The Flavors of Betrayal

Scripture Focus: Matthew 27.3, 5
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders…Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Reflection: The Flavors of Betrayal
By John Tillman

Thursday of Holy Week includes many events. One that stands out sharply from the others is betrayal.

Judas most directly betrayed Jesus, but Peter was the one who most strenuously promised Jesus to go to death with him. It is Peter’s outsized boasts of loyalty that make his betrayal of these oaths sting so badly. The other disciples cosigned Peter’s oaths, assuring that they too would die with Jesus. But in the garden, all their promises turn to dust and tears.

Each of the disciples made the same wrong assumption as Peter and Judas. They assumed there would be a fight. Judas seems to have assumed Jesus would put up a legal fight and perhaps assumed he would perform the miracles needed to win over the religious leaders. Peter and other disciples assumed that Jesus would put up a physical fight, first with the Temple Guards and then with the oppressive Roman empire.

All the disciples came to the same conclusion. Fight and die? Acceptable. Submit to arrest and torture? Unacceptable. They were willing to kill for Jesus, gaining glory through either victory or noble defeat, but were unwilling to give their lives voluntarily in sacrificial humility. 

Most ran away. Scared. Hiding. They were not to be heard from again until the resurrection. Notably, the only disciples who don’t flee and are found at the cross are the female disciples and John. Judas commits suicide after the legal case is lost and Peter flees into the night after his humiliation in the courtyard of the high priest.

Where do we find ourselves in the garden? What form does our betrayal and abandonment of Jesus take?

Are we willing to “win” with Christ but unwilling to “lose” with him?
Are we willing to die for Christ in glorious sacrifice but unwilling to live as Christ in humiliating suffering?
Do we fantasize about “defending the faith” in extreme circumstances (like facing down an active shooter or facing martyrdom) but ignore opportunities to serve the needs of others in the humble circumstances around us? 

May we not seek glory or victory. That is the path of the betrayer.
May we instead seek humility and suffering in the service of others. That is the path of the Cross.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in me. — John 14.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 27 (Listen 2:43) 
2 Thessalonians 1 (Listen -1:52)

Read more about The Path of the Betrayer
We prefer others be forced to subject themselves to our weaknesses and sins—to accept us the way we are.

Read more about Learning from Judas
The great value of viewing Jesus Christ Superstar as a Christian is not to condemn Judas, but to see how like him we are.

(The 2018 live broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar will be rebroadcast on Easter Sunday evening. I highly recommend watching it, but keep this devotional in mind as you do.)

The Prince of Peace not Pacification

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 24.1-2
Do not envy the wicked,
    do not desire their company;
for their hearts plot violence,
    and their lips talk about making trouble.

Matthew 21.4-5
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

*This week will follow the events of Holy Week in our reflections, tying them, where applicable to our daily readings.

Reflection:  The Prince of Peace not Pacification
By John Tillman

After the triumph of Jesus entering Jerusalem, Monday, might seem anti-climactic to some of his followers. 

During the triumphal entry, the more politically motivated and “patriotic” of Christ’s disciples must have sensed a growing momentum against the elitist immoral government. The palm branches they waved were symbols of the failed Maccabean rebellion and an expression of nationalistic, patriotic pride. Christ went out of his way to arrive in a manner that both fit this paradigm and shatter it at the same time. Riding into the city on a colt referenced a well-known Messianic prophecy and identified Jesus as the promised Messianic King. Many would also react with glee when he cleansed the temple, just as we would if authorities took down a price-gouging opportunist selling hand-sanitizer.

But on Monday all that energy seems to fizzle out. Jesus does not march on the palaces of the rich. He does not pull down and replace corrupt leaders or cast off Roman oppression. Things do not go the way people expected. In the Old Testament stories they were used to, when the king purified the temple, what followed was the defeat of Israel’s enemies and a period of political victory and peace.

Jesus, instead, remains consistent in representing the kind of kingdom he has been describing and demonstrating all along. The revolution Jesus enacts is a spiritual one and is greater than any temporal imaginings of the crowds or his more revolutionary-minded followers.

