Monday, March 1, 2010
the place of Judas
that's him, 4th from the left (traditionally). his head is in the shadows and he's clutching a money bag. i've been in some conversations where Judas was painted as pure evil and i've read some historical novels that played up on the idea that he was a zealot (Iscariot means "dagger carrier" apparently) who was only trying to bring about the kingdom through violent means. it's an interesting discussion i think and it has ramifications in all sorts of other areas of theology.
was he at the table for the Lord's Supper? yes he was.
was he baptized and therefore a believer? yes he was.
did he travel as one of the 12 and do all the things they did? yes he did.
how does that affect our views of the sacraments? how does that affect our view of salvation? how does that change our views of theology altogether?
i don't claim to have the answers except to say that he was there, he believed, he did the things that all the disciples did, he betrayed and he ended up "in the place where he belonged" in the end.
i came upon these thoughts after a "Definitely NOT Sunday School" discussion at our church community yesterday. we've been discussing communion and trying to discern whether we should/want to open the table so that anyone and everyone can partake. the ones that we are most concerned about are the children amongst us since we would like to include them in the grace offered in the eucharist. we discussed a lot of church history and how the Lord's Table has always been linked to baptism since the Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve) in 95 CE. perhaps we have wrongly done so however, and i argue that we have the example of Judas to say that perhaps we should go another way. i hate that i have the example of Judas however so let's throw Peter into the same boat since he took part in the sacraments also and still denied Christ. i suspect that many of us can relate to Peter much more easily than we can relate to Judas anyway.
the word Eucharist is taken from a greek root word (charis) meaning grace. i've long thought that there is something very transformative in the Lord's Table, that it's more than a declaration of faith like baptism is. i'll argue that grace is imparted to the individual when they take this bread and take this wine. if a person is baptized and declaring themselves to be following Christ then the grace is apparent and transformative whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. but what of the "outsider"? what of the person who is on the road toward Christ but just starting out on the journey? what if they take the bread and wine and that in itself is an act of faith? this person is not baptized like the Didache and church history demands of us but still ... do they believe? do they have faith? does their faith save them? of course it does.
when John Wesley trolled the fields of Britain preaching and teaching, did he bother to question every one of the thousands who came his way to ask if they were baptized, washed in the blood of the lamb and worthy to partake of the grace being offered to them in the eucharist? uh, no he didn't. first of all, there were thousands of people showing up at these things. thousands of "seekers" who weren't necessarily baptized even as infants. yet they came and they believed. they called that the Great Awakening in Britain for a reason; people were waking up to ways of faith.
ok, so i come back to Judas (and Peter too). Jesus knew he would betray him ... and yet he offered him the eucharist; he knew he would deny him and yet, he offered him the eucharist. grace was offered to the outsider and Peter accepted it. now i should point out that Judas took it too but i don't want to get into what i believe about where Judas ended up other than agreeing with the early church that "he ended up where he belonged". so grace redeemed Peter but it was offered to both.
what if grace is offered to every outsider? is baptism a necessary prerequisite? Jesus offered it to someone he KNEW would betray him and another he KNEW would deny him. what if grace is offered to every visitor to our gatherings and every child, even when we don't know where they stand in their journey with God? isn't the act of asking for grace an act of faith? i suppose in the case of a child they may just be asking for a piece of bread and a sip of grape juice but perhaps this too is an act of faith and if it isn't then we don't hurt them by giving them good things.
we do the church an injustice with all inquisitions around worthiness at the table, and don't get me started on 1 Corinthians because the context of the discussion of worthiness has nothing to do with personal sin like we so often argue for it. if someone is coming into the Lord's Table and eating all the bread or drinking all the wine then you probably have a problem that 1 Corinthians can help you with but worrying about whether you're a good enough Christian before you take part in the grace offered at the table isn't the point whatsoever. grace is a product of faith and you should view the table as a birthright and not an obligation.
ok i threw that last bit in for free (wait, it's ALL free) but i got away from my argument for a second there. the point is that the outsider who reaches out in faith should be afforded grace that the eucharist offers to them. if Christ can offer grace to someone like Judas then i certainly have no business questioning where someone else is with regard to their own walk of faith.
there is real power in the phrases "This is the body of Christ, broken for you" and "This is the blood of Christ, shed for you" when you offer it to your neighbour. they're transforming phrases that change whole lives. they move mountains of unbelief and they bring souls rushing to the Creator of all things as they reach out in faith toward common elements and eternal concepts.
i personally have struggled with what my choice will be as we discuss communion in our circle. i'm pleased that things are coming together for me as i try to figure out what i believe in this area. i believe the outsider MUST be included, because they may accept their own act of faith and do great things with it as God works miracles in a heart.
He's still working miracles in hearts, including mine.