Jesus washes his disciples’ feet

Before the Passover festival began, Jesus knew that it was now the time when he was to leave this world and return to God. He loved the people who had been sent to him and stayed with them to the end.

The Devil put the thought to betray Jesus into the heart of Simon Iscariot’s son Judas before the Passover meal began.

Jesus knew that he had received everything he had from God, that God had sent him, and that he was going to return to God. Therefore, he got up from the table, put his robe aside, and tied a towel around himself. He then put water into a basin and started to wash his disciple’s feet and dry them with the towel that was tied around him

When he got to Simon Peter, he was asked “Lord, why do you want to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but you will later.”

“You shouldn’t ever be the one to wash my feet!” Peter exclaimed.

“If I don’t wash you, then you have no right to say you are my disciple.” Jesus countered.

“Then wash my hands and head too!” Peter said.

Jesus replied “If you’ve bathed, you only have to wash your feet to become clean. You are clean, but not everyone is.” Jesus said that not everyone was clean because he knew who was going to betray him.

JN 13:1-11

Judas hangs himself

Judas was filled with remorse at what he had done when he learned that Jesus had been sentenced to death. He returned the 30 silver pieces to the chief priests and elders.

“I have sinned by betraying an innocent man,” he said.

“So? How does that concern us? That is your problem!” they retorted.

He threw the silver into the Temple sanctuary and left. He hung himself that very hour.

The chief priests gathered up the coins and said “It is against the Law to put this money with the Temple offerings because it is blood money.” After some discussion, they decided to buy a potter’s field to turn it into a burial place for foreigners who died in the city. It is because of this that this cemetery is called “The Field of Blood” to this day.

This fulfilled the words of the prophet Jeremiah when he said -“They took the thirty silver pieces, the price the sons of Israel set for Him, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord ordered me.”

MT 27:3-10

Betrayal at the Passover

Jesus arrived in the evening with his 12 disciples at the place where they were going to celebrate the Passover. While they were reclining at the table to eat, Jesus’ spirit was troubled and he said, “Mark my words, one of you who is eating with me right now will betray me!”

MT 26:20-21, MK 14:17-18, LK 22:21, JN 13:21

“This doesn’t apply to all of you, I know well everyone I have chosen. But the Scripture must be fulfilled which says ‘The one who eats bread with me has raised his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now in advance so that when it does happen you will believe in me.”

JN 13:18-19

“The Son of Man will be betrayed as it has been foretold, but woe to the one who betrays him! It would have been easier for him if he had not been born!”

LK 22:22, MK 14:21, MT 26:24

The disciples were distressed and began to argue among themselves as to who it would be and saying to Jesus “Surely it isn’t me Lord?

MT 26:22, LK 22:23, JN 13:22

The disciple that Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus. Simon Peter gestured to him to ask Jesus who he meant. He leaned in close and asked him “Lord, who is it?”

JN 13:23-25

Judas, the one who was to betray him, asked “Surely it isn’t me, Teacher?” Jesus answered him “You have said it.”

MT 26:25

“The one who will betray me is the one who dipped his bread in the bowl with me.”

MT 26:23, MK 14:20

“He is the one that I give the bread to after I have dipped it.” After he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Satan entered Judas after he ate the piece of bread. Then Jesus told him “What you are about to do, do quickly.” Judas went out immediately after receiving the piece of bread from Jesus. It was nighttime by this point.

No one at the table knew why Jesus had said this to Judas. They thought that since Judas kept up with all of their money that Jesus was telling him to go buy what they required for the festival or to give money to the poor.

JN 13:26-30

The pool of God, and betrayal by the lifeguard.

Right now, in my relationship with God, I’m about at a seven. When I was at Cursillo, it was at a ten. I want ten again and yet I’m terrified of it.

I feel like I’m being set up for a fall sometimes when I go to my spiritual director. She wants me closer to God, so close that we are together. So close that my actions and thoughts are married with God. Like we are one. Like the whole “I and the Father are one” kind of thing.

I had that at Cursillo, and I got busted for it. I told my priest what was going on and she nodded and smiled, and with her actions told me everything was fine. When I came back from Cursillo and the experiences were still happening, she told me that everything was not fine. She told me that I’d fail the psych exam for the deacon process. She told me that she was putting the process on hold. She told me to stop talking about how God was talking to me, because “it was a conversation stopper.”

I felt betrayed then. I’m afraid of being betrayed again. I’m afraid I’m being set up.

I’m not sure who to trust sometimes. That was an authority figure telling me to not get close to God, that what I was experiencing was crazy.

