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“Fallout!”: A Tale of Two Friends

Please take a moment to read through John 17:6-23. See how these words are nested within an incredible benediction:

And please have a look at this as well:

Have you ever been “UnFriended?” Like, on Facebook? It’s happened to me. Only once, granted… but still, it’s happened. Ever been in a place of greatest trial in your life, say… where symptoms have appeared of some dreadful disease, but tests have not yet begun, and all there is is that raw terror of mental and physical decline? Imagine being in the darkest hour of your existence, trusting only the smallest handful of friends with the transparency of your anguish in this moment… and having one of them turn their back, call you names, accuse you of some horrendous sin you cannot even comprehend, let alone commit. Imagine having one you have served, always treated as sacred, trusted as “treasured friend”… utterly turn on you and abandon you… not even willing to stand where you stand, even upon your death. Imagine such a thing.

How do you deal with that?

Well, there’s a “wrong” way, and a “right” way.

The wrong way is to yield to all the temptation that says, “Well, they simply lied for all that time. They never esteemed or treasured me or my friendship. They are not worth my time or trouble. If they cannot stand alongside me in my need, in this darkness, in this trial… then who needs such “fair weather friends”. They want to “UnFriend” me? Fine, then! Forget about it! I don’t need their shadow to darken the door of my Temple ever again! They lied before, they could lie now or at any time. They have betrayed my trust, and never again will I risk that!”

The “wrong way” is to declare the sacred relationship “dead”, rend one’s clothes, knock the dust from one’s shoes, turn them over to God… and let Him sort them out without any further love on our part.

Jesus taught against this in no uncertain terms, both as to “forgiveness” and “kindness even to enemies”, and as to “if you remember your brother holds something against you”. Jesus EVER moves towards reconciliation and restoration of sacred relationships! ALWAYS!

But HOW? How does He do that? How do WE do that, in Him?

Well, let’s take a brief look at: “A Tale of Two Betraying Friends”

Of course, we speak of comparing Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter. I’ve always been struck by the comparisons and contrasts of these two crucial characters of the Gospel drama. I’ve written about this before… but never with the personal application we are looking at here. There is pivotal application here to my own life, and perhaps, Gentle Reader, to yours as well.

It astonishes me to realize that Judas did not betray Jesus until AFTER: Jesus had eaten the Passover meal with him, washed his feet, spoken of the end of things… even called them “friends”.

Hold right there a moment… Judas Iscariot is among the disciple group, when Jesus declares that, because He has revealed the fullness of the Father’s love to all of them, they are now “friend” to Him, no longer merely subordinate “disciples”. Jesus has now utterly “revealed Himself” transparently, to the entire group.

But then, Jesus is again troubled by a bout of distress. He sits at the table, and anguish overtakes Him as He tells them He will be betrayed. Various disciples ask if it is they… Imagine that! Imagine “not knowing” if we would, ourselves, betray Jesus to death? “Is it I?”… Then Jesus hands the sop to Judas, and instructs that he do what must be done quickly, and Judas exits. Jesus then shares the Bread and the Cup, they all exit to the Garden, Jesus reveals that all will abandon Him before the end, and Peter vehemently denies the very possibility.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And so the stage is set…

Two “friends”…

Two friends who betray, and abandon, Him…

Two relationships with Him, sundered denial and abnegation…

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss and receives his payment. Peter denies even knowing Jesus with vehement curses, then abandons Him to His fate with bitter tears. Both sin, both deny, both betray, and… eventually… both know remorse for their deeds. Another post, from another time, looks at how these two (Judas and Peter) dealt differently with their remorse. “Gone Fishin'”

But now, let’s look at this from Jesus’ side of the relationship. Informed by all we know as Christians, all we learn from the Gospels and from Jesus’ teaching and requirements of us, all we experience at the prompting of the Holy Spirit within… let us look at how, if we are obedient to love as Jesus loves, how we are to deal with someone who betrays, lies about, or abandons US!

How did Jesus “get back” at Judas? How did He “discipline” him? How did He “church” him? How did He “cast Judas out?”

Sobering, isn’t it? Knowing what He knew, Jesus did nothing but continually bless Judas. He never “threw him out”, or did other than warn him of the consequences of his decisions. I’ve often thought Judas was still capable of derailing the entire Crucifixion thing right up to the point where he utterly resolved and decided to “do it”. At THAT moment, receiving a morsel from the very hand of Jesus, he gives the will wholly up to the evil of betraying Jesus, Judas “opens the door of his heart and stands fully aside” for the moment John narrates as “Satan entered into him”.

The last words Jesus speaks to Judas are simply, “What you must do, do quickly.”

As discussed in the earlier post, Judas eventually experiences remorse, but tries to make things right on his own, without ever daring to face the disciples or Jesus Resurrected. Nothing he tries works, and Judas dies by his own hand.

Now let us consider how Jesus deals with His betrayal and abandonment by Peter.