The revolution Jesus begins will defeat the enemy of Sin—a far more dangerous enemy than Rome. 
The revolution Jesus begins will win a victory over death, not over human leaders who are destined to die anyway. 
The revolution Jesus begins will bring to us eternal peace with God, not broker meaningless earthly “peace.” 

The earthly definition of peace that we are used to is disingenuous. Like the ironically named “Ministry of Peace” in George Orwell’s 1984, we don’t want peace—we want to win wars. We want “Peace in our time” and on our terms. Many times we, like the Jerusalem crowds, might prefer a Prince of Pacification instead of a Prince of Peace.

As we anticipate Jesus’ arrival to our Jerusalem and as we follow him may we avoid the disillusionment that plagued Judas and other politically motivated disciples. Let us see Jesus as the Prince of Peace he truly is letting go of any dreams of earthly power.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be upon your people! — Psalm 3.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 24 (Listen 3:47) 
1 Thessalonians 3 (Listen -1:44)

Read more about Following Through Jerusalem
In our social media, drama-driven world, we often long for someone to silence our critics and win our battles. We equate winning arguments with advancing the kingdom.

Read more about Tobiahs and Little Foxes
In a pre-visualization of Christ’s cleansing of the Temple, Nehemiah has to literally throw out the old baggage of the past (Tobiah and his belongings)

Lent is a Community Project

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 13.9-12
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Matthew 5.48
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Reflection: Lent is a Community Project
By John Tillman

C.S. Lewis says, “‘Be ye perfect’ is not idealistic gas,…Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.” Lewis continues:

“You must realize from the outset that the goal towards which he is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except yourself, can prevent him from taking you to that goal.”

“Many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would now leave us alone. As we say, “I never expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap.” And we imagine when we say this that we are being humble.”

But the Spirit of Christ will not settle for making us feel better about ourselves.
If Lent is only a reduction in consumption, we have failed to be nourished by it.
If Lent is only lost weight we have lost the weight of its importance.
If Lent is only valuable for fleshly improvements we achieve, we have failed to value what we could gain.

Lent is not conquering one or two sins or habits we find annoying about ourselves. The fasting in Lent is a community project we engage in as a partnership between us, the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s body, the Church. Its goal is a part of our ever-increasing pursuit of Christ’s prayer that we be perfected in him.

“Make no mistake,” he says, “If you let me, I will make you perfect. You have free will and, if you chose, you can push me away. But if you do not push me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my father can say without reservation that he is well pleased with you, as he said he was well pleased with me.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Send forth your strength, O God; establish, O God, what you have wrought for us. — Psalm 68.28

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 27 (Listen -2:21)
1 Corinthians 13 (Listen -2:23)

Read more about Mirrors and Sanctification
May we follow the example of these women to transform our use of technology for spiritual purposes.

Read more about More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
We cannot do “more and more” of the things Christ calls us to without doing “less and less” of some other things.

God of the Weak and Doubtful

Matthew 28.16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Reflection: God of the Weak and Doubtful
By John Tillman

Some of the details that ring the most truthfully from the scriptures regarding the resurrection of Jesus, is how long it took the disciples to fully believe and understand what had happened. They were incredulous. They did not trust their eyes that saw or their hands that touched. They couldn’t believe it. 

We sometimes skim over the many mentions of the disciples’ doubt looking for examples of strong faith to emulate. We should emulate faith. This is the purpose of the great chapter of faith in Hebrews and the descriptions of faithful moments in the lives of many throughout scripture. But we shouldn’t overlook the importance of the presence of doubters among the disciples. 

If God placed examples of faith in the scripture, he also placed doubt in the scriptures. Stories of faith come from doubt. When God shows us a story of the faithful, he points us to where he is calling us. When God shows us his doubtful children, he comes to where we are, puts his reassuring hand on our shoulder, and claims us as his children as well.

The ones who touched with their hands experienced doubt. The ones who saw with their eyes struggled to believe. Even up to the moment of Christ’s ascension into Heaven before their eyes, doubt was among them.

It was these doubtful few with whom Christ placed the responsibility of his most precious and vital mission. It is to this confused assemblage of rebels and failures, that Christ entrusted the Gospel.

