Friday, 22 April 2011

The prayer of Judas

Our Father in heaven

Have mercy on me, have pity on a poor sinner, oh, God have mercy on me.

Hallowed be your name,

You are the great and mighty God. You know what I’ve done, you know the secrets of my heart, God have mercy on me.

Your kingdom come,

That was all I ever wanted. You know that, don’t you? This wasn’t about me. You know that, don’t you, God? You know it wasn’t about me – or the money. The money, the money, 30 miserable pieces of silver, 30 denari. I sold my soul for 30 denarii. God have mercy on me for no-one else will. But you, you know why I did it. Oh God, you know. Let me know that you understand. God have mercy on my miserable soul.

Your will be done that’s what I was doing, that’s what I thought I was doing. Your will, I thought I was doing your will, wasn’t I obeying your will, God? Even Christ, he said, it. He told me to. He said, ‘go and do it quickly.’ He told me to. I took that to be his approval. I thought … I thought. God you alone know what I thought. Your kingdom come. Your kingdom come. All I ever wanted was to see your kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven. Christ was supposed to be the messiah, the promised one, the king who would lead us to freedom, who’d set us free from the cursed Roman occupation. That was all I wanted. I thought I could help. That’s all I was doing, helping. You believe that, don’t you? You know this wasn’t what I intended, what I wanted. I never wanted to ... to see this. I sold my soul. Oh God have mercy on my miserable soul. God have pity.

Give us today our daily bread. God forgive me I sat at the table with him. I ate the bread he gave me his body; I drank his blood. Oh God what have I done? And he knew, he knew all along. He knew everything I’d done, everything I was going to do. I could see it in his eyes. His sorrow, his pain, his … fear. God, I’d been with him through it all. I’d seen love in action and I betrayed him as he knew I would. As he knew I must. Why didn’t he stop me? Why didn’t he tell the others? Why didn’t he insist they took me prisoner to stop me doing what he knew I was going to do. What I had to do. That’s what he should have done … but he didn’t. He let me get on with it. He told me to go and do it. And the others, why didn’t they work it out? He couldn’t have made it clearer that I was the betrayer if he’d pointed to me. There was no doubt who he meant. Why didn’t they stop me? Didn’t they see? Were they too blind or stupid? Were their eyes covered? They could have stopped me. It wasn’t all my fault; they should have realised. He told them. Oh God have mercy on us.

Forgive us our trespasses,

Oh, was there ever a greater trespass done? The worst of all, to betray the man who loved me. He did love me. I know it. I could see it in his eyes. Even at the end when I could hardly bear to look at his face, I could see the sorrow but I could see the love as well. He knew what I had to do. I was in the crowd as he passed. I was at the back amongst strangers. People who didn’t know me. Who didn’t point me out as the one who betrayed Jesus. But he saw me. He turned his head and looked straight at me. Just that one time he turned his head. He turned his head and looked at me. Looked at me through the crowd, through the heads and the faces he saw me. He knew I was there and he looked right at me. Oh God he looked at me. I tried to turn away. I didn’t want to look on his poor battered face. I didn’t want to see the hate and anger there. If I had been in his place I would have spat at me. But he didn’t. He looked at me and kept my gaze though I wanted to turn away. I wanted to run away and hide. But his face held no resentment, no anger, no hurt, just forgiveness. Forgiveness. As we also forgive those who have trespassed against us. God knows, I wanted to see forgiveness there. But I don’t believe what I saw. How could he forgive me? A wicked sinner.Oh God what have I done? Have mercy on me.

And what had he ever done to me? Nothing. Except love me. He loved me and that is how I repaid him. All he ever did was love me and respect me and value me. He trusted me. He put me in charge of the money. In charge of the money. He knew I was trustworthy. And I was. I was. I looked after it like it was my own. I was careful with it, yes, but what’s wrong with that? We needed money. We were going to fund a revolution. That took money. I was getting ready for that. That’s all I was doing. And I took no more than a fair pay for my work no matter what they say. That was all I did. I earned it. It was mine by right. It was only fair. My fair share. My fair share.

