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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Walking away from the meal: thoughts on Passover and Judas

Today we remember the Jewish passover, the ancient tradition instituted by God through Moses, in which the story of the descendants of Abraham as slaves in Egypt freed by miraculous intervention is told and retold.  And because we are learners who live in bodies, this story comes with props, bitter herbs and pierced flatbread and cups of wine.  This is the very meal Jesus was celebrating with his twelve disciples on the night he was betrayed.  And though the meal is meant to create community, a common story, a redemptive framework upon generations of suffering, an assurance of things hoped for . . . Judas walked out that night.  This was the painting featured in today's Biola Lent devotion:
The background is a scene of sustenance. Food, wine, readings, prayer, talking, laughing.  Friends.  Yet Judas is glancing back for one last glimpse of that light as he heads into the shadow.

Which is an important detail.  This moment sets in motion the entire arrest and crucifixion, yes.  But this moment also encapsulates God's choice to effect history through humans.  So often when we look at the mess we've made, we wonder why God doesn't immediately zap out all the tears and straighten everything up right now.  But Jesus let Judas walk away.  And ever since, redemption comes quietly, one man dying and rising, and two millennia of followers doing the same. Billions of daily choices, to embrace the light, to sit at the table, to raise a glass to Jesus.  Or to turn away from the feast, to slip into the dark shadows of hate and greed and jealousy and violence.  We will never fully understand the mystery of that plan, of how God's goodness and love win the universe over to wholeness in a sure and inevitable plan that still lurches along asking humans to participate. Once for all on Easter weekend, then seeping out to the frayed edges every second since.

The nation freed at Passover turned back from freedom repeatedly.  They remembered Egypt with rose-colored longing whenever the going got too tough (and it was tough).  And we daily devalue the bread and the wine set out for us as we cram all kinds of empty calories that cannot satisfy.  

The blog has been quiet as we traveled to the Christian Medical and Dental Association biannual meeting for continuing medical education for health care providers all over Africa, the Middle East, central Asia.  Over 900 doctors, nurses, therapists, parents, kids, professors, program directors, board members, etc assembled for nine days of an overwhelmingly rich meal.  Seven lectures a day x 4-8 choices per time slot x 9 days of programming, plus morning preaching and evening extras . . it was a feast, for sure.  We were challenged to some big-picture strategic thinking and updated on the science of medicine.  We had numerous meals with younger (mostly!) medical families, hoping to encourage them.  We cheered on the Sergers giving presentations . . . after almost two decades of coming to these meetings as the only doctors our Serge area, we had a solid team of co-workers at this one, and most of them in teaching roles! The conference is like the table in the background of the painting, rich with fellowship and content.  But now we and others have the choice to embrace and continue, or turn and walk away.  Praying that we will stay with the table even when it's hard to see Jesus there, and not be fooled by the shadows.
Another rich table, Rodger B instructing me on intubation skills at a workshop at the conference, photo by Ari

we had a full day off and hiked up a small mountain in a protected area along the coast, which for us is an invitation to God's feast of beauty in nature

In that same spirit, prayers appreciated for Scott as we head to Uganda tomorrow.  He's invited to speak at a weekend conference for Ugandan medical students, in memory of Dr. Jonah Kule.  We'd like to challenge them and point them by faith to sit at the table of service with Jesus, and not go chasing unsatisfying wealth and comfort.  

Blessings to your Easter weekends.  Here's the Passover Guide we like though I'm sure there are many, and again the Biola link for the Scripture-poetry-art-music-devotional thought-prayer each day.

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