Tuesday 29 January 2008

VII. Jesus falls for the second time

I didn't so much fall off the wagon, as fail get on it after Christmas. It was my intention to give up any alcohol during the working week. This wouldn't be asking too much. Most nights we have wine with our dinner. I just thought that giving this habit up for a bit would be good for body and soul. The theory was good, but the practice never got off the ground. Sure there was a week where I didn't drink a drop, but after that refusing a glass of wine seemed miserable. There are still at least three days a week where I don't even walk through the door of home before bedtime, and so both dinner and a drink are out of the question. This little episode of intention verses action has raised several questions for me.

1. What do we identify as failure in our lives? Are we right?
2. Is there a difference between what seems like failure, and what actually is failure?
3. Is it important to fail so as to learn better from our mistakes?

Lent is only just around the corner, and I have decided to try to succeed where I have already failed and give up alcohol for the season, however boring this may seem. This is a shot in the dark as I haven't a clue what it is possible to learn from such an excersize. Jesus falling on the via dolorosa may have seemed like failure at the time, but looking back that cannot be right. He was doing the best he could with what was asked of him, and that was quite a mammoth task in itself! Failure is elusive, and I am not sure that we can ever be certain what we have failed at until we reach the end of our lives. We can be certain that failure exists and that we have succumbed to it, but never to what extent and how our experiences will help us to grow. In conclusion, I am not sure whether failure can be considered important. It happens, but what is most important is that people keep on going, and it is on this that salvation depends.

Saturday 5 January 2008

VII. Jesus falls for the second time

I discovered later, and I am still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. One must abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (the so called priestly type!), a righteous man, or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes, failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world - watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That I think is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian (cf. Jer.45). How can success make us arrogant, or failure lead us astray, when we share in God's sufferings through a life of this kind?

Letters and Papers from Prison
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer wrote this in a personal letter to his best friend, Eberhard Bethge from Tegel Prison on 21 July 1944. I think I have chosen it to reflect this station because for me it highlights the mission of Jesus. Jesus never set out to make something of himself, most of the titles used to address him in the synoptic Gospels are given by other people, not something that he said of himself. Christmas reminds me that God came and lived completely in this worlds' duties and responsibilities, successes and failures. There are, after all, 30 years of Jesus' life which we know nothing about - I wonder if he was any good as a carpenter, could he make a living, was he good with figures? It was in those 30 hidden years that Jesus threw himself completely into the arms of God, where he discovered his relationship to the Father, and submitted to his duties as the son of Mary and Joseph. These final moments of Jesus, on the road to Golgotha, explore the perplexities of complete trust in God. Failure becomes success, success becomes failure - and all the way along Jesus remains God with us.

On 9th April 1945 Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenburg for his part in the plot to kill Hitler. He was deeply conflicted, throughout the war, about the morality of his actions, and he was someone who was used to acknowledging failure and uncertainty.