Lost Is to Loser as Christ Is to This World

Lost Is to Loser as Christ Is to This World September 5, 2016

Sheep in Paradise 549 AD Basilica of Sant' Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Itlay VanderbiltLoser is damnation incarnate. It’s the worst thing you can possible be. A nobody. And cursed. Without a chance of a different future, because the label itself is a curse.

Lost, though, has hope embedded in its peril, for Found is an inherent possibility in the midst of your peril. Lost has a prayer and a chance, and bending your spirit in fervent devotion to that chance can be a step on the salvation road.

Loser has been at the forefront of public rhetoric this year. Winners and Losers is the name of the election game. And also the name of the Olympics game. Pumping yourself up, psyching yourself to be winner, is the spiritual side of athletic training, and the oratorical side of running for office. Coaches give pre-game pep talks about winning. And adoring fans listen as reporters ask the victors how they won and the losers why they lost.

About once a year I use Children’s Time in church to talk about losing. You can’t have a game without having a loser, I say, so we will all have our turns at losing, if we want to have a playing season.  The church kids are not impressed. Their faces go glum, and they say they do not, really, really, do not, want to lose.

I saw a great video on FB recently, of a kids’ soccer game, and the side that had lost was in tears. And the side that won hugged them. The whole team hugged each sobbing loser. They hugged it out, that terrible disappointment.

Jesus, who is faulted for hanging around with losers, whom everyone thinks are disgusting people (it isn’t a game they have lost, it is basic health, morals, addictions they have embraced that make them losers over and over again) changes the losers into the lost. He confronts those who label them losers, and talks about them as lost sheep who can be found. Now they have hope.

He describes himself as the Shepherd of the Lost. And this is what his Christ-ness is about. Opening the eyes of the rest of the herd, those who think they are not lost, to see and love what it is they have lost, and to know that life is not about flourishing because you obey the rules, it is about keeping everyone together.

We are on the brink of the 15th anniversary of 9-11. A terrible day, a day of death and destruction. A fearful day. America has mourned and honored its dead, and rebuilt what was destroyed. But there is among us a spirit that wants to turn Arabs and Moslems into Eternal Losers, because of that day.

Great protest arose when the existing Tri-Beca Al Farah Mosque wanted to build a Ground Zero mosque and prayer and study center where all religions could meet, as a sign to the world that Islam is a religion of peace.

Most New Yorkers were fine with this project, but national resistance, raised from the Alt-Right and media like Breitbart, was effective, and after two years of struggle, the Moslem owners decided instead to build luxury condos on the site.

Another victory for the rich (the Winners) over the endangered. (You can read the details in this article from The Awl – https://theawl.com/the-sad-true-story-of-the-ground-zero-mosque-dc222bd2c02f#.sozvvmr0c)

And Christians must say, this is another nail in the crucifixion. For the embracing movement that sees losers as the lost, was defeated, and the defining movement that sorts out losers from winners, won.

Life is not a child’s soccer game. Nor is it a children’s meditation. The goodwill needed to do good deeds, life-changing deeds, grows in those who reject hate and learn to rescue what is perishing.

In New York Harbor stands the Lady with the Lamp, above those immortal words, Give me your tired, your hungry, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . .

We need to choose to be Shepherds, not Victors. Victors live to lose another day. But Shepherds live to return to the fold with the life that belongs to tomorrow.

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Image: Sheep in Paradise. 549 AD Basilica of Sant Apollinare in Classe. Ravenna, Italy. Vanderbilt Divinity School Library, Art in the Christian Tradition.

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