I know the feeling of being so close to God that it is like we are dance partners. My moves were God’s moves. My thoughts were God’s thoughts. It was amazing. And terrifying. I wasn’t really oriented as to day or time. I wasn’t getting the bills paid. I wasn’t eating. It wasn’t a healthy relationship.

That was many years ago. I knew then that things weren’t well. I went to the hospital to get back to normal. Taking care of myself is important. I don’t want to be a burden to others.

All of this reminds me of when I was working in Waldenbooks. One of the sections I was assigned was illogically arranged. It was the New Age section and it was all by author. I came across stickers put out by the corporate office that had the subjects for that section. I wasn’t making it up. There was an official way to do it. I took the stickers to the assistant manager and asked her if I could do it that way. She said yes.

I spent the next hour taking apart the section and reorganizing it. I had a lot of piles. Then I heard a noise behind me. The assistant manager was standing there with the manager and the most surly and snotty employee. They all stared at what I was doing. The manager told me in no uncertain terms that I had to stop doing that and put it all back in alphabetical order.

I didn’t have the voice to say that I’d gotten permission to do this from the assistant manager. I didn’t have the voice to say that this way would make more sense for the customers. I didn’t have the voice to say that there were stickers from corporate, so I wasn’t making it up.

I was silenced.
I was squashed.

I felt set up for that embarrassment, set up by an authority figure.

I’ve carried that experience with me all this time, and I fear it is coloring my experiences now. At Cursillo I feel like I was set up for betrayal by the priest, who in her encouragement at Cursillo of the experiences that I was having, encouraged me to go deeper in that pool.

So now, when I go to my spiritual director and she wants me to go into that pool again, I’m afraid.

I want to say I’m not afraid of the pool. I want to say that I know I’m safe there. I can’t say this yet because I’ve not been in the deep end for long. Every time I get there I get afraid, or I get told I shouldn’t be there.

I’m starting to feel that the people who have told me that I shouldn’t be there don’t actually know how to swim. They aren’t afraid for me. They are projecting their own fears on me. So when I go to my spiritual director, I’m not sure what side she is on. I trust her so far. She’s not lead me wrong. But I trusted my priest too. I was even grateful that she was going to Cursillo. I thought she’d be a great guide and able to help me if I fell in too far.

I’m trying to trust now, not on the voices of the people that have influenced me for ill in the past or on the voices of any director or guide now, but on the Voice, on the Call that I hear. I’m trying to remember the times when I felt I was drowning in the pool, I knew it and I got help. I didn’t have to be rescued. I was aware, which is rare. I’m trying to remember that now I have learned a lot about how to stay balanced, and how to walk a tightrope in a windstorm. I think I can go into that pool, and go deep, and still be OK. I feel like I have to go deep in order to really hear, in order to know the truth as clearly as I can.

Giving voice to my fears has become my strength.

Sick of being hurt.

I keep getting hurt. I keep getting left out, ignored, forgotten. Christmas just reminds me of this. But it happens all the time.

There are friends who say “How come we never see you?” And then they post about the great time they had with friends at their house, at the pub, at a class that they know I would like. How can I be seen if I’m not invited? How can I be a part of the group if I’m not included?

It hurts, sure, when people I thought were my friends exclude me. They have that choice. They can invite whoever they want. If they had to invite me it would take away the meaning of the invitation. But when they then say that they miss me, and it is their fault, then I’m confused. How could I know there was something to attend if I’m not told?

It hurts to find out that I’ve missed out on a gathering.

Social media is great for pulling people together. It is also great for breaking them apart. It is proof that you are missing out. Look at all those pictures of people having fun without you.

Nobody thinks about feelings anymore.

We all know more about the goings on of the Kardashian’s and the Duck Commander than we do about our own friends and family.

On Leaving Church

I am on the threshold of leaving church. Not just my church, but church in general. I’m not finding what I need in it. I’m finding that it keeps people back. It doesn’t empower them. The entire structure of church as we know it these days does not teach people how to be ministers. It teaches them how to be sheep.

I don’t have butterflies in my stomach about this. They are larger than butterflies, and not as pretty. These are owls. They are large and mysterious, and they hit me when I’m alone. When I’m busy with other things they fly away. When I’m off the desk at work, or at night, they hit. They represent fear. Fear of not doing the right thing. Fear of not doing what is expected of me. Fear of straying from the path. Fear of getting lost, of getting hurt.

So – the best way to confront fear is to face it head on. Funny that it was part of the discernment process to be a deacon that taught me this. What I’ve learned from yoga and Buddhism has helped too. And there is a lot of nonviolent conflict resolution going on in this mix.

I’m standing on this cliff. I feel that everything in my life has led me to this place. I feel that the more I look at all I have learned, all the classes I’ve taken, all the books I’ve read in the past three years, have led me here and given me the strength.

