First Congregational Church
March 16, 2014
Second Sunday of Lent
"Broken Trust Restored"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
I’ve got a knock-knock joke to start this morning’s message but you have to start it. Knock-knock. Who’s there? ___ What is brown and sticky? A stick. What do you call a broken boomerang? A stick. Where did Napoleon keep his armies? In his sleevies. Two fish are in a tank. One says to the other, “How do you drive this thing?” What’s white and can’t climb trees? A refrigerator. Why does a chicken coop have only two doors? Because if it had four, it would be a chicken sedan.
For those who wonder about my “broken” sense of humor, the jokes are included because of the Lenten theme of brokenness. Last week it was the brokenness of the woman who poured a jar of expensive perfume on Jesus’ head as he was eating dinner at (the broken) Simon the Leper’s house. The bottom line of the message was that because of what Christ did for us, all of us broken vessels are restored. This morning’s topic is one of the famous brokenness matters: that of trust.
Matthew 26:14-25 NIV
14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
Thank you, Molly. Most of us modern Christians lose a fair bit to history and the culture of Biblical times. So we don’t think much about the Festival of Unleavened Bread or Passover. The fact that these two designations fall in the same sentence probably add to the perception that these two Jewish events are different names for the same thing. Passover however is only one 24 hour period while Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts for seven days - perhaps not so unlike Good Friday and Holy Week.
The whole Passover / Unleavened Bread Feast began back in the book of Exodus, while the people were in slavery to the Egyptians. During the series of plagues that were intended to cause the Pharaoh to free the Hebrews, God told the Jewish people to mark their doors with the sign of a cross. That night, when the angel of death came to the land, it would skip over the marked households. With the instructions for marking the door, when the freedom was granted by the Pharoah, God told the Hebrew people not to allow their bread to rise, but to grab everything and get out of Dodge. The ancient peoples used to gather yeast on grape leaves to leaven their bread if they needed to speed up the process, but God said "Don't even let any leavening touch the dough. Just bake it and go.” The symbolism was that the yeast represented sin.
Some 1500 years later, we encounter Jesus’ disciples celebrating again the festival of leaving behind sin and the power of God’s kept promises.
And like last week, Jesus is reclining at the table. There were different ways of dining back in those days; tables and chairs being for the wealthy. Ordinary people sat or squatted around the food, whether it was on a low lying table or even a cloth on the bare floor. Individual plates were also for the wealthy, so most folks sat around the one or two large bowls of whatever, using pieces of bread to pick up the food and sop up the juices.
Regardless of the dining position, eating food with another person was - and still is - a rather intimate experience. It’s just not so pleasant to be at the same table with someone that strongly dislikes you - or visa versa - and it doesn’t help the digestion any, either. It is worth noting that both last week, and today, the scenes of “brokenness” center around that place of intimacy and seeming trust.
When Jesus announces the impending betrayal by one of his inner circle, as each one wondered, “Is it I, Lord?”, I wonder how Judas was feeling. He’d had his suspicions about this Jesus - or a lack of trust at any rate. When Jesus marks Judas out-loud, I wonder how Judas felt then. From that moment until Judas kissed Jesus on the cheek, how did Judas feel? I’m guessing that righteous indignation was one that he visited a lot during those few hours. I’m also guessing that he was doing a lot of mental justification of his actions. Maybe that’s a clue for us, when we find ourselves justifying our actions, to “check in” with our motives.
The “greater” broken trust most logically comes from Jesus’ point of view. I would hope that it’s not many, but I’m sure there are some here this morning that have been hurt, deeply wounded, at a betrayal, most likely at the hand of a friend or trusted individual. Some of our most emotionally charged words come with the definition of betray: to fail or desert especially in time of need; to deliver to an enemy by treachery.
Google has a much more sophisticated definition: “Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations. “ The online etymology dictionary implies that it is not merely betrayal, but complete, thorough, whole-enchilada deception, deceit, handing over. Whatever the definitions or words, the pain is usually deep, gut-wrenchingly heinous.
We can relate to betrayal on a human level, but this account is also important to help us translate it to the spiritual world. God is much greater, so much more than we are. But understanding Judas’ trust breaking with Jesus helps us get a glimpse of the trust breaking that happened in the Garden of Eden, when sin officially came into the world. And maybe it gives us a glimpse into God’s heart, when any of us break the trusts we’ve been given - whether it be with children, adults, the earth or our treasures. Christ’s sacrifice was - I don’t think - so much about appeasing an angry God, but about healing broken relationships.
Speaking of relationships, I wonder if we forget about the other disciples when we think about Judas’ betrayal. For the good part of three years, the thirteen had been together, endured the hardships and enjoyed the good times. By all accounts, they had become a band of brothers. I’m sure it’s happened to some here today, but of those who are supposed to be loyal, trustworthy and having your back, it’s supposed to be siblings. It’s probably why betrayal at the hand of a family member is that much more painful. So Judas didn’t just betray Jesus. He broke the trust of all his “brothers.”
There was probably more than one disciple that would have loved to extract their pound of flesh from Judas. But when he hung himself, he cut off any potential for resolution or restoration. That was true not just for the disciples, but for Jesus. When someone has committed an offense of whatever kind, we - through Christ - are to grant forgiveness when it is asked. It doesn’t excuse or deny the fault, but it is to help bring about the restoration of the fallen one. It would have been a perfect example for Jesus to show us how it was done, had Judas given him the chance.
Instead, Jesus had to do it from the cross. “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” From that point on, Jesus’ words restore the brokenness, throughout history. That was the day Judas was restored, the day each and every one of us were restored. Judas’ betrayal was so huge, but it gives us the outdoor movie screen to see what happens everyday on much smaller screens - from watch telephones to the largest living room entertainment systems. Each and every one of us are forgiven and restored, at the mere asking. Which seems like a pretty good thing to do.
God of love and compassion, we are mindful this day of the brokenness that happens in relationships, by words and/or actions, silence and/or inaction. Most of the time, God, we’re pretty good at knowing when we are starting down a path that isn’t becoming to our image as one of your loving children. But sometimes, Gracious God, we aren’t as good at recognizing the path that leads us away from the one you know best for us. So before any of us become like Judas, stop us, refrain us, and remind us again of the love that is there to guide us, nourish us and overflow for others.
Some times, God, we don’t do as well as we could, or we don’t do at all. Some times, we just fall flat on our faces. Regardless of the reasons, we succumb to our humanness and we betray you. So forgive us, Merciful God, that we may not become useless in our betrayals, but restored, filled again with the purpose you have for each one of your precious ones. Thank you for the sacrifice of giving us your Son, that we may all live into the relational restoration you have provided. And all the grateful hearts say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.