Holy Week Wednesday

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We don’t hear much about what happened on the Wednesday of Holy Week.  We hear that Judas makes a deal with the chief priest to hand over Jesus and then looks for an opportunity to carry out the plan.

Often, most Christians will think of betrayal.  That’s the way it is translated in English in many biblical translations.  Here’s the problem – that’s not the best translation of the Greek.  (A sidebar – This is also a good reason why literal interpretation of an English translation is highly faulty) The Greek word used for this is παραδιδομι (pronounced paradidomi).  It means to hand over and it can also be translated as betrayal.  I’m going to be jumping ahead to Friday here, but I think understanding what’s happening on Wednesday makes a bigger impact to understanding what happens on Friday.

Many of our English translations translate this word as “betrayal” when it is used in regards to Judas, but then the translations change.  They translate the term to “hand over” when it relates to the chief priests, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers.  So why betrayal for Judas, but not for everyone else?

Maybe we humans want there to a human bad guy to start the chain and so we cast Judas as the guilty party – the one who causes it all to start.  That’s satisfying isn’t it.  Yet it removes us from any participation.  We’re no longer the ones crying out Crucify him! Crucify him!  It was Judas’ fault.  We’re no longer the guilty ones along with the rest of humanity.  Only maybe that’s not totally the case.

If we look at the Gospel of John, we see in John 13:2 that it was the devil who had already put it into the heart of Judas to paradidomi Jesus.

For John, it starts with the devil and goes forward.

Except, death and sin and the devil don’t get the last laugh.

In John 19:30 Jesus received the wine and said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  Or at least that’s what most English translations have.  Yet, that’s not exactly it.

First, Jesus doesn’t say “It is finished.”  That’s an active present statement.  It means it is done and complete.  That’s it.  Game over.  The Greek word here is τετελεσται (pronounced tetelestai) which is a perfect passive word.  A better translation is “It has been accomplished.”  What’s the difference?  Significant.  The perfect passive voice in scripture is often considered the Divine passive.  Which means that it is God’s action that is happening.  And furthermore, the perfect passive indicates that something isn’t just done – but the effects of what happened carry on into the future.  It’s not just a one time event that is done and complete.  It’s an event that is done, but still has an effect today and into the future.

And how about when Jesus gives up his spirit.  Again, that’s not exactly what it says.  The Greek says – παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα.  παρέδωκεν is a form of παραδιδομι which I’m translating as “hand over”.  τὸ is the definite article, in simple English, this means “the”.  And finally πνεῦμα means Spirit.  There is no possessive in the statement.  It’s just not there.  Instead, when we translate the Greek, it should say “He handed over the Spirit.”

Satan is the one who starts the process of handing over Jesus.  But it is God who has the last laugh.  Jesus hands over the Spirit to continue to work of God in the world.  God hasn’t been defeated in Jesus’ death.  Rather, Jesus overcomes sin and death and hands over the Spirit to continue his work in the world.  Holy week isn’t just about Jesus dying and being resurrected (although that is powerful in its own right).  It’s also the handing over of the Spirit to continue the work of God in the world.

There isn’t a betrayal.  There is a handing over that carries on through many actors who just don’t know what to do with Jesus.  And in the end we have Jesus, God self-emptied  who hands over the Spirit.  That’s powerful.

On this Wednesday of Holy Week, as we prepare to enter into the holy three days, let us take a breath and remember.  Let us let go of our need to scapegoat.  Let God wash over us and hand over the Spirit to us to work through us for God’s glory.

 

Holy Week Tuesday

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There are many sad verses that accompany Holy Week scripture passages.  The beginning of the week usually doesn’t get much attention, even though there is literally a ton of activity and dialogue and teaching surrounding Jesus.  And all of it is so important because it tells the story of how things turn on Jesus throughout the week.

Today I want to highlight one of these verses – Matthew 22:46.

No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

(Source: NRSV bible)

Throughout the day, Jesus spent time in the Temple in Jerusalem, teaching and talking.  We’re told in Matthew 21:45-46 that

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.  They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

They had to shame Jesus to turn the crowds.  They had to discredit him.  They had to show that he was a threat to the people.  How?  Well, one way would be to show that if Jesus was a threat to the Roman empire, the empire would come down on everyone.  Hence, people would die.  They were essentially saying to the people – you want your prophet and the death that comes with it from Rome, or would you rather be alive and have the status quo?

The Pharisees gave it a shot and it didn’t work.  The Sadducees, not to be outdone, tried.  Failure.  And finally the Pharisees, lead by a lawyer, tried one last time.

