How many of you want to be known as a fool by your co-workers, family or friends? A show of hands please. None of us wants to be the fool. Vulnerability is not an option. We must be people with a plan, the ones who have answers, ones who will show strength in crisis, the ones that people want to follow, join and admire because of our attractiveness. Yet, here we are with this absurd story. What are we to do with it? It does not fit with our current worldview. We are not a culture that dwells on death. We avert our eyes, have our memorial services and try to move on. We do not want to experience death, we merely want to get to the line in Paul’s writings, “Death where is thy sting?” Yet, we are annually reminded that the belief in death must be the center of our faith for Salvation.
Just as we see an aversion toward looking foolish in individuals in this economy we can also see it in our communities. We want to protect brick and mortar, bank accounts and people’s feelings. The idea that this place might not exist becomes unthinkable. If you want to see good Christians turn red faced just suggest that this room or money in the bank is not important to God. Even more watch someone yell if you suggest that it can be sold or spent. You would be foolish in this uncertain economic time to suggest such a thing.
I love folktales and can quite often be found boring my family reading them out loud. They are the short tales that were passed on from family to family. From Aesop’s fables to Brier Rabbit to Urban Legends we like tell these moralistic tales. They have a message for the listener. I think that one such folk tale from Tanzania illumines the problem with the idea that our human perspective can yield us certainty. It goes:
The rainy season that year had been the strongest ever and the river had overflowed its banks. There were floods everywhere and all the animals were running up into the hills. The floods came so fast that many drowned, except the lucky monkeys who used their proverbial agility to climb into the treetops. As they looked down at the surface of the water, they could see the fish swimming and gracefully jumping out of the water.
One of the monkeys noticed them and shouted to his companion, “Look down, my friend. Look at those poor creatures. They are going to drown. Do you see how they struggle in the water?”
“Yes,” said the other monkey. “What a pity! Probably they were late in escaping to the hills because they seem to have no legs. How can we save them?”
“I think we must do something. Let’s go close to the edge of the water where it is not so deep and we can help them to get out.”
So the monkeys did just that. They started catching the fish, but not without difficulty. One by one they brought the fish out of the water and carefully put them on the dry land. After a short time, there was a pile of fish lying motionless on the grass.
One of the monkeys said, “Do you see? They were tired, but now they are resting. Had it not been for us, my friend, all these poor creatures without legs would have drowned.”
The other monkey said, “They were trying to escape from us because they could not understand our good intentions. But when they wake up they will be very grateful, because we have brought them salvation.”
So, aren’t we the cheeky monkeys? Misunderstanding the point of faith. Thinking that survival was our goal and missing the point. Thinking that if we just live life to the fullest that we are saved. Thinking that helping the church survive is the point. Death was the goal all along. What a weird thing to strive for, death. So, get your skull tattoos ready, put on your best black goth overcoat and hang out with the vampire wannabees because this morning, every morning for that matter, Jesus leads us toward our death.
What could be more countercultural than to take responsibility for our own lives and killing off all those things that keep us from thriving as authentic humans and communities? Let’s kill off the childish notion that the low self esteem that was instilled by our parents is humility, let’s kill off the constant sense of victimization that we feel when other’s disagree with us, let’s kill off the layers of denial that we have created that protect us from changing the things which are killing us, let us change the idea that if we keep talk strongly that is leadership, let us kill off the arrogance that because many people answer to us in this life that it will matter in the next, let us kill off the notion that those who are harming us just need more understanding, let us kill off the notion that if we just had more information we would believe in God, let us kill off the notion that money mystically represents more than a means of exchange and let us kill off the notion that vulnerability, change, defeat and weakness are bad things.
The foolish message is that it is only when there is death that there is life.
Photo by gm_coates’
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