Betrayal - sharing prayers of confession for our own betrayal of Jesus

3    Betrayal – sharing prayers of confession for our own betrayal of Jesus

Sharing Friendship                                                                                          30 minutes

As people arrive light refreshments are served.  Place two glasses [or paper cups] as this week’s ‘table ornament’ for reflection on the table among the refreshments.  They will need preparing before hand.  On one glass the following words are written:  ‘take this cup away from me’.  On the other glass the following words are written:  ‘Yet not what I want, but what you want’.  The inscription can be done very simply – pen on a paper cup, label stuck to a glass … or more artistically with ink or paint on glass.  This idea was prompted by a wonderful piece of art in ‘Made Flesh’, an exhibition in School of Art at the University of Gloucestershire at which Greenbelt awarded a prize of £500.  Susan Saratin’s piece consisted of four glass goblets engraved with this text.   It will be helpful to have a low table in the middle of the room, or at some appropriate focal point, where the two glasses can be placed as the second part of the session begins.  You will also need paper and pens for the section ‘Sharing Prayer’.

Once the group is settled and everyone has arrived gather the group together and begin to focus the conversation a little more.

·       go round the circle and invite each person to recall some of the things that they have been doing over the last week, and share anything special that has happened.
·       go round the circle a second time and invite people to recall anything they have done in the last week in response to the thoughts and prayers that were shared last week.

Sharing Reflections on the Bible                                                                     30 minutes

Take the first glass and read the inscription … Take this cup from me.  And place it on the table at the centre of the circle.  Then take the second cup, Yet, not what I want, but what you want.  And place it alongside the first on the table.

This evening we are going to focus on the most personal of prayers – the prayers we share when we are at our lowest, the prayers we share that have an honesty which is sometimes confined to our own inner thoughts as we make confession, the prayers we share that release the deepest sense of peace which Christ promises us.  The idea for our two glasses came from a wonderfully thought-provoking exhibition at the School of Art in the University of Gloucestershire.  Susan Saratin’s piece was made up of four glass goblets inscribed with the words of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus came to break barriers down and to  build friendships up.  He reached out to people whose needs were very great ... and expected his followers to do likewise.  What he had to say challenged those who heard it ... and pricked their conscience too.  Matthew gathers the teaching of Jesus together into five great addresses.  The first, the Sermon on the Mount,  begins with the Beatitudes and ends with a parable contrasting the wisdom of those who act on the words they hear from Jesus and the folly of those who do not:

Read Matthew 7:24-27

The last address delivered by Jesus in that fateful last week in Jerusalem begins in Matthew 23 with warnings of woe to those who are religious in a wrong way and ends with a parable contrasting those who follow Christ faithfully as they reach out to people in need and those who do not.

Read Matthew 25:31-46

What do you make of these two stories?  Are you challenged to be a wise builder and a sheep?  Or are you humbled and conscious of being too often like the foolish builder and a goat?  What are these stories saying that can feed into our time of prayer as we share in prayers of confession for our own betrayal of Jesus?

Allow the group simply to share their responses to these questions - as leader you might look out for some of these points ...

Points to look out for in Matthew 7:24-27 and Matthew 25:31-46

·       look at Matthew 7:24 - invite members of the group to identify the ‘words of Jesus’ in the Sermon on the Mount which they find most challenging and most humbling.
·       in the light of Matthew 7:24-27 do you think that the Sermon on the Mount sets out an ideal that can never be achieved or a practical set of guidelines for the way we live our lives?
·       focus on Matthew 25:35-36 and 42-43.  When do we see Jesus hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in prison?  If we are overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy in the response we make what do we do about it?  How does that prompt us to pray?
·       notice the way Jesus has little time for those who think that they are righteous and good and all the time in the world for those who are all too conscious of their inadequacies - compare the response of the righteous and the response of the others in 37-39 and 44.
·       notice the way that Jesus’ words of woe in Matthew 23 are aimed at those who think that they are righteous; compare also the words that lead into the parable of the two builders in Matthew 7:21-23.

