It is a common holy week theme. Can you sit with your Judas? Do we even wish to do so? This Saturday we will formally separate congregations from our Annual Conference. Unfortunately, we are not separating the clergy members who have lied, misinformed, and manipulated the prejudices of lay members to maintain their own incomes. True, these people don’t attend clergy meetings. Our most recent clergy convocation was a beautiful experience for a number of reasons. One of the largest being that the jerks were not there. The problem with our special called conference is that before we get down to business, we will celebrate Holy Communion. I have some reservations about this. What are we doing in this communion? Should the sacrament of the unity of the body of Christ be celebrated before a formal separation?
“But look! My betrayer is with me, his hand is on this table.” (Luke 22:21)
Judas received the first holy communion even as he knew we would betray Jesus. According to John, his feet were washed by Jesus. But Judas leaves before hearing the “new commandment.” Love each other, as Christ loved them. On the one hand, Judas received grace. But to him, it did not matter. Grace was not as important as what he thought he deserved.
Paul discusses the problem of exclusion in the practice of some churches. “This is why those who eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord inappropriately will be guilty of the Lord’s body and blood. Each individual should test himself or herself…Those who eat and drink without correctly understanding the body are eating and drinking their own judgment.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29) Holy Communion is serious business. It should never be misused. What does it mean for those who want to separate from the denomination to receive communion? Does this put them on the spot of inappropriateness? What would Judas do?
What Would Judas Do?
I want to consider a few points that I have observed.
- Bishops are only heavy-handed and authoritarian when they do something you don’t like. When a Bishop does what you like they are upholding the Book of Discipline.
- People in power who complain about being oppressed are usually projecting their intention.
- Complainers about money being asked for or spent usually have more than they need.
- Bullies attract weak-willed followers.
- Lay people hate being challenged.
- Traitors always put themselves first.
Dr. Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Religion is the last refuge of the thief.
Truth that heals
I write this post in the interest of healing. We must speak truth. We must admit the truth in front of us. If not by the perpetrators of evil, then by those who see them for what they do. Many of us are frustrated with the inaction of our leaders. But we must take care how we deal with the problem. We could easily becomes haters. Truth is a danger to Judas. “Is it I, teacher?”
I am grateful I am not one of the liars, cheaters, or thieves. As Jesus tells Peter, it is wrong to choose the ways of the enemy.
Judas received communion and had his feet washed. But these acts did not open his eyes, mind, or heart. What can I do?
Am I Judas or Peter?
One thing Judas did not hear was Peter’s boast to die with Jesus. In Mark, Jesus tells the women to go to his disciples and then says “and Peter” that he is risen and will meet them in Galilee. Judas denies grace. Peter needs to hear grace. Where am I in that? My colleagues will celebrate communion this Saturday and invite everyone to the table of the Lord. While I continue to have my reservations, I do not want to deny grace. I think I more than anyone else needs to hear it.