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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Drive: The Failure

Excerpt from today's meditation:
Matthew 25:14-30. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

. . . But what about the servant who invested his master’s money and lost it? This parable is usually preached as urging us to take risks for Christ. That’s fine—but what if the risk turns sour? What would Jesus say to a servant who tried and failed?

. . . Maybe the person made a stupid, ill-advised investment, but Jesus never asked about that. The mere fact that someone was down and out seemed sufficient to attract his compassion. If this is how Jesus would have responded to the servant who invested his talent and lost it, I’d still like to hear it from Jesus’ own mouth. And I wonder why that servant is missing from this parable.
My thoughts:  But then, upon further reflection, was not Christ himself the greatest failure? A small-town guy from nowhere, a hick from the sticks, coming to tell people the good news of God's unbounded love, healing the sick, embracing the lost, speaking truth to power, confronting the self-righteous and exposing the hypocrites . . . and yet, in the end all was lost, all was for naught. Betrayed, mocked, beaten, condemned, tortured, executed in the most degrading way. And the last heartbreak: even God seemed to forget him.
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
And so it was finished, there in dust and dirt and blood, amid the gleeful laughter of fools and suck-ups and hypocrites, every hope crushed, all zeal extinguished.  And only his mother and his dearest friend were left to witness the final moments of agony and despair, there on the dark and windswept hill.  Only Love stayed to the very end - but love is such a small thing in the brutal machinations of the world.

And yet - and yet - despite all appearances, beyond all dreaming:  the story did not end there.  Rather, the ever-new and ever-living Story really began in that black hole of sorrow, that horrid mangling of all that was good.  This is our faith, we who believe:  that no matter how great our failure, nor how tiny and hollow our success, all that is good in us is known and honored and cherished in that great reality at the heart of all things - the Love that moves the stars.  Which, when all that we see and know has been swept away, remains the eternal Constant:  in which we shall abide forevermore.
All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Which is why for me, Christianity is so deeply moving and beautiful:  the concept, which I'm not aware of in any other religion, of not merely a loving God, but of a God who loves the world so much that he empties Himself
to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us
who understands our weaknesses and failures because He Himself has felt them, lived them too. He does not merely look on benignly from some high, unapproachable perch above the blood and toil and tears and sweat - He knows.
Yes, child, I understand:  been there, done that, sucked at it.
Even God Himself, the great architect of Creation, is helpless in the face of the world's ignorant cruelty; even God was a great failure, by every human measure.  And yet that is not the whole story, but merely the prologue to unending triumph over all that is dark and withered and empty.  And unto Himself he will gather all those lost sheep who know his voice and follow him in their hearts, though the road lead only to the slaughterhouse, as we see it here.

A helpless failure of a man, a suffering God, bloody, defeated, finished - and yet victorious:  take it as theology or as poetry, the implications are breathtaking. So that in the end, that anguished cry from the Cross is not the trumpet of doom, but the opening peal of inextinguishable Joy - to them who believe.  This is the Christian faith:  that we glory in our human weakness and, no matter how mixed up or messed up our lives turn out to be, even in our deepest failure triumph, through Him who in dying vanquished every evil, even the last enemy, which is Death.  For even at the grave we make our song . . .


Anonymous said...

How did you find out I was selling my yacht? lol


Nikolaos said...

Powerful stuff. I rail in my blog about the Christian Fascists, the ChrisTaliban. Yet what you have talked about is the true message of Christianity. "Love one another as I have loved you."

I'm going to be pointing my readers to this post. Thank you.

Russ Manley said...

And thanks for stopping by, Nikolaos. You got the message right; so many just think they do, and that's very sad.

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