About djgrieser

I have been Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, WI since 2009. I'm passionate about Jesus Christ and about connecting our faith and tradition with 21st century culture. I'm also very active in advocating for our homeless neighbors.

Wednesday in Holy Week




Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by his friends: Give us grace to accompany him on his journey to the cross and to share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.–An alternative collect for Wednesday in Holy Week

Wednesday in Holy Week is traditionally known as Spy Wednesday, so-called because it is remembered as the day when Judas betrayed Jesus.

As I listened to the passion narrative from Mark’s gospel, I was struck by his depiction of Judas in relation to the other disciples. For some reason, I was surprised by Mark’s description of the Anointing at Bethany, where the criticism of the woman’s actions was put in the mouths of anonymous people at the meal (In Matthew, it’s the disciples; in Luke and John, it’s Judas). Mark immediately follows the anointing with Judas seeking out the chief priests and scribes, but doesn’t link the two events at all.

As the passion narrative builds, the theme of Jesus’ abandonment by his disciples becomes ever more important. Interestingly, Mark does not have Jesus identify Judas as his betrayer at the Last Supper. Instead, Jesus predicts one of them will betray him. A few verses later, as they begin the walk to Gethsemane, Jesus tells them they will all desert him, the occasion for him to predict that Peter will deny him.

Then comes the kiss, the betrayal and arrest, and Mark’s insertion of the story of the disciple who fled from the scene naked. Given that all of the disciples will abandon him, that Peter denied him, that Jesus cried from the cross in despair, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, far from being the worst sin ever committed, is on one end of a continuum that includes the actions of all of the disciples (and perhaps, God).

By John’s gospel, that’s no longer the case. He still doesn’t quite understand why Judas betrayed Jesus. He offers at least two explanations, that he was a thief (John 12:6) and that Satan entered him (John 13:2, 27). Over the centuries, Christians have come to view Judas in increasingly negative terms. One need only look at images of Judas from the Middle Ages or Renaissance to see the point clearly. He is depicted with animal-like features, demonic, or as the most Jewish-looking of the disciples. Giotto’s depiction of Judas is a good example of this.

What that demonization of Judas has done is let us (and the disciples) off the hook. Holy Week, the passion narratives invite us to imagine ourselves in the story, to see ourselves as one of the characters. A demonic Judas resists our efforts to see ourselves in that role as one who betrayed or abandoned Jesus, as one who was disappointed by Jesus and sought to force his hand. For all our faults, sins, and shortcomings, we can’t imagine ourselves the embodiment of evil like Judas has become.

But we should remember. Judas was a follower of Jesus, he did share in the last supper, receive the bread and wine. Even in John 13, where it’s possible to interpret Jesus’ actions in taking up the towel and basin as a response of his knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus washed his feet just he washed the feet of all the disciples.

We do need to see ourselves in Judas, as followers of Jesus who betray him in small and large ways, seeking our own glory, not his, expecting him to conform to our expectations of what a Messiah should be, demanding that he share our prejudices and values, giving him up to the powers and principalities of this world.

I wonder if there’s a message to us in John’s final juxtaposition of Judas’ departure and Jesus’ words: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus demonstrated his love for his disciples and the world. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. As his disciples, are we called to love Judas as Jesus did, and as Jesus loves and forgives the Judas in us?

Tuesday in Holy Week

04largepAlbrecht Duerer, Ecce Homo, (from the Large Passional)

The Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Monday in Holy Week

Originally posted on Fr. Jonathan's Blog:

385px-Albrecht_Dürer_-_Christ_Carrying_the_Cross_(NGA_1941.3.3)Albrecht Dürer, Christ Carrying the Cross

The Collect for Monday in Holy Week

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Way of the Cross is the Way of Justice: A Sermon for Palm Sunday, 2015

On Friday, a group of us from Madison’s Episcopal churches walked the stations of the cross in the downtown. The Stations of the Cross are a traditional Roman Catholic devotion, consisting of prayers and meditations commemorating Jesus’ journey from his condemnation to death to his burial. Traditionally there were fourteen stations, and they are a common fixture in most Roman Catholic, and many Episcopal churches, with images depicting each of the stations mounted on the walls of naves.

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Palm Sunday

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Feast of the Annunciation

campin_merode_midden_grt –Robert Campin, The Merode Altarpiece (1425-1430)

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, commemorating the story in Luke 1:26-38. It is the occasion for Mary’s hymn of praise, The Magnificat and has been a focus of Christian devotion for centuries. The angel’s greeting, “Hail Mary, full of grace” and Mary’s response, “Let it be with me according to your word” have shaped reflection and devotion to Mary, and served as models for Christian piety.

Meister Eckhart, the 14th century mystic said this:

We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us.

And this:

I affirm that had the Virgin not first borne God spiritually He would never have been born from her in bodily fashion. A certain woman said to Christ, “Blessed is the womb that bear Thee.” To which Christ answered, “Nay, rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.” It is more worthy of God that He be born spiritually of every pure and virgin soul, than that He be born of Mary. Hereby we should understand that humanity is, so to speak, the Son of God born from all eternity. The Father produced all creatures, and me among them, and I issued forth from Him with all creatures, and yet I abide in the Father. Just as the word which I now speak is conceived and spoken forth by me, and you all receive it, yet none the less it abides in me. Thus I and all creatures abide in the Father.

Marilynne Robinson on Religion, Society, and History in The Nation

In the 150th Anniversary edition of The Nation, there’s a brief interview with Marilynne Robnson, author of Gilead, Home, and Lila:

We have lived through a period when we can see religion used very harmfully in society, which is of course not unusual in human history, either. Perhaps it’s typical, because history is kind of a mess. The thing that I think it is important to remember is that every question is always real. People can’t be passively religious. They have to be critical of what is being presented to them as religion. They can’t be passively liberal. They have to think about the consequences of what they are assuming to be liberal values. Human existence is so complex and so volatile that there is never any fixed solution. There is never any fixed understanding. Everything requires moral scrutiny over again, always.