A FRIEND OF MINE in my Bible study group is an alcoholic.
In class this past Sunday she said that for a nice long time she had no desire for alcohol. After the initial struggle, the powerful pull left her.
But suddenly one day, something flipped a switch. The pull came back in force.
To save herself, she said she rushed off to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.
That triggered a memory, which I told her about.
I don’t usually remember much of what preachers say in sermons. But I remember the closing line of a sermon I heard a couple of weeks ago by a retired United Methodist bishop, Will Willimon.
He said he asked an alcoholic in his church what his biggest challenge was…what was the hardest part?
The man said the worst part about AA was being forced to go to a bunch of drunks and losers and say, “Would you save my life?”
The bishop ended his sermon.
“Let us pray.”
Clearly, he wanted to leave us thinking.
A bit like Jesus did with his parables.
In fact, the bishop’s sermon was about a parable: the Good Samaritan, in which a Jew gets saved by a Samaritan. Jews hated Samaritans as much as some Israelis today hate Palestinians. Samaritans were losers. Yet one of them saved an injured Jew.
I tried to think of losers who have rescued me in years past.
I couldn’t remember any crisis events that fit.
But I remember everyday life.
I grew up in a middle class family that was closer to poor than rich. If not a poor family closer to middle class than poverty.
Dad was a former coal miner working in a factory. Mom stayed home to raise the five kids. Granny lived with us because Grandpap died without retirement savings; Granny had Social Security.
I think by society’s standards, I may have been surrounded by losers.
If so, they were my losers.
- Granny encouraging me and telling me I could do anything in life that I wanted to do.
- Dad working to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.
- Mom teaching her kids lessons in life: stand up to the bullies, do your homework, and pray together as a family every night.
I still remember kneeling by the couch and hearing my baby sister take her turn. She prayed for Dad to stop smoking: “Peas help Daddy top pokin’ dem cigo lets.”
Dad did stop. Cold turkey. Long before nicotine patches.
Never poked another cigo let.
Where would I be without those losers loving me through life?
It occurred to me that there’s another loser who saved me.
The loser. By many social standards of his day.
- Lived off donations (Judas, treasurer)
- Convicted criminal
- Executed in a manner reserved for the worst offenders
- Buried in a tomb given as charity
That makes him worse than drunks in an AA meeting, doesn’t it?
Yet I go to the likes of him and ask him to save me?
Why not? I’ve been saved by other losers.
I keep that in mind when I get to feeling uppity.