Here’s my question. In what ways have you been the betrayer? Whom have you betrayed? And how did that happen? “Very truly, I tell you,” Jesus said, “one of you will betray me.” Everyone at the table looked around wondering who it was. I wonder if they looked at themselves or just each other. I wonder if they looked at their own lives; their thoughts, words, and deeds; things done and left undone. I wonder if they were relieved when Jesus dipped the bread in the dish and gave it to Judas. Are you?
Here’s my question: What troubles your soul today? What is the hour from which you want to be saved? Now before you answer, let me explain what I am asking about. I’m asking about more than just something that upset you or didn’t go your way. I am asking about more than an inconvenience, interruption, or a disappointment. I am asking about those things, events, experiences that shake you to the core. I am asking about those hours that terrify you. I am talking about those memories, thoughts, feelings, or fears that never go away. No matter how hard you try you can’t wish, deny, or ignore them away. They are the things that give you no rest and won’t let you go. They keep stirring up your insides. They hound you through the day and haunt you through the night. They are there when you fall asleep at night and when you wake in the morning. They just keep coming back, coming back, coming back.
Here’s my question: In what ways are you fragrancing the life of others? I hope you understand that I’m not talking about perfume or rubbing someone’s feet. I’m asking about love. I am talking about the kind of love that is absolutely free and will cost us everything. I’m not talking about love that is based on feelings or attraction but the kind of love that is a choice and a commitment by which we pour out on another all that we are and all that we have. I am talking about loving someone to death, and beyond. I’m asking you to look at how you love in light of Mary and Judas. Let them be the lenses through which you look at yourself.
What if Jesus is more like us than we know or want to admit? What if Jesus was always working it out just like we are? What if he struggled with life and death in the same way we do? What if Holy Week for Jesus and for us is a week of figuring it out - figuring out who we are, what we’re about, what matters most; facing our fears and naming our hopes; uncovering, discovering, or recovering something new about ourselves and our lives? What if Jesus is as ambivalent and hesitant about this week as are we? What if today’s triumphal entry is more accurately described as the triumphal drive by or, since Jesus was on a colt, the triumphal ride by?
I don’t know if “unlesses” is a real word but I am using it as a noun and the plural of unless. We all have our “unlesses.” They’re about how and what we see. They are the restrictions, limitations, and conditions that shape and inform our relationships and understanding of each other, Jesus, and ourselves. Jesus has his "unlesses" too. Unless is the hinge around which we either see or do not see Jesus.
Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash What on earth were you thinking Mike? Why would you do that? What an idiot. There it was again, that familiar inner voice. At one time those words, that voice, were about what I had done. Now…
Some of the funniest and most terrifying aspects of my life are my self-contradictions - the contradictions with which I live, the contradictions that live within me. My wife would probably say they are more aggravating and frustrating than funny. Most days my life is a living contradiction between what I say and what I do, what I think and what I say, the values I claim to hold in my life and the way I live my life. My guess is that you have contradictions in your life too. I don’t think they’re unique to me. What if every contradiction is a messenger telling us about a deeper truth?
I think business as usual is the issue. The animals and money changers are not the problem. They are the symptom that something else is going on. I think Jesus went to the temple that day for one purpose and with one intention; to throw out and overturn business as usual. There are times when we need the tables of our life overturned and the animals thrown out. It’s just so easy to fall into the trap of business as usual.
In some ways the past year has felt like a long never ending season of Lent. It has been a time of fasting, self-denial, and giving up; a time when people and things have been lost or taken from us; a time that is continually pointing to our mortality and the fragility of life. What are you doing with all that? And what is all that doing with you? Unless we face our own mortality we can never claim the fullness of life. Unless we recognize the fragility of life we will never discover its true value.
Jesus got up early, while it was still very dark, and left the security of the house to go to this deserted place, this wilderness place. My guess is that nobody wants to go to that place and yet we’ve all been there. I wonder what your deserted place is today. What parts of your life are dry, barren, empty, and desolate?