And lead us not into temptation,

It was all moving too slowly. I just wanted to speed things up. Speed things up, get things going. He couldn’t see the mood of the people; I could. They were ready for revolution. He only had to say the word. They’d have taken up arms. I thought they would have. I was sure they would have. They cheered him as he entered the city. They loved him. The sight of Roman soldiers taking their hero prisoner would have been too much for them, I was sure of it. They’d rise up in his defence, to free him and then the land and our people. We’d have been free again as you God intended. I could see that. Freedom. Just within reach. That’s why I did it. That’s why I did it. It wasn’t for the money; it was for the cause. God, you know I’m telling the truth here. Listen to me. You know my motives. Listen to me. You know my thoughts, before a word leaves my mouth you know it. You know I only wanted good. I was impatient. The time was right. We had the people on our side. I thought we had the people on our side. God forgive them for their treachery. How could they turn against the man who’d raised their dead, healed their sick, fed their hunger? God, how could they do it? Oh God, how could I do it? Why did I do it? Why oh why did I do it? God in heaven have mercy on my soul, Have mercy on my soul. forgive me.

And deliver us from the evil one.

From the evil one deliver me, deliver me. From evil. From evil deliver me. From all that is in my head deliver me. From the evil that I have done deliver me. From the evil that has possessed my soul, deliver me. From the pain that is in my heart deliver me. Take these tears and wash me clean. Take these tear and wash me whiter than snow. Whiter than snow. Can I never be clean again? Will I carry this burden to my grave? Oh God answer me! Have you forsaken me too? I can’t carry this load. I can’t bear this burden any longer.

My father in heaven, forgive me for what I have done, forgive me for what I am about to do. Have mercy on my soul.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness

Good evening, sir. You look surprised. I can imagine I’m the last person you would have expected to see here. I’ll admit these aren’t the sort of surroundings in which we usually meet, but I’m not the woman you knew, not any more. Don’t look so worried, sit awhile with me and I’ll tell you my story. Come, you may as well sit, the teacher is resting and you’ll not get any closer to him in this crowd.

It’s two months now since I first heard the teacher speak. He spoke of many things that day, some of what he said I didn’t understand, and I began to wonder if I’d made a mistake coming to listen to him but then he started to speak of hope. That drew my attention. You see, I didn’t have any hope, no hope for now, no hope for ever, but he offered it to me, in his gentle assuring voice. There were hundreds of people there that day and I was right at the back of the crowd but I swear he was looking at me as he spoke of love and forgiveness.

I can see you’re thinking ‘what right has she to expect forgiveness?’ I didn’t. When you’ve lived my sort of life you soon learn that forgiveness is not for you, and as for love, well. The men who bought my body for their pleasure despised me as much as they needed me. They thought more of their donkeys than they did of me. You ask why I did it then? For money, of course. But do you think I had a choice? Do you think that’s the life I would have chosen? Of course not. But I had no choice — I was damaged goods. If I wanted to survive I needed money although there’ve been plenty of times when death seemed preferable. You’re a wealthy man, sir, respected by your peers, they seek your opinions, can you imagine what it’s like to be looked down upon by everyone? From your friends in high places who treated me as a commodity to be used and forgotten until the next time my services were required, to your servants who spat on me and shunned me. When I was pushed over on the street, not one person came to my aid or asked if I was all right. I believed there was no-one in this world who cared one jot for me, no-one who thought that I had any value or worth, except the going rate for today. And even that got less with the years. All I had to look forward to was the day when I would discover that I was truly worthless and I would have to resort to begging on the streets.

But the teacher told me something different. When he spoke of love, it was not just for everyone else but for me too. He promised me forgiveness. I could have sat and listened to him forever. But all too soon the darkness of the night came and the crowds began to disperse. I tried to make my way towards him but there were too many people all going the other way, and he had gone before I could reach him. I made up my mind then that some day I would tell him how his words had touched me, how I wanted to believe his promises.

Then a few weeks ago, a Pharisee came to our house to hire women to wait at table. He liked to hire the prettiest, the ones who would entertain his guests if they wanted. When I heard him say that the teacher would be at the banquet I quickly adjusted my dress, hurried over and gave the Pharisee my most alluring smile. He hired me on the spot.

