The readings on which the sermon below is based can be found at:
s163g07 Fifth Sunday of Easter 6/5/2007
'when Judas had gone out' John 13.31
It is important to realise who has left, lest we miss the meaning of the passage. It is when Judas leaves that ushers in God's glory.
While it seems odd to our modern ears that the departure of the person who was to betray Jesus marks Jesus' glorification; it reminds me of the saying; 'blessed are you when people exclude you'. (Luke 6.22) We do not want to be part of a world or a church where people are excluded. We want to be a part of a world and a church where all people are included. This is truly the glory of God.
It is clear that this perception pervades the gospel. John's first solemn declaration as to the veracity of his written witness is not to the resurrection, but to Jesus' death to the blood and water coming from his pierced side. (John 19.35)
And so we do not have to prove the resurrection but proclaim Jesus' death. For if Jesus died and remained dead, then the sorts of religious experiences that you and I and a whole lot of other people continue to have, simply wouldn't continue to happen. It is actually remarkable how many people can point to some experience or other, where they would say that they have been touched by the divine. They have concluded by this experience that they have been included. The variety of these experiences is, of course, legion. By definition there can't be one sort of experience that is more kosher than another, because then the experience would be one of exclusion of others. The fact that there are a multitude of religious experiences is a powerful testimony of this inclusiveness of God.
It is not particularly profitable to search for the motivation behind what Judas did for there can be no definitive answer anyway. It is probably more profitable to think about why we might want to betray God and Jesus; and no doubt it will be something about how God is 'ours' in a way denied to others.
I think of the ninth of the ten commandments: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour' (Exodus 20.16) the commandment that was most blatantly broken at Jesus' trial. But it is also broken when we bear false testimony about God to our neighbour, such as when Jonah travelled in precisely the opposite direction to that where God sent him for he didn't want to proclaim to the Ninevites that God was merciful. Jonah makes this quite plain when he says: 'O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.' (Jonah 4.2)
How often has the church proclaimed a god who demands strict adherence to laws, especially the law against using birth control, condemning so many others to lives of poverty, illness and early death? How often has the church proclaimed a god who marginalizes woman and alienates gay people?
Judas left of his own accord because he wanted Jesus to conform to his ideas of what God is all about, and the church has frequently wanted God to conform to its ideas of what the divine should be all about most often including themselves and excluding others. How often has the church been seen to be blessing people who come to 'their' church and condemning those who don't to eternal damnation.
The glory of God comes about as we include others, as others who want to exclude others leave of their own accord. We are worshipping God as God really is, not as some projection of our own egos.
Recently I have been reading (and appreciating) the book 'We - Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love' by Robert A. Johnson, who parallels 'romantic love and spiritual aspiration' (p52). He explains that the romantic love a man has for a woman that 'he is not related to her as a woman; he is only related to his own projection', (p109) - and I thought how this often parallels our love of god, which is really only a projection of something within us, something that affirms our own egos. This romantic love 'demands that they obliterate all sense of right and wrong, all the standards of loyalty, commitment and faithfulness by which we ordinary mortals keep our lives and our human relationships intact ..' (p99), and Judas comes to mind. And the following: 'this is why so much of this 'love' between Tristan and Iseult the Fair is so unmistakably egocentric. Tristan wants Isuelt to suffer, to join him in his unhappiness. because his love is not really directed at Iseult as a mortal woman, but at himself' (p141). How much has the church really wanted others to join us in our unhappiness our eternal breast beating? What is actually offered to us is 'the transformation of the ego that .. consents to give up its tiny empire in order to live in the immensity of the greater universe.' (p151)
The glory of God is our transformation when we give up our tiny empire and consent to live among everyone else, in equality and mutual respect in both our personal spiritual journey and our corporate one as the Church. We too have to let our egos leave, as Judas left, but once they have left the transformation, the glory, is both inevitable and instantaneous again both personally and corporately.
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