Rev. Andrew Cunnington
29th August 2021
The Judas Money Box

When he saw the woman pouring expensive ointment over the feet of Jesus, Judas Iscariot stood up exclaimed “Why is this ointment not being sold for three hundred coins, and given to the poor. Judas said this not that he cared for the poor, but because he was in charge of the money box and he used to take what was put into it, for he was a thief. On top of everything else.

Back in your school days, did you ever have a summer job?

I cleared tables at the Lyons coffee house in Worthing for a couple of years, for four pounds and ten shillings a week.

I delivered leaflets for our local Vivo supermarket in exchange for chocolate bars under the counter.

I was a gardener to elderly parishioners, learning the art of long tea breaks and chat, that meant there was only a little time for actual work.

The Lloyds Bank stocks and shares department employed me to write the words, “cannot locate” next to the addresses of missing shareholders on huge volumes of computer print outs.

But I also worked for a few weeks for a national charity which had better remain nameless. I had to deliver two hundred collection envelopes to houses each week and then return to collect the proceeds a couple of days later. Then man from the charity would come to open them up with me every Thursday evening and I would get 25% of the takings.

So if someone gave a ten shilling note as it was then – or a £1 note or even a £5 note – I would be rubbing my hand over the thought of my cut.

Now back in those days, as opposed to now, churches will filled with spoilsports, and when I bragged rather too loudly about the source of my income – it was suggested that my manner of occupation was not entirely Christian!

After all, I was told, if I was giving a pound to that charity, I’m not sure I would be very happy to know that such a lot of it was keeping you in sweets and comics.

This hit my guilty conscience big time for I was, and am, a sensitive child!

I resigned shamefaced two weeks later – the charity man couldn’t understand where I was coming from. “Your loss then” he said unkindly.

I never dared to ask what his cut was.

But ever since then, I have always questioned my deep down motivation for doing things and when you are a Vicar that can leave you in a right old tangle.

And such a theme runs uncomfortably through our two readings today.

In the letter of James we are reminded that every generous act we perform does not come from just from our own benevolence – but is motivated by the God within us.

What comes forth from us in words and deeds is a reflection of the treasure of his love in us, and we can soon see whether we are letting it all go – or keeping a sizeable cut for ourselves.

Make your giving generous and perfect and make the words you speak measured and kind – or else you are falling short of the person you are in Christ.

I do actually take issue a bit with the idea that all is God motivated – as I like to think we have the capacity to surprise, even the almighty, with an unexpected kindness.

Similarly in the Gospel, we can put up all the outward show we like but it all comes to nothing unless that which motivates us comes from deep within. The place where His heart and my heart actually meet.

Jesus was getting at the Pharisees of course – because he could see the discontinuity between what they said and what they did.

Keep the traditions of your faith, yes of course, but when those traditions start to serve your own sense of uprightness, and nothing more, you know they are counterfeit.

That which comes out of a person can either defile or bless.

Jesus never reached into the lives of anyone in order to enhance his reputation or increase his personal standing – it was always because every word and every action stemmed from what he believed. His whole ministry was like a parable in action.

So I reckon we each have our own little Judas Money box and we can use its contents for our own personal use or for the greater good of others, or we can just withhold it.

Our heart is a battleground between good and evil.

Life is full of God’s blessings and he intends us to enjoy them, his love is not to be spurned out of guilt. But the measure we keep and the measure we share has to be balanced. This is not just about money, but about whatever gifts and talents and opportunities we possess, the words we say to others and the things we do for others. Every part of who we are comes into play as we seek to love our neighbours.

Prayer is about opening up the contents of our own boxes and examining what’s there and resolving each day and each moment what it is we need to bring forth as in the guise of friend or stranger, Christ crosses our path.

MARK 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
JOHN 12: 5