Again, Jesus does nothing but deal “normally” with Peter after telling Him of his coming betrayal. Jesus teaches him, blesses him, shares bread and cup with him, brings him to the Garden and asks him to stand watch, rebukes him for his sleep, and ultimately rebukes him for injuring Malchus with that sword as He heals the injured man. No further words pass between them until Peter’s betrayal and abandonment in the courtyard of Pilate.

Now… here’s the really hard lesson here.

Peter denies Jesus. Peter curses in the vehemence of his denial. Peter abandons Jesus.

How does Jesus “react” to all this?

Jesus makes NO CHANGE in their relationship and friendship.

It’s that simple. Peter runs to the tomb at the report of the women of the Resurrection. He sees nothing, as don’t any of the other men.

Jesus enters the room and speaks to the disciples as a group, including Peter, though they exchange no private or personal words. Jesus appears at various times, Peter experiences these apparitions.

As to the appearance of Jesus on the beach cooking breakfast, when from the boat John recognizes that the man is Jesus and Peter jumps out of the boat half dressed (stripped down for fishing) and wades to shore…

Who can imagine what words were on the tip of Peter’s tongue as he fought the lapping surf for a “private word” with the Lord? But none of it came out… no apology, no self flagellation, no confession, no worthless worm, no contrition… nothing came out.

Jesus did not rebuke, correct, accuse, or even make reference to the event. Jesus met Peter’s need for “refocus”, “repurposing”, by simply asking three times if he loved Him, and instructing Him to perform the task he was appointed to for the rest of his life. To feed and tend Jesus sheep and lambs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bottom line? Jesus treated Peter just as He always had. Jesus treated Peter just as He treated all other Disciple/Friends. He appeared, He spoke, He loved, He touched, He fed, and ultimately He sent the Holy Spirit to penetrate and enter into to Peter, just as all the others.

In other words, Jesus did exactly as He commands us to do… bless, love, do good, and embrace ALL… whether they love us or hate us. No difference. Forgive, from the heart, not because of anything the “other” the “forgiven” bring to the moment, but simply because so the Father does with us. We are to enter back into the sacredness of the relationship, restoring trust and love.

Easy? No. Simple? Yes. Been abandoned, betrayed, lied about, or “UnFriended”? What to do? Do nothing. Bless them, speak truth with grace, live (as far as depends on you) in peace with the other, and continue to treat them sacredly as though they had never tried to wound or do you ill. As we continue to provide a conduit for grace to reach through us to them, it is to be hoped that sacredness, peace, joy, and light will restore love and light into whatever shadows and dark corners still try to impede grace in sacred spaces of relationship!

We thus honor Him, and we thus know peace.

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2 Comments

Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Whom to Love?

I woke this morning with this song, this recording, playing inside my head like an earworm.  I had to go find it when I got up, listen and let it wash over me for a while with coffee. (It’s just that kind of recording… one of those “wash over” kinds.) Acapella is a wonderful vocal form, but to realize this is a “Solo Acapella” just fills me with wonder.

Simple, isn’t it?

Simple, yet wondrous.

All I want to share this morning is one other “Simple, yet wondrous” Truth.

It’s about “loving all”. Jesus command it, yet we resist. Jesus did it, modelled it, demonstrated in His walk among multitudes, and then accomplished the greatest act of love imaginable as He redeemed the very Cosmos… All of Creation… with His death on the Cross.

Simple commands He left us with, right? Love God the Father with all we are. Love our neighbor as ourselves. (When the “clever folk” tried to debate Him on “who is neighbor”, it came down to being our own responsibility to show compassion to those in need… “who was neighbor to the injured man?” The fact that a Samaritan was, by definition of the time, a sinful, depraved, unclean, idolator and pagan… just didn’t strike Jesus as meaningful.)

Here’s this “simple wondrous” thing that has struck me… Jesus tells us to love, countless times. He never once tells us to hate anyone. Friends, enemies, allies, family, strangers, pagans… anyone… everyone… love them. Simple.

Humanity doesn’t really like to hear that, in general. We want clear identifiers, lapel pins, labels… “love her, hate him”… “love them, hate these”… all according to our tribes and divisions and classes and colors and languages and cultures and how we perceive and respond to God.

Do you imagine we often make Him weep?

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” [Luke 6:25]

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; Though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]


I close with just this thought today.

Look at what the Apostle Paul wrote right there. Recall that in his own mind, his own memory, when he says “ungodly”, or “while we were yet sinners”, he speaks from his own earlier career of persecuting Jesus and killing His followers.

It’s all a matter of the “sequence” you see. GOD loves the “enemies” FIRST. (In fact, WE were “enemies”.. “ungodly”… use whatever label we choose.) Grace, love, relationship, the voice of Jesus the Shepherd somehow reached through our own darkness and shadow to melt our hearts and open the eyes of our heart with His love and embrace.