Allow a good period of time sharing reflections on these passages. Be sensitive in this discussion:  it will probably highlight how much there is to do, and how little we can accomplish.  It is important to lead on from that sense of inadequacy to the next reflections ...

Jesus had little time for those who thought they were righteous, but all the time in the world for those who were conscious of their own inadequacies.   Are there any stories of Jesus which speak to you about the forgiving love of God that Jesus offers to those who let him down?  Prompt the group to think of the forgiving love of God in stories such as Zacchaeus, the Woman caught in adultery, and focus especially on the saying on the cross, ‘Father, forgive them ...

In the light of these reflections on the Bible how should we shape the prayers we share for ourselves in the light of our own inadequacies?

Finish this part of the evening by inviting people to share thoughts that can feed into the last part of the evening, sharing prayer.  It may be helpful to highlight the value of prayers of confession, followed by thanksgiving for the forgiveness of God, followed by prayers seeking the strength of God’s Spirit to follow more closely in the footsteps of Jesus.

Sharing Prayer                                                                                                            30 minutes

Play some quiet, reflective music.  Place the two glasses on the table in the centre of the circle, or in some appropriate place.  Read out the inscriptions on each glass as you place it on the table.

Read Matthew 26:30-50 [choose a translation which includes the word ‘Friend’ as the first of Jesus’ words in verse 50 and stop at that word.  E.g., New Revised Standard Version.

Play the prayer meditation ‘Betrayal’ from Jesus forever the same, the third part of the Video, Jesus, today, tomorrow, forever?

We are asked to think for a moment of something that troubles us in our own hearts.  It may be something which we feel has let Jesus down, it might be a friend we have let down, a secret we have let out, a confidence we have broken; it might be a person we passed by, a need we ignored, a victim we had no time for; it might be a homeless person we avoided when we turned our eyes away.

Let everyone have a small piece of paper [eg a post-it note] and a pen.   Play some quiet music ... leave the music playing as you explain ....

Now let’s think of one thing that troubles us in particular ... and write it down on the piece of paper.  This is simply a personal note ... no one else is going to read what we have written.

Pause for a moment until everyone has finished writing.  Now fade out the music.

Now we are invited to crumple our piece of paper into a tiny ball - you may like to shred it first!  On the table are two glasses - one says, ‘Take this cup away from me’.  The other says, ‘not what I want, but what You want’.  Think for a moment:  which glass would you like to put your piece of paper in?  Whichever glass is chosen ... let’s think in our mind’s eye that we are off-loading into God’s hands the things.

To each of us Jesus has words of comfort and of peace to share.

Play the part at the end of Act 2 of Jesus for Today on the Video where the Women share Words of Comfort and Peace from John 14-16.

Read Philippians 4:4-9

Take the Trade badge, which people have been invited to wear.

May this cross and these scales of justice remind us
of those who are hungry and
of those who are thirsty,
of those who are strangers and
of those who are naked,
of those who are sick and
of those who are in prison.

Put a new spirit within our hearts
of commitment to our community and to our world.

Be with those let down by society,
by employment, by their families,
by friends and neighbours and by themselves.
Be with those let down by the world,
by an unjust sharing of the world’s resources,
by injustice in world trade.

Put a new spirit within our hearts
of commitment to our community and to our world.

Guide those in positions of power and influence
empower those who serve with sensitivity and compassion.
Our community is your community,
our world is your world,
divided by 2000 years but nothing more.
Problems and needs just the same,
fear and isolation just the same.
you forgave,
your forgive
Jesus, unchanging,
Jesus, forever the same.

Say the Grace together.

After a short pause, play some quiet music once more.  Have copies of the prayer meditation ready for people to take home.  Have available the Trade badge for anyone else who may be prompted to wear it.