What are my tools? The Diversity in Dialogue classes at the Scarritt-Bennett Center. Books such as “Codependent No More,” “Boundaries,” and “Difficult Conversations.” The homework from the deacon discernment process for the Episcopal Church. Journaling. Prayer. My entire life history – remembering the times I’ve walked out in faith away from something I knew to be wrong. I say I’m walking out in faith because I don’t know where I’m going, but I know it is time for a change.

I’m getting strength from a verse my spiritual director gave me. It is from Isaiah 30:21. It is “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”” I’m also getting strength from her teaching to “ask Jesus into it.” Any time I feel fear or angry or hurt or lost – ask Jesus into it. That way I’m not alone with my hard feelings. No priest has every taught me something so simple yet essential. I feel like they have consistently hidden something important from me.

It is time to look behind that curtain. I’m starting to see the entire structure of church as a magic trick. The magicians, the ministers, have all the tricks. They have all the power. They don’t want the punters to know how the trick works, so they can keep up the illusion that they are in charge. This is exactly like when Dorothy and her pals looked behind the curtain and saw the Wizard. He wasn’t big and powerful. He was tiny and weak. He used his machines to make him seem much bigger and louder.

What exactly am I afraid of? Being disconnected from God? God isn’t in a church. God isn’t in a building. God is in everything and in everyone. Time to dig deeper into this. What else is there?

I’m afraid of what happens if I’m not taking communion. But what is communion? A symbol. The wafer and the wine aren’t anything special. The priest doesn’t do anything except remind us that this is a reenactment of the Last Supper. The Catholics think that all other priests are doing it wrong anyway. They think only they have the ability to “confect” the elements. “Confect” is Catholic for “do magic” essentially. They think they are actually converting the wafer and the wine into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus. That is not only creepy, it is another sign of control. Come to us – we serve the only pure Jesus. Everybody else has the watered down Jesus. We have the full-strength version.

I think, maybe I just need to go to another church. Another Episcopal church, or try another Christian denomination. Or maybe even Unitarian or Baha’i. Or Buddhist.

I get more owls from thinking like that. Big flopping wings. But then I face them on – why does that frighten me to leave church? Do I think it means I’m leaving God? Am I afraid of going out on my own and getting lost?

It is like church has slapped training wheels on my bicycle. And they haven’t even begun to tell me how to ride without them. They are afraid of my independence. They are afraid that I’ll go rogue. Look out for all those lost sheep, Jesus says. Gotta go save every one.

But I’m tired of being a sheep. I don’t want to be a shepherd either. I don’t want anybody to follow me. I want them to be strong enough to hear God’s call on their own. I want them to be strong enough to find other lost people and empower them.

I remember a time in a club I was in where I was talking about teaching other people how to do something. I made glass beads and the other person made arrows. I was one of the few people in this part of the country who knew how to make glass beads by melting rods of glass onto a clay-coated mandrel. I was taught by a fourth-generation glassblower and lampworker. My friend was very good at making arrows, and had won awards for it. He was self taught. Our disagreement came when I said I taught my students everything I’d learned. I taught them all that my teacher had taught me, and everything I’d figured out on my own behind the torch, and everything I’d read in books. Meanwhile, he taught them the basics, but nothing extra. He admitted that he didn’t want his students excelling him. I strongly disagree with this way of thinking. I want my students to excel. I want them to surprise me. I want them to be able to teach me something.

I feel like the church is more like my friend than anybody wants to admit. Maybe I haven’t found the right church. Maybe that church doesn’t exist yet.

My Mom didn’t want to teach me to drive because she was afraid that I’d get lost. She knew that I was directionally impaired. She was afraid that I’d call her, wailing, lost, and because I didn’t know where I was, I’d not be able to tell her so she wouldn’t be able to rescue me. Perhaps there was kindness in her thoughts. Perhaps she really was concerned for me. Perhaps she wasn’t trying to control me. But she didn’t think of the solution. Teach me how to read a map. Give me a compass.

Every good teacher should teach their students how to be self sufficient. Students need to learn how to think, rather than what to think.

In church, I asked for training and oversight. I got put into positions of responsibility and when it was felt I’d overstepped, that position was taken away. This has happened multiple times. I’m starting to feel betrayed. When a person asks for training, it means they think they can’t do what they are called to do. To put them into a leadership position without training will only set them up for failure. To then take away that position when they cause concern does not teach them anything.

There are training programs that exist within the Episcopal church, but we don’t have them at my parish. They are EFM (Education for Ministry) and the Stephen Ministry. Both teach people how to be lay ministers.