I, for one, am rescued by Grace alone, despite my own worst efforts. Jesus says that I have been given Life through Love by the boundless Grace of God. And, as His child, He wants me to do the same… just love… embrace… don’t judge, don’t sort, don’t label, don’t “fix”… just love. When I do that, He assures that He will take care of the rest.


The Father loves Children. That’s what He is, that’s what He does. He loves First and Best.

He sent His Son to seek and to save that which was lost.


Have a wonderful day, Beloved Brother/Sister! Go love somebody, and let the Joy touch and wash over you!

Blessings and grace to thee!

The Little Monk

 

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Discipleship & Spiritual Direction: A Fable

MoonlightOnce upon a time, I was not yet “Little Monk”… I was simply “Little”. I first awoke in darkness and I was afraid. I don’t know why I was afraid… I just was. And in my fear I would not, could not, move. I just lay there, still, eyes closed… quiet.

But then I heard voices around me, friendly voices, peaceful voices, comforting and loving voices…

They said, “Little, do not be afraid. Here, take our hands, stand, rise up and walk…” And so I did…

After a while, I felt around at things, learned that these voices (I learned to call them “friends”) meant me no harm. They meant me only good. I learned I could trust them, that they would not hurt me. I explored everything around me, by hearing and touch.

But then one day, my friends said, “Little, open your eyes. Look around. Discover your life, your world.”

Again, I was afraid. This would be very daring, very different. I feared hurt. I feared… I don’t even know what, I just feared.

But my friends said, “We will be with you. You will come to no harm. Trust us.”

So… timidly… fearfully… I opened my eyes…

And I could SEE! O… My… what Wonders! Imagine, blind since birth, and now I could SEE!

It was nighttime, but yet the stars! The stars were SO Beautiful. They gave forth Light! Who could imagine this?

I could see my home, our hillside, this monastery I was sheltered in. I could see… I could see FACES! I could SEE my FRIENDS! They smiled at me… they embraced me with joy! They… they LOVED me… and now I could SEE that! What wonder! I learned more that I could trust to the voices of my friends. I came to see them as my “brethren”.

But THEN… (you may not believe this)… but THEN the MOON came out! The Light of It! No words… My joy overcame me. I could see for MILES! I could see beyond our hill, across plains and valleys, and just barely make out OTHER hills, and perhaps even something beyond that! I gasped with the sheer overpowering wonder and joy of it all.

I began to laugh and to dance and to cry all at the same time. I grabbed onto my brethren and dragged them out to the clear hillside to share in the wonder of the vista and view. You, Gentle Reader, would have thought me mad to see this, but it is just a leaping of heart I cannot describe.

My brethren laughed with me, danced with me, wept with me… sharing my joy and my wonder. It was an amazing time. A time I yet enter into now and again… for time is very “wibbley wobbley” on the hillside of my monastery.

But as I caught my breath, panting in joyful recovery, my brethren said, “You are no longer just ‘Little’. Welcome among us, now ‘Little Monk.'”

And I understood… it wasn’t a matter of where I was from, or what I had learned, or what I did. It was simply a matter of what I could see and understand. And one other thing…

I was no longer afraid. Not of anything. I could SEE, and my brethren embraced me and I them. Oh, pain may come or go, I could bark my shins or fall or anything… but I could TRUST… and that meant everything was, and would be, all right. I had nothing left to fear, for I could SEE! Even in this ever night, illumined by nothing but moon and stars… I could SEE and I could trust.

And then… one incredible day… the brethren came to me and said, “Little Monk, we want to show you something you’ve not yet seen, and it will amaze and delight you.” They reached out their hands to me, and trusting them utterly, I followed their lead.

They walked eastwards, and pointed at the farthest ridge of mountains there…

O, Gentle Reader… there was a Glow there! It was the most incredible thing… totally indescribable. I have lived this entire life in the blue and purple hues of moonlight and starlight, and that has been wondrous. But there… there to the East… there was the coming of Dawn.

New colors, new radiance, a promise of brilliance so far beyond my imaginings as a mountain is to a grain of sand. O… My… Word. I looked about us, and found that many monks, many brethren, just sat on this western hillside gazing in love at that growing glow. For a quite long time, I did so myself…

~ ~ ~ ~  ~

We now go on about our affairs, take care of one another and others in the love of this twilight of stars and moon. We dance, we sing, we embrace, we eat and feed others, and we love in trust and without fear. This is a wondrous and wonderful life.

But deep within, at least, my own heart… I gaze eastward. I see that growing glow of the coming Dawn. I can nearly feel its warmth and can only imagine its brilliance. I know, I absolutely KNOW, that when Dawn comes… when the Sun (as the brethren have spoken of) breaks above the horizon… that it will be more marvelous than I can possibly imagine or speak of.

And within me, I wonder as I look about this life… Once the Sun rises in Dawn… When the promise of that Light and Radiance touches me… WHAT will I be able to SEE then?

We all wait together, embraced and anticipating with breathless love and trust…

No words…

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 23, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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