Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sermon: Betrayal

Sermon for April 16, 2014
Holy Wednesday
The Rev. Vicki K. Hesse
St. Philip’s In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ
For online access to the readings click here.

I speak to you in the name of One God:
Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit. Amen

Betrayal.  That is the work of someone
upon whom you have counted;
for whom you have gone to the mat. 
Betrayal bears the face of someone you trusted
and someone for whom you would have done
almost anything. [1]
Betrayal is the subject of our Gospel reading today.

This Holy Wednesday, sometimes called
“Spy Wednesday,” refers to
the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.

This was the day that Judas first conspired
with the Sanhedrin
(the supreme court and legislative body in Judea during the Roman period )
to betray Jesus for thirty silver coins. 

The Sanhedrin was gathered together and
had decided to kill Jesus, even before Passover,
if possible. 
When Jesus was anointed by Mary,
some of the disciples, particularly Judas,
were indignant about this. 

At that point, Judas went to the Sanhedrin
and offered them support.
From this moment on, Judas was looking
for an opportunity to betray Jesus. [2]

In a sense, it is easy to talk about Judas’ betrayal –
narrated so clearly before us. 
It is easy to see Satan at work in Judas’ life. 
It’s easy to recognize the weaknesses of all of the disciples –
failing to understand,
falling asleep in Gethsemane,
denying they know Jesus. 
And we see Judas in a “class all by himself”
because he sells out Jesus and seals his betrayal
with a kiss.”[3]

This Holy Wednesday, we are called
to see how we, ourselves, are Judas. 
To say those words from the Good Friday liturgy,
“crucify him.”
To carry our own cross.

Week after week, we commune with Jesus. 
Week after week, we dip our bread in the same dish.  And, week after week,
we confess that we have sinned against him.

Truthfully, this Holy Wednesday,
we are called not ONLY to confess our sins
and our own betrayal of Jesus,
but also to become reconciled with Jesus,
along with Peter, Thomas, James, John and the others. 

Truthfully, this Holy Wednesday,
we are called to embrace the Judas within us
AND to remember and experience God’s selfless, faithful love and forgiveness…

Truthfully, this Holy Wednesday,
we are called to be truthful in our relationships
– with each other and with God –
to pour forth and heal our betrayals
to ourselves and by ourselves.

Truthfully, that same Lord
at whose table we dine week after week
knows that despite all our protests of love and fidelity,
we will break his heart over and over.
We will betray him. 

There is no way around this –
God seeks only our confession,
“have mercy on me a sinner, O Lord”
and God joins us and forgives us
when we break bread and dip it in the wine
as the body and blood were
broken and poured out for us. 

You may be familiar with the poem
“The Invitation”[4] which begins,

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing
It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will
risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dream, for the adventure of being alive…”

The poem continues, challenging us
to examine how society expects us
to present ourselves with a front or façade
that is so common. 
“The Invitation” challenges us to share of ourselves
 deeply, from the wounded and struggling sides.

About mid-way through the poem,
the author invokes “betrayal,”
with these striking words,

“…It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy…”

The poem states the importance of being true
to ourselves, to live in integrity, even when the truth is hard.

Those who can befaithless”
who can bear the responsibility
of breaking an agreement
when the alternative is to betray themselves
– are trustworthy.”[5]

When we acknowledge betrayal and
take responsibility for decisions
to break agreements, we ache.
Like the words from our psalm,
“we have borne reproach…
 we have become a stranger to our kindred,
an alien to our mother’s children.”

When we admit being a betrayer, we think critically:
Is it borne of our own sense of wholeness, of truthfulness that comes from loving our neighbors as ourselves?  This is not an easy place to be.

The point is, “…can you make the choice that is
for life even when that choice is hard,
when doing so means others will see you as faithless? 
Can you make the choice without putting
yourself or the other person …out of your heart? 
This is what I want to know, that author asks.
This is what I want us to learn together,
to teach each other in the way we hold each other
when the choices are hard.”[6]

In other words, together, in partnership with our God and our neighbor/friend/intimage, we confess.
We acknowledge. We grieve. We move forward.
God, in Jesus, heals, forgives, restores and loves.

This Holy Wednesday, may we know that
Jesus is beside us every step of the way
on our mutual, vulnerable, truthful
journey to Jerusalem.


[1] From “Will you betray me, too?” found at cited April 10, 2014
[2] Wikipedia, Holy Wednesday, cited on April 13, 2014
[3] "Will you betray me, too?" Sermon cited above.
[4] Cited at on April 13, 2014
[5] Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Invitation (San Francisco, HarperCollins, 1999) p.58
[6] Ibid. p. 66

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