I saw a picture of one of my favorite Christian authors (Sara Miles) distributing the ashes on Ash Wednesday, out on the streets in San Francisco. I was shocked. A lay person handling the ashes? And then I thought, why not? I went to a different church last Sunday and saw a deacon was distributing the wafers. I thought the same – that is never done. And then I thought, why not?

I got chastised by the priest for writing “My problem with church.” The conversation began with “So, did you mean to be the school shooter? Did you mean to plant the bomb on the racetrack?” This is not constructive criticism. This is very harsh. This does not open up a dialogue. I was told that I’d hurt a lot of people with what I’d written. I’m wondering why they didn’t contact me, as we are instructed to do by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17. 15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Go, and point it out to them alone. Don’t tattle on them to the teacher. I told her to look at that post as well, because I thought she needed to know where my thought processes were going these days. So it isn’t like I was doing anything in secret. But to complain to the priest instead of the person you have issue with is immature.

I started to think about who are my friends in church. There aren’t many, because there aren’t that many people in church who are anywhere near my age level. But then I thought further. All the people I’ve befriended have either already left already or are in the process of leaving. Several of them I’ve talked into staying. I’ve talked three different people into staying, trying to smooth over a disagreement that they had with either the priest or with church in general.

I feel like the point of that post has been proven, along with the one called “On Ministers, and Spoon-fed Faith.” Instead of learning “humility” as I was told I needed to learn by the priest, I’m gathering up steam.

All things work together for good.

There is a song I heard on the radio this morning. The group is “Jesus Culture” and the song is “Your Love Never Fails.” The line that really got to me was “You make all things work together for my good.” It didn’t get to me in a good way. There was a very strong emphasis on the word “my.” And the verse didn’t sound right. So I looked it up.

Here’s the problem. That isn’t the verse. It is – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV, Romans 8:28) This was written by the apostle Paul.

There is a big difference in these lines.

Yes, God works for the good. Not your good, necessarily. Good. The good. The good of all. All things work out how they are needed to work out to fulfill the will of God.

I want to yell – stop having a self-centered theology.

God didn’t even rescue his own Son. Defiled, reviled, spat upon, abused. Killed in a gruesome, painful, agonizing way. For nothing. For raising the dead. For healing the broken. For letting people know that they have within them the ability to mend the brokenness in the world if they but call upon the Holy Spirit.

Now, this verse from Paul is very good. It is very healing and hope-fillled. It is a good verse to hold on to when things seem to be falling apart. Divorce. Job loss. Cancer diagnosis. House fire. Tornado. Death of a friend. These are all terrible things to go through.

This verse reminds us that it isn’t our plan that is important. It is God’s plan. Remember the Lord’s Prayer? We say “Thy will be done.” Not “My will be done.” The prayer is a reminder to ourselves that we aren’t in charge. Thank God for that. Look what we’ve done to mess this place up already. We don’t know what we are doing. We shouldn’t be left in charge. But we remind ourselves every time we say that prayer that God is in charge. We aren’t giving God the power – we are acknowledging that He has it. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.” It isn’t ours. It is God’s.

To say that God makes everything work out for our good isn’t true. We aren’t special because we love God. Yes, God loves us. God loves everybody. He went to the trouble of making everybody because He needs us and loves us. Sure, you are special, along with all 7 billion other people. Don’t start getting a big head about it. There has to be a balance – you are loved and special, but so is everybody else.

Let’s look at the story of Joseph, starting in the 37th chapter of Genesis. His brothers aren’t very nice to him, to put it mildly. He gets stripped of his cloak, thrown into a cistern and then sold off to traders who were headed to Egypt. It wasn’t looking very good there for him. His father was convinced by his brothers that he’d been mauled by a wild animal. He spent some time in jail because he was falsely accused to trying to entice his master’s wife. Eventually he got out and was seen as wise because he correctly interpreted a prophetic dream that Pharaoh had. Because of that dream he knew that a famine was coming and they had to conserve food.

Near the end of the story we find out that it all was for the good that all this bad stuff happened. In Genesis 45:4-7 (NIV) we hear “4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

He forgave them. He told them that everything that he had been through had been so that his family would be saved. By extension, it meant that the entire future nation of Israel would be saved. If he hadn’t gone through that hard time, all the Jewish people would have failed to come into existence.

But he didn’t go through all that so that he, Joseph, would benefit.

There is a big difference.

God is awesome, and powerful, and amazing. But God doesn’t work things out so that we have a great life or an easy one. God does what God does because it needs to be done. We have to live through difficulties. If we love God, we trust Him. If we trust God, we know that it is all going to work out the way that it needs to. There is something Zen-like in this trusting, this faith. There is something very difficult and yet very easy about this. It seems very passive, but it is very active.