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Posts Tagged ‘betrayal’

It’s Holy Week and devotions abound as believers recount and remember the passion story. Despite what our culture promotes, bunnies and colorful eggs, this is our high holiday, the most important part of the Christ story. Without Good Friday and Easter, the Christmas story is meaningless. But what stands out today?

I was caught off guard by these two verses (John 13:18 & 21): “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me [from Psalm 41:9].’” . . . After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

Jesus knew. But here’s the point: they all knew. He told his disciples plainly. It’s not like the truth was hidden inside a parable or a mystery. Scripture goes on to say they didn’t understand, but ultimately, I believe they simply chose not to draw a conclusion. They didn’t want to know.

We see this all the time even today. The narcissist says, “are you gonna believe me or your lyin’ eyes?” The perpetrator says, “I couldn’t help it, my childhood was bad.” The victim says, “I thought he would change.” The voter says, “He’s just exaggerating, he doesn’t really mean it that way.” The cheater says, “It was just that one time.” Lots of excuses for not knowing or not seeing or not believing.

The worshiper cries out in song, “Open my eyes, I want to see Jesus,” even though God is actually present already, all around. The prayerful one asks for guidance, instruction, and counsel while God is speaking all the while within. We are not listening. We are not looking. We are not believing what is already there.

Jesus was betrayed by more than just Judas Iscariot. He was betrayed by all of the disciples by one degree or another. Even the beloved John could have acted at the disclosure Jesus gave him. Maybe he tried to stand up to stop Judas and Jesus stayed his hand. Maybe. After all, the ultimate betrayal had to happen one way or another.

And then there’s the rest of us, who waved our palm branches as Jesus entered the city only to cry out “crucify him” a few days later. Not you? Then tell me you have not required grace for the lie you told yesterday or the company copier you used for your tax forms or the joke you made about the lady in WalMart. We know. And we betray.

Each day has challenges and just like Peter, we will commit many misdeeds before the rooster crows even once. Betrayers abound, see them for who they are and forgive, respond righteously, and move on. And why must we forgive? Because we have done no less.

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Painting by Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927)

Painting by Solomon Joseph Solomon (1860-1927)

Samson had everything he needed to serve and lead. He was called from childhood, from the day he was born. He was a Nazirite: dedicated to God. But these gifts made him prideful. He lost sight of the true source of his strength.

“Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines confronted her and said to her, ‘Seduce him and find out what gives him such great strength and what we can do to overpower him.’ . . . “ [CEB, Judges 16:4-7a]

Did Samson make a mistake falling in love with the “wrong” woman? Apparently women were his weakness even more than his hair.

Delilah wasn’t the first time a woman betrayed him. Read Judges 14 where his Philistine wife [unnamed] beguiled him for the answer to a wedding riddle and told her relatives. That treachery ended badly with Samson taking revenge both in killing thirty random Philistine men and later destroying a number of his enemies’ fields and crops. The Philistines feared and hated Samson. And yet for the next twenty years, he continued to win victories with his strength alone.

Then Delilah, yet another Philistine woman, came into the picture. Her village elders offered her great sums of money for the secret of Samson’s strength. And so she double crossed Samson. Why couldn’t he see what she was doing? Why couldn’t he remember how it went the first time? Did he actually trust Delilah? I don’t think so. Pride consumed him. He could not imagine that God would allow him to be defeated. That lesson came hard when he was taken, blinded, and put to labor in prison, reduced to a stock animal grinding grain. He told Delilah the “secret” of his strength. But really, the secret was the hand of God. The hair was a symbol of the covenant.

Do I know the real secret? Or I have I fallen into Samson’s folly?

God has given us all gifts, strengths, and abilities. Certainly, God has given much to me but I take most of it for granted: my comfortable life, my health, my stage presence, my writing, my adopted children, my energy, my passion and enthusiasm, my long-standing marriage, my home, my job, my church; the list goes on and on. I am too comfortable I think. My gifts have become a norm like Samson’s long hair. As a result, I have lost my vision and gratitude for them and their purpose in my life.

Much will be demanded from everyone who has been given much, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.” [Luke 12:48b]

Art by Cheryl Ward

Art by Cheryl Ward

Forgive me O God, for I have sinned in my plenty, fearful of less, but holding on too tightly to the cornucopia.

I remember, back in the high days of the Toronto Blessing (1994) when people were “catching the fire” and manifesting all kinds of strange behaviors (of course, lives were changed as well – I have no bone to pick with that revival experience), one of the popular phrases/prayers was to say, “more” Lord. They were asking for more of God, I know, but looking back, it also feels a bit narcissistic: give “me” more, touch my life, etc.  I suppose the ideal would be that God would give me more so that I might give others more. But I don’t see myself following through on such an arrangement. At least, not so far. There was a time I longed to be used of God in some miraculous way, as a conduit for healing or prophesying or wisdom . But I’m thinking, for the few who gained great popularity in those arenas, most of them went the way of Samson. With great power comes great temptation.

No, I don’t want that either.

