July 13, 2020

Another Look: A Big Ol’ Losers’ Convention

Farmers Planting Potatoes, Van Gogh

• Matthew 5:1-12

so many people here to hear him
from everywhere, of every kind
no religious crowd this one!

check out that bloke over there
loser if i’ve ever seen one
not an ounce of righteousness in him
wouldn’t know a tithe from a toothbrush
couldn’t find genesis if you handed him a bible
a rough time of it, he’s had
surely the teacher won’t waste any time on him

and look over there, what a pitiful wretch
if it weren’t for bad luck, she’d have no luck
grim reaper took her husband
then came after her child
it got so nobody knew what to say to her
couldn’t take hearin’ another bit o’ bad news
you rarely see her out and about any more

and have you seen all the yokels?
brought ’em out of their shacks, he did
i’ll wager they’re lookin’ for a free show —
funny talk, a miracle or two —
keep ’em happy for a year!
sure thing they don’t have much more
i’m surprised their masters gave ’em an afternoon

hey, there’s the widow lady from town
she sure got a bad shake didn’t she?
thought her husband had set things up for her
then some shyster tricked her out of it
got her to sign some paper
thinkin’ she was makin’ her money secure
secure in his pocket, all right!

and there’s a bunch of people here
been tryin’ to help these folks
takin’ pity on ’em
tryin’ to make ’em religious
tryin’ to get ’em to quit their fightin’
carin’ even when the door gets slammed in their faces
spinnin’ their wheels, gettin’ nowhere

seems like what we have here
is a big ol’ loser’s convention
not your ideal crowd, i’d say

then jesus stood up
looked around, and said to the lot of them
“you, above all, are blessed”

Comments

  1. This weekend my wife and I had lunch with a recently widowed woman from our church. She spoke with us about how she still feels her husband present, sees him and talks to him, and how her faith has grown stronger since his death, as if he is helping her to trust God. At some point in the conversation she also said that she had been at a Joyce Meyer event, that Meyer during the event had prayed to transfer her faith to attendees, or something like that. Our friend wondered if that was also something buoying her faith. At the mention of Meyer I felt my hackles rise, and my reflex to say something critical about someone I view as a false teacher started to kick in. But I stopped myself — this Lutheran widow was experiencing strengthening of her somewhat childlike faith and comfort from God, and it was none of my business, nor had I the skill or understanding, to separate the wheat from the chaff in all of it. God will sort it out for her; in the meantime, my job is to stop myself from being a Pharisee like the the one that I think is narrating this poem, separating theological losers and winners in my mind according to my owns standards. Stopping myself from being that Pharisee is a big enough task all by itself.

    • That’s kind of how I feel about the college fellowship groups I took part in 15-20 years ago. Now I look back and, wow: we thought we were mature Christians, we thought we had everything figured out, but we really didn’t, and we hurt a lot of people and hurt our witness because of it. And yet, I experienced Jesus in that setting. Even though our theology and our prejudices and our behavior were far from perfect, Jesus was present in that setting because Jesus wanted to be in relationship with us.

      The thing is, those fellowship groups were exactly what I needed at that particular stage of my spiritual and emotional and mental development. That’s the way Jesus works: constantly incarnating in whatever place and form we can handle, stooping down to our level rather than demand that we raise ourselves up to his.

      • He is able. He takes us from “glory to glory“. The only unstated part of that, but quite apparent part when you live it, is that in between the glories is the darkness. The necessary darkness. The disillusionment with what we are leaving and the uncertainty of where we are going. Still, He faithfully carries us to the people and places and book and overall life circumstances that we need. A glorious and mysterious thing to behold at times.

        • –> “He is able.”

          If he ISN’T able, we’re doomed. Or at least I am.

          • Right there wit ya bruthaaa!
            How’s your book coming?

            • Any day now, which is what I’ve been telling people since June. That’s the problem with small, independent publishers, I guess. We found a couple of glitches and formatting issues with our test copy and ebook, so that threw a wrench into the plan to publish before Christmas.

              Are you a Big Trouble in Little China fan by any chance? I’ve written a pretty good outline (mainly the entire DIALOG) of a sequel. Some of my writing critique group folks think I’ve done a good job getting the voice of Jack Burton and the vibe of the movie.