And when those attempts failed, discussion ended.  The break of the relationship was complete.  There would be no reconciliation.  No more discussion.  Only war.  Only death.  There were no other options.  Jesus simply wouldn’t comply.  Or seen from another angle – they weren’t open to other possibilities or to listening and learning.  Too much was at stake.  When you are leadership in the status quo, you have everything to lose.  When you are leadership in the status quo, there is no incentive to change.  You must grasp onto all that you have.

And when those who are attempting to upset the status quo gain some traction, look out.  The status quo will turn violent, will stop talking when the “other” can’t be reasoned with to maintain the status quo.

On this Tuesday of Holy Week, I can’t help but think – How is Jesus upsetting the status quo today?  In our world?  In our church?  In our lives?

And how are we reacting?  Have we shut down communication with Jesus because he’s not doing things our way?  Because he’s calling on us to do things differently – not the way they’ve always been done?

Are we angry with Jesus because he just won’t stay up on the altar and stick to the text?

Are be upset because Jesus calls up to pray for and to love our enemies?  How dare he!  Doesn’t he know we are “in” and they are “out”!

Are we mad as hell because Jesus demands loyalty to him and to the Father’s reign over all else – even the flag that is in the sanctuary?  Or maybe we just shouldn’t bring that up – it might upset people.  It might make us consider that God and country are not one and the same.  That might be unnerving to us.

On this Tuesday of Holy Week, we see a transition taking place.  It’s ultimately a transition of who Jesus is.  Or rather, recognition of what Jesus is actually calling for.  It’s far different from what the crowds wanted.  It’s a far cry from what the leaders of the Temple wanted too.  Yet, it’s what Jesus wanted.  How will we respond?

 

 

Holy Week

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Holy Week is my favorite time of the year.  I know that many people love Christmas.  I actually don’t.  The commercialization of everything at that time of the year makes me sick. The fakeness of the season, the forced happiness (whether you feel it or not), the spending, etc. – I’m not a fan.  But I do love church Christmas.

We don’t have the consumer Easter – not much anyway.  Easter pretty much is solely a religious holy day.  And there’s no covering up what it’s about either.  The Easter Bunny doesn’t have the same stature as Santa.

And Holy Week actually gets noticed – unlike Advent, which so many don’t even realize exists.  There’s just no way to spin Holy Week into some kind of buying frenzy.  In Holy Week we hear about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey with palm branches waving at him.  People there must have thought they were waving to a politician who was going to set everything right, or make Israel great again, or was bringing hope and change for their them.  He was, but not in the way they understood.

Holy Week is the time we hear about the flipping of the tables in the Temple.  We hear about conflict with Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, the chief priests and elders.  We hear about the Roman occupiers asserting their fear and power.  We hear about a “trial” and punishment.  We hear about mockery.  We hear about violence and death.  We hear about betrayal.  And there is no way to hide these things.  Holy Week speaks to us because we still live in that world.  It is still a part of our reality – whether we want to admit it or not.  Jesus shows us the reality of a broken world – and shows it right in our face.

Holy Week is also the time when we see who God really is – a self-emptying Savior who loves creation so much, that this same God would go all the way to death and beyond for creation.

Holy Week is the time we see that our expectations of who God is, or who we think God should be, are shattered and destroyed.  Jesus doesn’t fight back against all that oppose him – like we want him to.  We want him to pull out a sword and kick ass and take names.  But he doesn’t do that at all.

Holy Week is uncomfortable for so many Christians.  Too many will just skip the whole week and go to Easter, where we can all be happy again and sing Alleluia!  But Holy Week is supposed to be uncomfortable.  Holy Week is Jesus holding up a mirror to us and showing us who we are – We are the ones who yell out “His blood be on us and our children.”  We are the ones who cry out with a bloodthirsty cry – “Crucify him! Crucify him!”  We claim these things every time we choose violence, hatred, war, and death.

Yet, the same blood that is on us and convicts us, is the same blood that will be shed for us and will cover us in forgiveness.

Holy Week is a time when we see who God is, who we are, and how God goes to the ends of the earth to right the wrongs of the world – the ones we can’t fix ever.  But God can.  Holy Week is scary for so many.  Yet it is beautiful.

Reflection

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Longwood Gardens is beautiful. That’s a given.  But we had to take some time to reflect on why.

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What better place to reflect on beauty than in the reflection that was there.

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Sometimes you have to look really hard to see the reflection, like in the picture above.  Other times the reflection is right there in your face, but not exactly clear though either.

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Regardless of what reflects back to you, what you see is not all there is.

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Lesson for church: We are both saint and sinner – one a reflection of the other.  Sometimes one seems clearer than the other.  Yet, sometimes we mix up which is which.

 

I’d like to apologize on behalf of Christians everywhere

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That might seem a bit arrogant actually.  I just don’t know how to word it, so I’m going with this.  I hope you can give me some flexibility here.