I don’t earn much but over the years I’ve been working, I’ve saved some money, not a lot but I hoped it would help me when the time came that men would no longer pay me for their pleasure. I kept my bag of coins hidden away in my room. But on the day of the banquet I took it all and bought a jar of the best perfumed oil I could afford. I hid it under the robe I wore that night. All evening I served food, poured wine, and tried to avoid the hands that reached out to grab and stroke me. I didn’t want the teacher to see me in that way. And all the while I looked for my chance. At last it arrived. The teacher was lying on a couch and amidst the bustle I crept up and knelt at his feet. He looked down at me and I wanted to say something, to tell him what his words had meant to me, but I couldn’t speak. His face was full of love but there was a deep sorrow there too, and I suddenly thought of my mother. The last time I saw her, when I was just a small child, before I was taken away. She’d looked at me with that same mixture of love and sorrow. I began to cry. The tears fell from my eyes and dropped onto his feet. I was embarrassed to think that the dirt from me was running over him. I undid the braid and let my hair fall forward so I could dry his feet. Then I remembered the oil I had brought. I broke the bottle and let the oil flow over his skin while I rubbed it in with my hair. By now, of course, the room had gone silent and everyone was watching. Some people were laughing; some were angry; one exclaimed at the waste. The Pharisee was the last one to notice. As soon as he saw me he came rushing over and grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me to my feet. ‘I’m sorry, master,’ he said, ‘this girl should not be bothering you. I’ll send her away.’ ‘No, Simon,’ the teacher said. ‘She may sit at my feet as long as she wants.’ ‘Do you not know what she is, master?’ the Pharisee said, and the teacher said, ‘I know everything about her.’ Then he turned to me and he said, and you’ll find this hard to believe, he said, ‘Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.’

My sins are forgiven. Can you understand what those words meant to me? The years of shame and guilt that he was taking away. Have you ever sinned? No, of course not, you’re an upright honest citizen, a pillar of the community, you wouldn’t possibly understand the joy of being washed clean when you’re so dirty that you can’t remember what it was like to be clean.

I’ve been travelling with the teacher and his friends ever since. His mother found me some better clothes to wear and they all share their food with me. It doesn’t please everyone though. You see the one leaning over, whispering in the teacher’s ear, that’s Peter, oh, you know him, well, he doesn’t like me. He never speaks to me if he can help it and when it’s his turn to share out the food I always get a smaller portion than everyone else. But it doesn’t matter. As long as I can be near the teacher and hear his words. And be there when he walks by and puts his hand under my chin and says, ‘Lift up your head and look at me,’ and I can feel his purifying love pouring straight into my heart.

Look, the teacher is about to start again. And Peter has found a seat for you — well away from me. Go, listen, hear the teacher. Don’t look so worried, I won’t tell anyone where we met — I’ve already forgotten. Can you forget as easily?

Blessed are the peacemakers

Are you a peacemaker?

If you are a child of God is it your duty to be a peacemaker?

a) a) Yes, of course it is.

b) b) No, I don’t think that’s what it says.

c) c) Maybe not obligatory but desirable.

Is peacemaking the same as peacekeeping?

a) a) No.

b) b) Yes, sort of.

c) c) It can be.

Can you make peace with a gun in your hand?

a) a) Never.

b) b) Sometimes you have to.

c) c) It’s probably not the best way.

Can you make peace for others if you yourself don’t have peace?

a) a) No, if you don’t know peace yourself you can’t impose it on others.

b) b) Yes, it’s easier to do it for others because you’re detached from the problem.

c) c) When I wear my mask I can do anything.

How did you do?

Mostly As: you see things clearly and can go to the heart of a problem and help resolve it. You are a good peacemaker.

Mostly Bs: You can see both sides of the argument and can help the protagonists to see it from the other’s viewpoint. You are a good peacemaker.

Mostly Cs: You’re probably me.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Blessed are the pure in heart

The heart surgeon was operating on an old woman. When he opened up her chest everyone in the theatre gasped as a bright light appeared to shine from her heart. The glow didn’t dim as he operated and was still there when he sewed her back up.

A few days later he called in to the ward to see how she was progressing. He examined her and pronounced her to be doing well. ‘You should be able to go home in a day or two,’ he said. He was about to move on to the next patient when he stopped and sat down on the chair next to the woman’s bed.

‘We had a surprise when we cut you open,’ he said.

‘Oh dear,’ the old woman looked concerned.

‘Oh, it’s nothing to worry about,’ he reassured her, ‘but it was unusual. Your heart,’ he paused, trying to find the right words, ‘your heart appeared to be shining brightly.’