I just want to be true to the Presence of God in me, to hold my hands and heart open, to speak truth, to forgive freely, to look and listen without comparing people to myself or to one another, to accept now with gratitude and pray for tomorrow with confident anticipation because God is sovereign. I don’t need to wait for my hair to grow long or my days to number into the seventies or eighties. Samson didn’t need to wait either. It just took him that long to figure it out.

Let this reveal have legs, Lord, and roots. Nourish my soul with your Breath. Today and always.

 

 

 

 

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Photo by IrmBrown

Photo by IrmBrown

God is Spirit and Light and Energy and Good and more. So, how are we to imitate that kind of existence? No one can see God, nor really, feel God or smell God or taste God and despite all the talk, we don’t really hear God either, not literally. Just like we cannot see Light, we see its reflection; so we experience God.

So imitate God. Follow Him like adored children,and live in love as the Anointed One loved you—so much that He gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice, pleasing God. [Ephesians 5:1-2, The Voice translation]

Over the centuries of the revelation of the One God, there came a moment in time when Christ [Messiah] appeared,  transmuted as a human for our sakes. Besides the need to reconcile human beings to the original covenant, this block of time was an opportunity to have many three-dimensional adventures. But, like everything else in “time,” this was a brief interlude. Now, all we have are Story and Spirit with which to interact, to learn what it means to mirror God and reflect God to the world around us.

The Bible, a compendium of poetry, history, letters, reflections, worship, and imagery, is that Story.  Scriptures talk about the 3-D stuff, the behaviors and thoughts that can help us experience what it means to walk in God, permeated by the Holy Spirit.

To “live in love” is the bottom line of imitating God. And anything else, is a betrayal. It is Judas we become if we know God within, but behave differently.

How can I change? How can I be this reflection successfully? I want to but I grow weary and unsure of myself. I hesitate. I don’t go “all in.” I am not alone, I know. And so, Paul reiterates the call to imitate God and Christ, by imitating him [I Corinthians 11:1]. Paul is not available to me either, but there are other Godly ones among us, even today. When I need a 3-D connection, then I look to that person today whose likeness mimics a soul on fire, a spirit in union with Jesus, a heart beating for God.

 

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Mary and Jesus FeetThen Mary took about a pintof pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” [John 12:3-5]

I just got the real picture of Mary and the nard (spikenard oil) and Jesus’s feet. In the past, while reading this passage and other similar ones about a woman who washed or anointed Jesus and then used her hair afterwards, I imagined her holding her long strands of hair to wipe like a cloth. But now I see differently. It’s more like nuzzling. I wish I could explain more clearly what I see in my head, this women kissing, embracing, stroking and pressing her head to Jesus’s feet (or head or hands or mantel); holding him close to her face, her lips, her hair. I think about my own ways of  holding close my kids or my pets. I put them right up to my face and hair, cheek to cheek, head to head. It’s intimate, it’s loving, it’s tender.

Essentially, I don’t believe this act was about washing or cleansing. Instead, it was purely a demonstrative act of love. And I suppose it could be called a humble act but love, but then, in its purest form, isn’t love humble anyway. At least it should be.

Judas’s response is more dramatic in hindsight. After all, we know now, he was the betrayer. But, in that moment, his reaction told a different story: he revealed his inability to recognize love. Following Jesus was never about love, it was about freedom. He must have been a “reasoning” man: perhaps even calculating. His passion was the overthrow of the Romans, the victory of the long-awaited Messiah who would bring Israel back to its former glory. For him, Mary’s act was, at best, sentimental and certainly a waste of resources. He was pragmatic and eventually (sooner than later), this led him to choose unwisely, to “move things along,” to force Jesus’s hand (without knowing what that would really look like). Judas did not expect his rabbi to be crucified. Instead, he expected an uprising of great proportions, a revolution. But he never understood the real revolution was in the heart.

Mary’s heart was already set free. She loved Jesus with abandon.

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The Enliven Project (on sexual violence)

The Enliven Project (on sexual violence)

There’s a part of me that appreciates the anger and determination to make things right after the rape of Dinah. In today’s news, there was a report on the percentage of rapes reported out of a 1000 (5-25%), prosecuted (9 – not percent, but a number), and of the 9, only 5 become felony convictions. (See Enliven Project) And yet. . .

Genesis 34: 13a, 15, 25

Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully . . . We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. . . .  Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male.

And this is always the challenge when confronting our personal sense of betrayal with God’s. It’s not that God cannot work decisively in the face of evil (note Sodom and Gomorrah), but the point here is that God prefers having the vindication God’s way.

“But, but, but” I say, “Your way is so slow. I want to see the revenge. I want to feel it. I want to bathe in it. It’s my right. Isn’t it? Isn’t it? Is it?”

When humans take on the role of avenger, we tend to overdo it. After 9/11, we raped a country in the name of weapons of mass destruction. And in the end, more were lost, including our own. Evil is portrayed throughout history and every push back takes us one more step closer to annihilation. Soon, I’m sure, the next payback will be nuclear. And what then?