Oh you of little faith…
He accepts and encourages you today. You who doubt his care. You who doubt his provision. You who doubt his presence with you. You who doubt that you are loveable, that you are valuable, that you are called, that you are his precious child… He calls. He loves. He holds out his hand, and trusts the gospel, to all of us doubters.

Christ did not allow Peter to sink in the waves when his faith was too weak. He will extend his loving hand to you as well.
He did not turn away the father who struggled to believe. He will not turn you away.

Thank God, that he is the God of the weak and the doubtful.
In doubt hold out your hands.
In weakness cling to him.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
Look upon your covenant; the dark places of the earth are haunts of violence. — Psalm 74.19

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 29 (Listen – 4:45) 
Matthew 28 (Listen – 2:39)

Read more about Rend Your Hearts

In every news cycle, the governments and powerful leaders of our world give us new reason to mourn and lament. Rending our hearts and not our garments doesn’t mean silence. It means taking personal responsibility for our failure to bring the gospel of life and light to a culture of darkness and death.

Read more about Taking Advantage of the Desperate

There is a reason economically disadvantaged neighborhoods often contain payday lenders and abortion clinics, but few doctor’s offices or grocery stores—monetization of desperation.

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will continue a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer

Matthew 25.37-40
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

1 Timothy 4.13-15
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.

Reflection: A Trinity of Neglect :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Matthew 25 is famous for the sheep and the goats parable. But really, the entire chapter is about people who shirked their responsibilities to themselves, to their master, and to others. The foolish virgins, the wicked servant, and the goats are a trinity of spiritual neglect.

Pray this weekend through the three stories. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you warning signs if you are following the path of one of these neglectful souls.

May we avoid the neglect of The Foolish Virgins…
We need not stumble into extravagant sin to endanger our relationship with you, Lord.

The virgins excluded from the banquet were not lascivious, or lustful. They were not greedy or cruel. They simply were irresponsible and unthoughtful.

May we never fall into the dim thoughtlessness of complacency, and may we regularly refresh ourselves with the oil of your Holy Spirit to brighten our lamps when called on.

May we avoid the lazy apathy of The Wicked Servant…
We need not squander your blessings to use them unworthily, oh Lord.

The servant given one bag of gold didn’t lose it, or gamble it away. He didn’t try to steal it. He just didn’t try to use it. The servant failed to understand, and so do we, that the king wasn’t investing his money with people. He was investing in people with his money. The king expected growth in the servant. Growth of the gold would only be a side effect. He would have found more mercy in the master had he tried and failed, than in failing to even try.

May we dare to step out with whatever seemingly insignificant gift he has given us. You, oh Lord, do not despise small beginnings or small gifts well and truly used in faith.

May we avoid the careless denial of responsibility of the goats…
We need not be ignorant of you, Lord, to miss heaven. We need only be uninvolved and unconcerned for others.

The goats didn’t actively cause hunger, or thirst, or homelessness, or refugees. They didn’t cause nakedness, or crime, or unjust punishment, or oppression, or sickness. They just didn’t do anything about it. This was enough to show that Christ had no place in their lives and they had no place with Christ in his eternal life.

Dwell with the Holy Spirit this weekend, asking him to enlighten you about areas in which you may be prone to following in the missteps of the virgins, the servant, or the goats.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 26 (Listen – 4:31) 
Matthew 25 (Listen – 6:04)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 27 (Listen – 6:25) Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)
Genesis 28 (Listen – 3:17) Matthew 27 (Listen – 8:45)

Join Our New Facebook Group:
This weekend, in our new Facebook group for email subscribers, we will begin with the first of a series of short live videos discussing some simple, practical tools of spiritual practice using modern technology. Join the group to discuss them with us.

Follow this link to find the group. When you request to join, you will be prompted to answer questions about the email that you have used to subscribe to The Park Forum. Once we check that you are a subscriber, we will approve you to join the group.

Read more about Cultivation Leads to Harvest
We are responsible for the care of our communities, spiritually and physically. This requires a financial and a spiritual harvest.

Read more about Beyond Selfish Thankfulness
We too often, like Jonah, feel responsible that those who have wronged us should not “get away with it.” But in God’s timing, nothing goes unpunished.

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