Saturday, March 30, 2013

I am Judas.


I "played" Judas, is more accurate. Last night was our church's, "GOOD FRIDAY" experience. All over the world, the Friday before Easter, people remember Jesus' crucifixion. And this year I happened to be stepping into a new role, so I was very excited to experiment and create, like an architect, a new structure in which to do that.

Before I continue, let me share a side note highlight:
I should blog about the great group of talented and committed people that gave their time for the past month to make this happen, so let me make a quick shout out to the PCC GF cast/crew, you know who you are: WAY TO GO!!  I was grateful to be on a team with you all. Well done and thank you!! So many people over fifty people (costumers, actors, musicians, singers, hair/beards/make-up, lighting/tech/set design crew) took a chance and made this experience possible. This was also a true community effort. People of all ages from all walks of faith. Amazing. (And I also loved doing it with my two oldest daughters, such a cool experience).(Music from the night can be found here on Spotify.)

Back to....

Judassssssssss. Hissssssss. Boooo. Hisssssss.

He's always villianized. Isn't he?  That's why I HAD to play him, something I've never done before. (His  role was one of the smallest on the stage in our "play," so it also allowed me to direct the rest of the elements).

But, the honest truth is, after spending so much time in Judas' sandals this month, I feel as if I my attitude toward him has changed.

I don't think he realized the ramifications to his choices. Did he really want to be known throughout history as "the Betrayer?" We remember him as the one who started it all, who gave over his friend, the Lord, to arrest, beating, mockery, and death by torture. (I even staged the actual scene as an homage to the great western shootouts.)

But as I read, researched, and developed the back story for my "character," I found myself empathic.
 I think he thought it was going to turn out different, a LOT different.

 I couldn't help but be sad for Judas, not angry.
Because maybe I would have done the same thing. Maybe YOU would have to.

We all love Peter's story, he denied Jesus, and wept bitterly after the rooster crowed, but then he had a "happy ending." He went on to receive forgiveness, ate some fish on the beach with Jesus, and become a powerful force to be reckoned with.

But not Judas.

He didn't return back. He chose to separate himself, and that's how he died, by his own hand, disconnected from Jesus.

I get it.
I understand how one could go there.

I've wanted to "force" God's hand.
Hurry up, God, GEEZ!!
I've wanted Jesus to rise up and do things MY WAY, not patiently, silently, and compassionately as he prefers.  

How many times have I doubted God's love for me?

How many times have I chosen to wallow in my own shame and sin, as if I were unforgivable?
Too many to count.

What about you?

But I've learned to choose to live in forgiveness, not remorse.

I've learned to battle the lies that whisper I am "nothing, a screw-up, insignificant, and a mess."

I was so thankful for this opportunity to dig into the story of Judas.

That's why I had to make this short video of how I interpreted what happened, "After The Kiss."

After The Kiss from Tony Gapastione on Vimeo.

Remember, Judas was with Jesus for three years. Jesus chose him as a follower. Judas saw all the love Jesus had for people. He heard all the messages Jesus preached. Yet, somehow, he made a choice  NOT to believe. (A choice many still make today). He made a choice to sell out, literally, for thirty pieces of silver.

He made a choice to allow Satan to enter him (Luke 22). He agreed to betray Jesus into the hands of the officials. BUT I really believe, that had he turned back, had he REPENTED (which just means to turn around and change one's thinking and actions), he would have been forgiven, by Jesus himself.

If you don't believe that, refresh your mind with some of Jesus' last words. "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing." Jesus utters this from his agonizing, bloody, painful place on the cross--on behalf of all those who nailed him there and continue to mock him. If that's not forgiveness, I don't know what is.

But Judas chose to believe he was unforgivable, and he took his own life. Because I've recently been through the harrowing experience of suicide, this was especially close to my heart.

The Bible states that Judas had remorse, and even returned the money he was given.
I'm actually glad Matthew states that. It is almost as if, Matthew, one of the twelve, Judas' friend, wanted his readers to know, that Judas did feel: something. He wasn't just a villain. Although he allowed it to happen, there were greater forces of evil at work, and Judas was just a pawn. Satan was not only at work, but had overtaken him. And that's our every day reality. Read Ephesians 6.

The sad reality is that, #1-remorse is not enough. Ignorance doesn't excuse us. But the GOOD NEWS IS #2-Jesus ALWAYS make a way out. The question is, will we take it?