Whether it’s on a world scale or a personal exoneration, we will not handle it well. Even our court system has gotten all muddled up and in the name of fairness, the guilty go free because one lawyer was craftier than the other.

We are all still living Romeo and Juliet or the Hatfields and McCoys.

Yesterday, my pastor at Restore Church, talked about people being the “Sin Police.” We judge and demand, we compare and we condemn. All in the name of righteousness. It’s not a good plan.

Will God avenge the good? Is God sovereign? Can God operate even in this mucked up generation? I believe. But I have to make room for the ways of God.

“There is a way that seems right to a man [human], but in the end it leads to death.” [Proverbs 14:12]

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In several places Paul tells his followers to trust his message because his very life is a testament to his faith. In today’s world, there are those we know and have known, whether they are friends or family, and because we know them, we trust them. Or do we?

II Timothy 3:14
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, . . .

Trust is a funny thing. It can be taken for granted or it can be nurtured consciously and strengthened over time. The longer and deeper I know someone, the more likely I am to discern whether he/she is trust “worthy.” Relationships are built on trust because people must be transparent to be trusted. Without transparency, the foundations of a relationship are built on sand. And yet, despite, weeks or months or years of building trust, it can be broken with a single word, a single act, a single observation.

As soon as mistrust raises its unholy head, there’s hell to pay. Rebuilding trust after a betrayal (whether perceived or real) takes longer than the first time around. We place the other under the microscope and we find additional reasons to “not” trust. We look for the lie. We look for the secrets. We expect the worst.

I believe this “breaking of trust” moment must be examined carefully and weighed against knowledge and familiarity and love.

In the past week, I have seen three relationships within my immediate family ripped apart (possibly in a permanent way) because of broken trust. Somehow, whatever was known about each other before that moment came, was not enough to stay the doubt and suspicion, to balance the scale of possibilities, to hold the cracks together. Whether it’s teenagers falling in and out love or mature adults running from the possibility of being hurt yet again, the process is the same and one or the other says, “I don’t believe you.”

And then, on top of that, in a public forum, I witnessed palpable abusiveness and accusations because of a perceived certainty that trust was broken. I wanted to stand up and yell, “Stop! You’re talking about my friend, you’re calling into question the integrity of someone I have known for twenty years.” I trust my friend. I trust my friend’s intentions. And it hurt me to watch the bubbling cauldron of bitterness and rejection. The words were different, but it sounded the same, “I don’t believe you.”

And that’s when I saw it, this moment of decision, to stand by what has been shared and spoken before, to remember the conviviality and the good intentions, to hold fast to the history. . . or not.

Paul tells Timothy to trust in the truth of what he has learned from his mentor, from his friends, and from his family. This is Paul’s last letter to his protege. Many, many people attacked Paul in the same way that the authorities attacked Jesus. They called them liars, fakes, and charlatans. They called them destroyers and divisive elements in the faith.

Who will we choose to trust in that moment when the vase is about to shatter? Who will we believe?

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What causes bitterness? Here are some words that bubbled up this morning: disappointment, betrayal, endless battles, anger, unforgiveness, false hope, lies, abandonment, and grace withheld. Unfortunately, I know these words too well, as victim and as perpetrator.

Colossians 3:21
Fathers [and mothers] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

I am known for big: big ideas, big mouth, big mistakes, big emotions. When I express myself, it’s with a passion. When I grieve and cry, it floods the room. When I slip and fall, I carry lots of stuff (and people) with me. It’s part of who I started out to be and who I have become.

As a child, that bigness came out of wanting to be seen. My aging father was kind to me, and yet, as a caregiver to a toddler, he rendered me invisible and I lived long hours alone in a playpen. He drank heavily during the day and it took a lot to get his attention.

As a young adult, I found some respite in the theater. Everything in that world was bigger and deeper than everyday life; I could safely feel and express lots of different feelings in an array of contrived and controlled moments. I could be seen without harm.

On the mother side, I was expected to perform as well, but perfectly: excellent grades (like my brother), success in all ventures, and work that was respected and secure. When my brother went on with life (college, work, etc.), I continued to feel bound to my mother who was doing her best to provide for us on her own. I wanted escape and felt guilty for it. Resentment grew steadily.

It takes a lot of personal strength to fight the onslaught of bitterness. This is an unexpected benefit from a relationship with the Holy Spirit, where individual courage is married to the supernatural, where holy forgiveness can wash away the bloody colors of bitter ordeals. But it’s a process.

One would think that living through some of this as a child I would be better prepared to give grace to my own children. But old habits die hard and I see now where I put many of the same pressures on them that were put on me. Not in all cases, of course. I gave love and attention and safety. I gave hope and forgiveness. But I also poured on expectations. I have seen the seeds germinate as my children come into their own. They don’t want to disappoint and yet, they feel it all the same. Sustained disappointment leads to bitterness. This I know. Is there still time?

And so I pray, today, to consciously release them and myself from these chains: to live loved.

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