Some of you who read the title are already making judgements about me – just based on the title.  Here’s another person who is apologizing for everything ever done.  No.  That’s not quite it.  Read on, if you dare.

I’m doing this because frankly I’m sick and tired of arrogant “Christians” who make a mockery of Christianity.  I’m sick and tired of “Christians” who love the label but refuse to live out the calling of what it means.

So here goes.  I’d like to apologize on behalf of Christianity to non-Christians and to other Christians alike who have developed a certain perception about Christians in general. Trust me, a small, arrogant minority doesn’t equal what every Christian is actually like.  Most Christians I have come across are actually quite pleasant and doing their best to live like Christians – sometimes it works out better than other times.  No one is perfect, nor should we be.

But there are some people who make it extremely difficult to have a positive view of Christianity – even for Christians.

I’d like to apologize for Christians who thrive off of picking fights on any number of topics.  Each denomination has these individuals.  They are more concerned with being right than with the well-being of any person.  I’m not sure if they were somehow scarred by the church at some point, but they see no issue with scarring others.  These are people who will find something wrong in any circumstance, just to be right.  I really wish these Christians would read Matthew 7:3-5 before they open their mouths or type words in social media.

I apologize for Christians who apparently spend most of their waking days attempting to destroy denominations who disagree with them and then go beyond that – by being  either Islamophobic or anti-Semitic or anti-something or someone else.

I apologize for Christians who see no separation between what they believe politically with their religious beliefs – and treat anyone who differs with either one like trash. Apparently, loving one’s neighbor doesn’t apply when it comes to religion or politics.  Then again, maybe they missed the part where Jesus says that everyone is our neighbor.

I apologize for Christians who think the Sermon on the Mount has nothing to do with how Jesus calls us to act towards others.

I apologize for Christians who love the name Christian, but refuse to live out what it means to be a Christian.

I apologize for apologizing.

On second thought, maybe there’s a better way to go about this.

Replace apologize with the word “Prayer.”  Now read what is written.  We aren’t called to change others – we can’t.  We can only be honest about what bothers us, explore why it bothers or harms us or others.  And we can pray.

Prayer is about letting go. It’s about letting go of our version of being right.  It’s about eliminating us and them.  It’s about handing it over to God and allowing God to realign us to God’s will.

Prayers don’t have to be perfectly worded.  But prayers ought to be honest.  We can’t hide from God anyway.

I’ll be praying for many people.  I just hope that those who have a problem with me are praying for me as well.  If we can do that, imagine how the world would change.

Longwood’s Train

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While we were walking around the Longwood Gardens grounds at night, exploring all the sights, we came across a train display.  It was set up to be a replica of the grounds, so some degree.

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You can almost see yourself walking around the miniature grounds, looking at the lights.

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Miniature doesn’t mean shabby.  It just means there are more details to take care of and pay attention to.  Otherwise, life, like the train below, becomes a blur and then you miss it.

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If only we treated our “normal” lives with as much care as the miniature replicas.

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Outside at Longwood Gardens

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Not only is the inside decorated for Christmas when you visit Longwood Gardens in December, but so is the outside.

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So much detail.  Yet so worth it.

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Lesson for church: Are we spending all of our efforts for the inside?  The community within?  Or are we focused outward too – reaching out to those who are not a part of us yet?  The danger, of course, is that if others join us, they may change us.  Scary.  Yet, this is exactly what Jesus teaches us.

How to be religious

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It’s really simple – come up with a whole bunch of rules and make other people follow them, or else…

Maybe I should clarify something.  If people believe that a person can be spiritual but not religious, then it makes sense that a person could be religious but not spiritual.  What I defined is exactly that.  It’s going through the motions of church without any relationship to God – or rather, without a healthy relationship with God.

Does this mean we should all drop religion and just be spiritual?  No, I don’t think so.  It’s hard to do spiritual on your own.  And who says there isn’t room for spiritual in church anyway.  We can be both religious and spiritual.  The best of both worlds is the idea of worshiping God in community – a community that experiences God, where we are fed, and we are sent out from the community to our individual lives to carry out our vocations, but looking forward to coming back together again in community – all so we can be fed again and sent out again.

 

Life

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Life shows up different for each person.  Sometimes it is beautiful.  And other times it’s not.  Yet, regardless, there it is.  What we make of it is what we make of it.

Sometimes life is orderly too.  Like this…

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And other times, life goes where it will.  Yet, even then we can look close and find something.

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Or many somethings.

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Lesson for church: We can focus on what looks terrible within our walls, or even out in the community.  Or we can look differently and see how God is a work, and get on board and participate.  The Spirit empowers us to respond.