If all Stephen had—if all we have—is the Jesus kerygma, then what we have is a dead man who died years ago, hanging on a tree. That would mean that today is just another weekly funeral liturgy where we come together to eulogize this man Jesus, to remember his teachings, and to try our best to be like he was. But brothers and sisters, we have so much more.
It is a wonder and a blessing that our Shepherd King keeps calling us—with a voice we can hear above our own bleating—but he does. He calls us not just into the sheepfold for our own protection but out of our self-focus, our self-interest, and our self-destruction into the one flock of abundant life.
Where do we find the road where Jesus is likely to show up and have a conversation with us about our salvation? How can we hope for a deeper relationship with our God—in moments that make our hearts burn within us?
Lee was whole and fully alive until he took his last breath, reminding so many of us what is important in life—not deadlines, appearance, competence, control, accomplishments or perfect health—but joy, patience, persistence, faith, compassion, gratitude, and wonder.
To this day,
they still call me “Doubting Thomas,”
and fine . . .
I’ll own that.
But who here doesn’t doubt?
Who here doesn’t sometimes wonder
if they’re really on the outside looking in?
If maybe God doesn’t really love them
the way they thought he did?
Who here isn’t envious of those
who always seem to get it right,
who have a special connection to God,
who walk through life
like they’ve just had an encounter
with the Risen Christ,
while you sit there thinking,
“But what about me?
What about me, O Lord?”
Like all the saints
through all the ages,
we who are baptized
have gone under the water.
We have gone into the grave.
“We have been buried with Christ in his death,
and just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too can walk in newness of life.”
it is scandalous,
it is damnable,
it is unfathomable
wrapped in blood
and enshrouded in the flesh
of a battered victim,
a husk of a man.
Or does it hide at all?
“Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” It was as if Jesus was saying that for us to be all in with him, we have to accept his servanthood, his sacrifice, his soon to be public death, his fulfillment of his Father’s will, his uncomfortable, inconvenient, unconventional, unconditional love. All or nothing.
The hard truth is that
Judas is not some literary type.
Judas is not some necessary character in a play.
Judas is not some vile, dastardly villain,
nor is he some noble, misunderstood saint.
Judas is us.
I think of Holy Week each year as a kind of pilgrim’s path, where we set out each year with both longing and dread, to open ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually to the path that Jesus has set for us—the path of a life of self-sacrifice that he has shown us by walking it first.