“So, today, on Spy Wednesday, take a moment and look behind you. See how God has already been faithful to you, even when, like Judas, you participate in betrayals of all kinds.”
Wednesday in Holy Week
Spy Wednesday. Despite all my years of Christian formation, to include an advanced degree in it, I didn’t know this day had a name until, in preparation for this article, I googled, “the Wednesday of Holy Week.” Because it is the day we remember that Judas Iscariot met with the Sanhedrin to plot his betrayal of Jesus, because Judas and the Jewish priests acted as spies to do Jesus in, we have a descriptive albeit little remembered name for this day.
So today, Spy Wednesday, let’s claim our heritage and reflect on the ways we, like Judas, are tempted to betray God, ourselves, and others. After we reflect on our own humanness, then let us also use this day to reflect on all the ways God does not betray us.
It is the human condition to see most things in retrospect, to notice more when we look behind us than we can possibly notice in the present. Even the most aware, conscious, mindful humans cannot see as clearly in the present as we can with a nod to the past. Time and distance give us fresh lenses through which we can often see not only more, but more clearly. In “The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament,” Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos say, “when we look back we can see how God was leading us, and we behold his glory in our lives, the beauty of his saving love. Yet, when we are in the middle of it, it may not seem very beautiful at all.”¹
Looking Back; Looking Inward
So, Spy Wednesday gives us a chance to set a special intention of looking back over our Lenten journey. With this in mind, we might ask ourselves:
When in the last 37 days was I a bit like Judas, tempted to betray God? Have I broken a promise? How and when have I forgotten that I am a child of the Divine? How have I betrayed myself in the past 37 days? Have I let myself down? Cheated myself or others? Pushed too hard? Forgotten how my actions not only affect myself but affect others, affect community? When have I ignored my need for Sabbath and not given God the chance to show me that my busyness, even if I am busy with Holy work, is no more important than my need to rest.
When you look behind you at the last 37 days, where has God been faithful to you during your Lenten journey? What ordinary miracles have made themselves known to you? Have you been clobbered by grace or had a waterfall miracle, you know those big, huge miracles that happen and we have no other option except to just be stunned? How has God been leading you through the wilderness and into the land of milk and honey?
When you are done naming all the ways God has been present to you since Ash Wednesday, all the ways grace has shown itself to you in the midst of your own betrayals, then let’s look to the future. Gleaned from the writing of Walter Brueggemann, specifically in his book Hope Within History,² the Reverend Michael Anderson Bullock wrote in a recent sermon he gave at St.Thomas Church, Hanover, New Hampshire, “…the lesson of biblical faith, rooted in human history, is that God always comes to us from the future. Among other reasons, this explains why we are so often surprised when we encounter the holy. Too often we are looking in the wrong direction, backwards and not looking ahead. Undoubtedly, this explains why when angels are encountered throughout the Bible story that the first words out of the divine messenger’s mouths is: “Don’t be afraid.”³
New Life; New Possibilities
So, in addition to seeing God in our past and in the present, we can also expect God to come to us, to call to us, from in front of us. “C’mon, c’mon, I am calling you to new life, new possibilities, new awarenesses.” After we think it’s all over, God calls Jesus out of the grave and makes a declaration that should keep us all expecting God to call us forward. God says, “I conquer hate with love. I won’t abandon you. Life, death, and then resurrection is my way.”
So, today, on Spy Wednesday, take a moment and look behind you. See how God has already been faithful to you, even when, like Judas, you participate in betrayals of all kinds. And when you are done with that, look to the future, and let yourself imagine what the God who is pure love, pure creativity, pure transformation, might be raising up in you.
1. Rohr, Richard and Joseph Martos. The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament. St. Anthony Mess. Press: Cincinnati, 1987, 23-24.
2. Brueggemann, Walter. Hope Within History. John Know Press: Atlanta, 1987.
3. With permission from and thanks to the Reverend Michael Anderson Bullock.