‘Ah, I see,’ the old woman smiled.

‘You don’t seem very surprised?’

‘Well, I’m a Christian, aren’t I?’

The surgeon laughed, ‘You must be a very good Christian then. I’ve never seen a glowing heart before.’

‘What? Never?’ The old woman sounded surprised.

The surgeon glanced at the nurse doing the rounds with him. He seemed reluctant to speak but finally he admitted, ‘I have seen it before on occasion but never shining as brightly as yours. Like I said, you must be a very good Christian.’

‘Me? A good Christian. Oh, no, I’m a very bad Christian.’

He looked at the kindly old woman lying on the bed before him and said, ‘I find that hard to believe.’

‘In my life I’ve lied, I’ve gossiped, I’ve hurt people, I’ve made the wrong choices and done bad things. I’ve envied others and been jealous of what they have, I’ve cheated and been unwilling to forgive. Believe me, I’m a very bad Christian.’

The surgeon laughed again. ‘If you say so but how do you explain the shining heart then?’

‘Oh that’s not me, dear; that’s Jesus.’

Blessed are the merciful

God, teach me mercy.

Show me others through your eyes.

Help me to see beneath the mask, the words, and the actions.

Let me see the person you created from the outpouring love of your heart.

God, teach me mercy.

Show me how to care, to forgive, to have patience, forbearance, tolerance, compassion.

God, teach me mercy.

Let me be slow to judge.

Let me be slow to anger.

Help me to not seek vengeance.

God, teach me mercy.

Help me to love my enemies.

Help me to acknowledge our differences without condemnation or compromise.

God, teach me mercy.

May I never forget the incredible mercy you have shown to me.

May I never take it for granted.

May my soul overflow with praise and gratitude.

May words of thankfulness and blessing be on my lips.

May your mercy and grace sustain me all of my days.

God, teach me mercy.

Blessed are the meek

Gentle Jesus meek and mild

But was it a meek man who threw the traders out of the temple?

Was it showing meekness to compare the Pharisees with whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones?

Was it demonstrating submissiveness to break the law by forgiving sins, gathering food on the Sabbath, or mingling with sinners?

Was it meek to fight injustice, to stand up for the poor and disenfranchised?


He was meek when they abused him, when they whipped him, when they led him to the cross. At this, the greatest injustice in history, the one man who had a right to say, ‘No, stop, this isn’t fair,’ took the punishment.

Not my will but yours

A rallying call to God’s children.

The meek fight battles for those who can’t

stand side by side with the outcast

wash the feet of the dirty

shed tears for the fatherless

defend the unlovely

care for the lost.

The meek are not downtrodden but strong

Not submissive but clear of vision

Not passive but passionate

The meek don’t take unfairness lying down

But take their stand with

Gentle Jesus meek and mild

Blessed are those who mourn


are those who

mourn for they know

what it is to love. They have trodden in the footsteps

of Christ.

Blessed are the poor in spirit

I am spiritually bankrupt.

The store of good deeds I keep under the bed is all used up.

The brownie points in the safety deposit box have been declared null and void.

Even my secret numbered Swiss bank account, the repository for my gold stars, has been closed for lack of deposits.

I have nothing.

So I am blessed.

But even as I write this I wonder, do I really believe it?

That there is truly nothing I can do?

Isn’t there a bit of me that thinks surely the patience I used in my dealings with my boss must be rewarded?

God must be watching me when I insist on fairtrade tea.

My generosity must earn me a better seat at the feast.

It must.

And isn’t that easier to accept?

That I can earn if not my way then at least a trouble-free passage into heaven.

An ABC of boxes to tick.

Didn’t swear when provoked by a stupid man driver: tick.

Did make extra effort to deal gently with my mother-in-law: tick.

Did make time for a friend when I didn’t really have time: tick.

Didn’t feel proud of myself for that act of nobility: cross.

And I find myself again at the cross, aware that even these superficialities of behaviour don’t even scratch the surface of my sinful self.

And at the cross I kneel,

Head bowed, empty handed, acknowledging my need

Wanting to believe

Wanting to accept

Wanting to be accepted

Wondering why it’s so hard to



That I can be




Not through me

But through you

In whom my treasure lives.