On summer evenings at my grandparents’ lake cottage, there was terrible televisions reception and too many mosquitoes to go outside so card games were the usual fare. Sometimes it was Hearts with two decks of cards because there were so many players and sometimes it was just the kids playing Spoons or I Doubt It.
The latter of the three, as I think back, probably helped develop a terrible skill for children because to be successful you had to become a pretty convincing liar. The object of the game is to run out of cards first laying down your cards in sequence, or drawing from the deck if you don’t have a card to play. Or, you could lie. Play a card and declare it to be the one to play. Another player could challenge you: “I doubt it.” If caught, you had to pick up all the cards on the table. But if you told the truth, the doubter had to pick up the cards.
Each year at Holy Week, we tell the same story. It is filled with intrigue. There is love and betrayal, schemes and hidden agendas, cruelty and compassion and it ends with one of the great plot twists of all time. And each year, at least in my lifetime, there has been a movie or two designed to “prove” that the story is more than story: it is history.
I like to think that it is more than history: it is a story. And frankly, I really don’t care what bits of the story actually happened and what bits of the story were told because words could not actually describe what happened. In his book, “Zealot,” Reza Aslan writes of many religious leaders that came and went in the same period as Jesus. He writes of the ones who at least made it into a historical footnote, who knows how many didn’t even get that far?
So what is it about this story that has endured so many years and is still told today? Esperanza’s Thursday Bible Study group took a look at historical creeds earlier this year, and then we wrote our own: “The Thursday Creed.” I like a lot f things about it, so did our Confirmation class who compared it to the Apostle’s Creed last week.
The part I like the most is the description of God: “We believe that God is eternal and everlasting and cannot be contained by words.” Something happened long ago that was life changing, history changing and world changing. Many tried, and did the best they could, but language was simply not able to describe it, explain it, contain it. It is an experience for doubters and dreamers. Perhaps we can capture just a bit of it this week.
Here is a prayer for doubters and dreamers from 20th Century Trappist monk, Thomas Merton:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”