I am starting to feel kind of frustrated at the darkness of the sermon texts that always seem to fall into my lap. This past Sunday, I preached on suffering, temptation and endurance. I believe one of the last times I stood here for a Wednesday night service, I preached about doubt. And today, we’re looking at the shadow of betrayal, the first of our Lenten series on shadows.
Where are the light-hearted sermons I thought I would be preaching? The ones about feeding the five thousand, the lame walking and the blind seeing? Where are the texts that make me imagine Jesus laughing and the disciples nodding their head in understanding? I feel a little betrayed.
How did this happen? Before I became an intern pastor, your vicar, I feel like I had a good understanding of what it meant to be a pastor and it’s not like the Bible changed. In the past year, there has been a gentle dawning of comprehension in my eyes about what you might expect from me, especially in a sermon. I betray the confidence you have in me, if I am too light with the text or I don’t fully deal with the darkness in there.
The miracle stories most of us, including me, need are not ones of food multiplication or casting out of demons, but of healing… of the heart, mind and soul. When we look to the passages, like the one today, we’re looking to how Jesus dealt with betrayal, something that happens to all of us- as a guide for our own behavior and as a support for our hope in the promises of God.
Knowing someone he loved was going to betray him, Jesus threw a party. A Passover seder is no quiet dinner, but a celebration of freedom and hope. Jesus brought everyone he loved to the table; even the one knew was a traitor to him. Yet it must have broken Jesus’ heart, regardless of the Scripture it fulfilled, to look not only at the eyes of the one who would turn him over to the authorities, but also at the eyes of all his other followers who saw in themselves the capability of betrayal. If they didn’t think it was possible for it to be them, they wouldn’t have asked, “Is it me, Lord?”
We too have all known betrayal. Even if we don’t eat at the same table with them, the ones who have broken our hearts, let down our trust and forgone our communion still breathe our same air and, for the most part, don’t appear to suffer. The pain of betrayal brings confusion and hurt.
Judas’ betrayal of Jesus led to the crucifixion and, more importantly, to the resurrection. Though we know how God used the events, we still look with some scorn at the nerve of Judas, but his actions speak to reality that we do not know the power of our actions. Just as those who betray us can underestimate the strength of theirs.
When we look at the shadows of Lent, it is important to remember that you only have a shadow where there is light. There must be a source of light, however small, to create a shadow. And a shadow is a false darkness, a moveable darkness that clings to our heels, but cannot overcome us.
Despite the presence of betrayal in our lives, a light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. This is the miracle to which I am called to point, the sermon that must be preached over and over. It is the good news that we all need.
In the season of Lent, we look to a lengthening of days, more light and thus more shadows. However, even in the contemplation of this season, our eyes are always drawn to the Easter joy. That joy is not something that is forty days away, but is with us now. Despite the true pain of our struggles and our betrayals, we know we are always welcome Christ’s table- where he eats with everyone. And if scripture is fulfilled by Judas’ betrayal, then we can have faith the biblical promises of God with us, God for us and God transforming us are being fulfilled as well. That is the daily light the Spirit of the Risen Christ shines in our hearts today and always.