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God, This Sucks!

April 1, 2007

Clay Nelson

Palm Sunday     The Passion according to Luke


Memories are funny things. Funny odd, not funny ha ha. Why is it some stick and others don’t? Sure, some of mine I share with anyone of a certain age. Where I was and what I was doing when I learned JFK was shot. More recently it was an early morning watching on the telly a jet fly into the second tower on 9/11 while wondering why the first was burning.


Not all memories are horrific or universal, but they are no less momentous. It is no surprise why I recall as if it was yesterday the birth of my daughters. Those memories are projected on my mind’s eye in high definition like a favourite DVD in my film library.


What intrigues me most though are those memories that weren’t momentous. Often people who shared them with me don’t even recall them and if they do, they remember them completely differently. I often don’t recall them myself unless a smell, a colour, a particular food; a line from a poem drags them from my unconscious. They can be pleasant or unpleasant but what they share is being unremarkable; certainly inconsequential. Or so they seem.


Perhaps most confusing are memories that we aren’t even sure we experienced. They seem real enough but are they someone else’s we incorporated from hearing them retold? Perhaps they were only a dream contributed to our memory bank during a fitful night’s rest. Others seem the product of an over-active imagination made real by our fears and hopes or need to justify past behaviour.


However they got stuck in the recesses of our brain, memories form the fiction of who we are and what life means to us. By fiction, I don’t mean untrue. Fiction is an art form. The best of it unveils the world’s meaning and our purpose in it.


We have just participated in a shared memory recorded by Luke. Jesus’ Passion. It is a memory beyond the truth of history or science. It may be anchored in experience or it may be someone’s bad dream. But either way it is our memory. It may be fiction but it is no less real. We were there. We called out for his cruel execution. We watched it on a green hill far, far away.


It is stuck in our memory with the super glue of our common experience: human suffering. It niggles at us as we seek to make sense of the senseless. By definition suffering is wanton, needless, and cruel and it is part of everyone’s fiction and why we smile darkly at Woody Allen’s wisdom, “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it's all over much too soon.”


When we remember Jesus’ last day what sticks with us? Is it the betrayal, injustice and denial that claim our fiction? Do we have high definition visions of the mocking, whipping and nails? Do we justify the unjustifiable suffering as a divine necessity in the vain hope of giving our suffering purpose? Do we remember him suffering willingly so we won’t feel so alone in ours or, as a consequence of being fully human, true to his and our divinity? Does our memory of him inform us on how to die or to live? Do we remember only his honest cry of feeling forsaken, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabbachthani,” Aramaic for, “God, this sucks!” and not his words of forgiveness to those who have done this, his words of comfort to those who love him; his compassion for the repentant thief?


What is stuck in our memory? That suffering has the last word… or not? Our answer will determine what we do in remembrance of him. Walk down a path of bitterness and defeat paved in suffering or live fully and love wastefully to the end, finding in that our meaning and purpose?

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