When some cool high street barista asks for your name with your coffee order have you ever found that they misheard you and called you something weird. Or have you ever given a weird name. It seems that Richard Ashcroft lead singer of the Verve, remember Bitterweet Symphony, was in a New York cafe and he gave the name Judas. He was shocked at the response. How could a name from thousands of years ago provoke such reaction, he wondered. Surely its time to let it go.
play… THE VERVE - JUDAS
The spark that lit Bono’s Gethsemane flame was a book of poems by Irish poet Brendan Kennelly called The Book of Judas. Kennelly’s work is quite a tome, eight years of poems, where profanity sits alongside Christ as he looks at the Judas of Gethsemane, the Judas in our culture and the Judas in us all.
In his preface, he asks questions like: Was Judas “A man whose vision of things was being throttled by another, more popular vision?”
Kennelly asks if… “Judas is a “spirit not confined to the man who bore the name Judas but one more alive and consequential now at the famined, bloated, trivialized, analytical, bomb-menaced, progressive, money-mad, reasonable end of the twentieth century than ever before?”
Judas is not someone we give a lot of time to. Most of us see him as Satan incarnate who sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver. If only Judas’ story was that simple. Judas and his story were so complex that Bob Dylan had wondered if Judas Iscariot had God on his side? It’s a mighty question that like so many other things we want to ignore.
Brendan Kennelly’s thoughts on Judas definitely influenced U2 take on Judas. Until The End Of The World was recorded around the same time. It is one their most enduring live song.
Bono obsession with Scripture takes him right inside the story.
The closeness of the bride and groom was a wonderful image of the return of Christ at the end of the world, and missing too much, if you stop to think seems to have been a shot across the bows of post-modern culture. Kissing Jesus and breaking his heart brings to life this part of the passion story that seems to have lost its flesh and blood and feelings and pain. Judas’ emotions after the act is done are conveyed in musical moments of guitarist Edge’s genius.
No sermon or Easter reflection could quite conjure such a roller coaster insight into this vital event to the redemption of the world.
play… U2 - UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD
Indulge me to one more rock star commentary. Lady Ga Ga has also her song about Judas.
She says of her take on Judas:
"I keep going back and forth between the darkness and the light in order to understand who I am.”
“Someone once said to me, 'If you have no shadows then you're not standing in the light.' So the song is about washing the feet of both good and evil and understanding and forgiving the demons from your past in order to move into the greatness of your future.”
Like Bono, Kennelly and Ga Ga I always spend at least some part of Holy Week I always give myself a day to looking at the actions of Judas, looking out for where he sneaks around in our society…
Are you there
In a society kissing God goodbye
As we write our agendas of more and more
Of building bigger barns to horde treasure on earth
Are you there
In our wee country kissing God goodbye
As we fight for a land for ourselves
That we don’t want to share with others
Because others are different
And others might impinge on our traditions and our comfort
… and then I ask God to search my heart to see where the traces of Judas are in me.
I hear you cry from inside myself
When I get frustrated
That my prayers don’t get answered the way I want
And no one listens to me
Or people criticise the contributions I make
Or nobody asks me to make one
And God doesn’t seem to be living out my agenda.
Was Judas just a guy trying to manipulate his agenda and push Jesus into doing it his way? What is my agenda that I want to manipulate Jesus into fulfilling; a political one; an economic one, a theological one? In the end my biggest question is,
Do I still cling to my thoughts and ambitions instead of the revolutionary upside down ones of Jesus that has us picking up crosses and not crowns?
play… LADY GA GA - JUDAS