    • Well done! Kindness triumphs over ideology.

    • Great job Robert! Kudos to your pastoral presence.

    • Yes, kudos to you, Robert, for letting the widow have her own faith.

      –> “…that Meyer during the event had prayed to transfer her faith to attendees…”

      I know that sets off alarm bells and triggers alerts, but I don’t see it as too egregious. There are times that I myself wish I could transfer how I see God and feel Jesus to others, like taking off a nice warm coat and placing it around another’s shoulders just so they could experience His love. So maybe that’s all she is really saying.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Once in a very great while I hear in Orthodoxy an exhortation to give alms or perform some act of mercy on behalf of a loved one, either living or dead. Every time I hear it it sets off ‘Prot alarms’ because it sounds like Catholic merit transfer, which is about as far from Orthodoxy as you can get. In fact, I’m sure not even Rome puts it that crudely these days.

        But then I heard one very wise father say ‘Sometimes you have to have faith for other people when they are incapable of exercising their own. It’s part of bearing one another’s burdens. And certainly it is far easier to bear up a burden when we see it benefits someone we love.’

        So maybe faith, hope, patience, fortitude are communicable in a way we don’t ordinarily consider.

        his dragon’s loins
        germinate a crowded creaturely brood
        to scuttle and scurry between towns and towns,
        to furnish dishes and flagons with change of food;
        small crowns, small dragons, hurry to the markets
        under the king’s smile, or flat in houses squat.
        The long file of their snout crosses the empire,
        and the other themes acknowledge our king’s head.
        They carry on their backs little packs of value,
        caravans; but I dreamed the head of a dead king
        was carried on all, that they teemed on house-roofs
        where men stared and studied them as I your thumbs’ epigrams,
        hearing the City say Feed my lambs

        Charles Williams, Bors To Elayne: On The King’s Coins

        • wow

        • Iain Lovejoy says

          Makes sense to me: why should we not be able to bless our loved ones with our actions? If we do good to honour them, is that not to their credit? Is my faith in God’s power to redeem me and my life not reinforced if I see my loved ones do good in my name?
          Also, how is there a difference in principle between my being exhorted to pray for my loved ones, and me being exhorted to do good on their behalf? An act of love towards one’s neighbour, it seems to me, can often be a sort of practical prayer. There is, it is true, a theological issue about how intercessory prayer can work, in that why does God require us to pray for someone before God will help them, but if you accept it is right to pray for others, I can’t see how doing good on behalf of others is any different.

      • The problem, Rick, is that I think Meyer teaches that faith is a kind of force that we can possess, and give to others, like a commodity or object. As far as sharing faith in the way you are talking about it, I believe that my redemption is the result of Jesus sharing the depth of his faith in the Father with me, and it’s his faith that saves me, not my own; so I have no problem believing that we mere humans can share with each other the faith that Christ has first shared with us.

  2. CM, This poem reminds me of Brennan Manning’s excellent “The Ragamuffin Gospel.” (My top Christian book.)

  3. senecagriggs says

    I often wonder; who is most likely to be with Jesus in Eternity. Will it be the Harvard Ph.D. or will it be the single mother living in the Ghetto?

    • Perhaps both. Maybe even, gasp, you and me.

      • senecagriggs says

        I think there may be more barriers to the Harvard Ph.D.

        • Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. If we’re going to talk in terms of stereotypes, I think there are more barriers to the the multi-billionaire than to either the Harvard Ph.D. or the mother in the ghetto; but that’s just my subjective and biased opinion.

          • senecagriggs says

            Harvard Ph.D. = millionaire/billionaire – similar genes; very, very smart

            God is the great equalizer is He not?

            Saved ghetto Mom, billionaire in heaven

        • And, in my opinion, the professional religious, the priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, guru, lama, roshi, etc., would have the most barriers of all, if we’re speaking in stereotypes.

        • Geez, you sure like leading questions, don’t ya?! Why don’t you just come out and tell us your opinion right off the bat rather than bait people. Something like,

          “I think it’s more likely that a woman living in the Ghetto will be in heaven than a Harvard Ph. D. person.”

        • I am much more the scoundrel than he.

  4. senecagriggs says

    Rachmaninoff

    Bless the Lord oh my Soul

    Vespers