Jesus' death on the cross took our sin, our shame, guilt and fear.

Yet we think we should pay for it ourselves. But Jesus willingly went to the cross for us.
And unfortunately, some, like Judas, choose to take it upon themselves to pay for their own sin, and choose to be separated from God.... forever.

But this is the GOOD NEWS of Easter. GOD LOVES US AND FORGIVES US.

BECAUSE OF JESUS WE ARE FREE, and can be, now AND forever.

If Jesus has set you free, you are REALLY FREE! (John8:36).

And you are invited to that freedom, too, no matter what secret, shame, infidelity, or indecency enslaves you.

Come and be free. God loves you, no matter what!
If you are in the Redwood City area, join us for Easter morning. I'll be there, and we'll have baptisms, one of my favorite pictures of this freedom we have. If you are not local, google where a local church meets and join them tomorrow. There are so many great communities of people who believe this great story and want to help you grow in your understanding of love and forgiveness!

Ahhhh. Now that Good Friday has passed, I'm excited because I get to enjoy some rest come Monday, shave off my scraggly Judas beard, and to eat a chocolate bunny...or three.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Tonight marked the closing of a chapter for me. When I came back from Sabbatical in September, I really sensed God was calling me to focus my time more on my leadership, prayer, and creativity. I had no idea, (and still sometimes don't) how that would work itself out.

Although I'm not moving out of the area, or away from Redwood City, I'm now moving from my leadership role with PCC's young adult (YA) ministry into a new role within PCC. I've grown in this pastoral role since I moved out to California fifteen years ago, in 1998, so it is bittersweet to say goodbye to being the PCC Young Adults pastor.

In my new role, "Creative Arts Pastor," (I don't cling tightly to titles), I'll be focusing on creating spaces for more prayer gatherings, experimenting with new ideas for worship and the arts-initiating movement and teams in creativity in our worship gatherings , and creating opportunities in the arts for and through PCC (starting arts programs in schools/community, etc)--and more video/film projects. Things I've been passionate about and been doing "on the side" for and through PCC for years-and what we've been doing in young adults (you'll see below) videos, drama, etc, forever-- and now I'll just be focusing on that aspect for all ages in the church family. (I'll still be involved with our Young Married's ministry monthly, too).

I'm sad to not be involved in the young adult ministry officially, but I know seasons must change--and it is my time to transition. That doesn't mean that I won't be visiting the YA gatherings, and more importantly that I won't be connected to the YA people, just that my direct involvement will change and a new leadership and vision must emerge. (There will be a "volunteer" team leading for now, until a plan develops for the future). Currently there are passionate leaders who love God and the community of people, and who also adapt quickly to change, who are pioneering and praying about some new things. Deep inside, I know that this must happen for growth and expansion of this community under God's direction, and I'm actually envious that I won't get to be a part of what's next! This community understands the kingdom and yearns to see it come! (Thanks for all who prayed for me tonight. That's how I want to live)!

 My biggest concern is that any of our young adults would feel forgotten or left out. I truly care about the leaders and people of the YA community and my hope and prayer is for their best. That's the part that I'll miss, being with them! (And I hope many of them will cross-pollinate and partner in the creative endeavors on PCC's horizon).

I keep telling myself: God is/will be doing some great new things!

As I've been working in my two roles the past few months, I haven't had lots of time to let things soak in. My time has been ramping up to Good Friday and Easter (both of which have lots of creative elements that I'm excited about), so I haven't fully had, or allowed myself, the time to really know how things will feel. So I expect April and May to be really be the time when reality sets in, when everything in my current routine changes. My Tuesday nights won't be spent they way, I'll no longer be leading our Church's summer ministry internship, and my schedule will radically shift.

Reminding myself again: God always is good and doing new things. And I'm looking forward to them. As I look back, this season has brought with it an incredible amount of reflection. And I'm thankful for the joy of memories.

Thankfully many of my reflections come with visuals. I've kept a lot of pictures and videos. Even before our lives were shared over Facebook, our community of people loved to capture life behind and in front of the camera.

Over the next couple months, I will be releasing bits and pieces of these reflections through videos and pictures. For my first snippet, I'll share with you GHETTO ANNOUNCEMENTS! Before there was imovie and Final Cut pro, I would use two VCR's to make these video announcements every week, with the help of a very creative, talented, and improvisational team! Enjoy.

Ghetto A's Week 1. 2001 from PCC Young Adults on Vimeo.