touching hand
           together all in God shall stand.

O Come, O come, Emmanuel,
God-with-us here and now to dwell,
at one with our humanity,
in whom we find our destiny.
           Rejoice! Rejoice! The human face
           of God with us shall interlace.

Verses taken from ‘Expectant: Verses for Advent’ by Jim Cotter, 2002


 

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is Minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon.

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

URC Daily Devotion Wednesday in Holy Week 2019

It’s such a playground argument.  Who is the greatest?

But of course there’s a bigger lesson to be learned for a group of people who seemed to have learned very little.  

You have no idea what greatness even is!

Everything you think greatness is made up of… it isn’t.  Everything you think is the opposite of greatness is actually what greatness really is.

And the lesson continues.

You’ve stood by me… but you won’t.

I sent you out with nothing and you had all that you needed, but you still crave more.

This upside down Kingdom stuff  is hard, even for those who spent all their time with Jesus.  But then they knew they were not Jesus, so how could the be like Jesus?  They were just people. Women and men who watched and wondered but never quite grasped, who listened but never quite understood, who imitated but never quite became.

Soon it will be your turn.

Yes… you.

With all your faults and failings, all our pettiness and jealousies, all your aspiration and ambition.

Even the swords are there to make the point (pardon the pun!) that the way you think power works isn’t how it actually works with God.

The be great you must be less.  To lead you must serve. To be trusted by others you must trust completely in God.

URC Daily Devotion Tuesday in Holy Week 2019

Of the four Gospels, Luke offers us the most serene account of the Last Supper. In contrast, the others place Jesus’ foresight of His betrayal before the meal, which gave rise to emotional upset between the Disciples and probably indigestion!  In Luke, the discord follows the meal.

As Christians, we have probably attended countless Communion services: for some, it is weekly; for others, less frequently. The ways in which this Sacrament is administered in our denomination, and across the Christian world, are many and varied.

As familiar and comfortable as we may be with how Communion is administered in our churches, let us remember that Jesus’ words and actions on that evening were momentous: He departed from the centuries-old Passover tradition.

A few years ago, I participated in an inter-faith radio project, during which I spent time with an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi. During one of our conversations, he described to me how Jesus’ words about the bread being His body, and the wine being His blood would have been received by Jewish believers with shock – putting it mildly!

By the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, some 20 years after the events – the very text recited at our Communion services –  had lost the raw emotion which those present at the Last Supper would have felt. Yet during Holy Week, we allow ourselves to revisit what we, euphemistically, call ‘The Passion’.

Although not to everyone’s taste, two films evoke ‘The Passion’ for me: the Rice/Lloyd-Webber musical “Jesus Christ, Superstar” and Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of The Christ”. The musical explores individuals’ profound and life-changing responses to Jesus; and the film exposes us to the sheer horror of His sacrifice.

As we journey together through Holy Week, may God grant us the grace to experience ‘The Passion’ afresh.

URC Daily Devotion Monday in Holy Week 2019

Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near.  The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve;  he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’  They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters  and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’  So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Reflection
Well beyond the pages of the Gospels and walls of the Church the name “Judas” is synonymous with treachery and betrayal.   To be accused of “doing a Judas” is harsh judgement and of the core group of disciples accompanying Jesus his is the name to which no churches or good causes are dedicated.   The Gospel writers describe his actions as Devil-inspired and to ensure that no sympathy is evoked for him we are told that he took money for his act of betrayal. In John 12:6 we are also encouraged to regard him as a thief, helping himself to the contents of the disciples’ common purse.    In today’s reading he is seen conferring with those who want rid of Jesus and they are “greatly pleased”. Money is pledged in return for the betrayal of God’s priceless gift.

The scene in the Garden of Gethsemane – when Judas greets Jesus with a kiss not as a sign of affection but a clue for those coming to arrest him – is painful to behold.   Ultimately, of course, the money is of no consolation at all when Judas realises the extent of his mistake and ends his life.

Before we condemn Judas’ actions we do well to ponder whether we are entirely blameless ourselves when it comes to the guilt of betrayal.  Are any of us completely trustworthy and loyal – to our faith or to those who count upon us? Holy Week is a timely opportunity for soul-searching as we contemplate Judas’ betrayal within the context of the love of God abused, wounded, crucified yet abiding, and ask of ourselves:  would I have acted any differently then? And, when faith becomes more demanding and costly than we might choose: do I remain steadfast or am I tempted to betray God, faith or principle in return for comfort?

Almighty God,
whose love is richer than gold,
forgive us for our cheap acts of betrayal.
Have mercy on any and all
who have been betrayed
by those who once loved them.

Grant peace to the betrayed
and the betrayer.

May our lips and lives
attest that our wealth is invested in you.

In the name of the One
betrayed with a kiss,

yet who on the Cross
declared pardon and paradise to the thief. Amen.

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke, Minister, The Crossing (Methodist & United Reformed Church), Worksop and Wales Kiveton Methodist Church.

Bible Version

 

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