Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Judas, son of Simon Iscariot" (John 6:71)

If I am allowed to feel awarded during Lent I certainly felt so this evening when, in the middle of atrocious weather, a goodly number of people attended Evening Prayer, after which I delivered the first of my weekly Lent Lectures. The title? Characters of Holy Week. #1 Judas Iscariot.

I had forgotten how strenuous it is to prepare for such a delivery. In essence there are two days of thought, planning, research and checking, noting , writing and editing that condense into a short lecture. Exhausting though this may be, I always rediscover my love of this work, and am able to channel so much energy into the final product and delivery. I believe that the first "talk" was well received, and some gracious comments were undeserved. You can judge for yourself. This and every Lenten title can be heard on the parish website,

Four of us lingered afterward to think about Judas' suicide (accepting Matthew's gospel account as being more realistic than the Luke/Acts story.) That awful question came: What do you think of suicide?

Privately, my mind went back some three years to SL, a parishioner and friend who took her own life in a lonely place in upstate New York. Preaching at such a memorial is a grim task without much light or hope. Yet I reminded people that the oft-quoted Anglican priest and poet John Donne was tempted at many times in his life to end his own temporal existance.

I have often such a sickly inclination. And whensoever my affliction assails me, me thinks I have the keys of my prison in my own hand, and no remedy presents itself so soon to my heart, as mine own sword. [Biathanatos. Preface. 1647.]

These are words that people who gush at Donne's phrases such as, "No man is an island entire of itself..." find so foreign and extreme, yet they are from the same pen.

Driving home I wondered about Judas' suicide. What went through the mind of the man who betrayed the one who was to be proclaimed the Christ? His friend and teacher. Judas, son of Simon Iscariot (and what did his father think of all this, not to mention his good Jewish mother?) has been demonized in the Christian world, but I sometimes wonder if we should cut him more slack. After all he was a human being, and, God knows, we human beings fail and betray every single day.

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