Summary: Christ is risen! What the "Alleluia" might mean for my broken life....
On Maundy Thursday I cocked up. I’d made my lists for Holy Week. 14 people to readings at Tuesday’s stations of the cross, 12 people to have their feet washed on Maundy Thursday, 9 people to do the Passion Gospel drama on Good Friday, 9 people to readings at Saturday’s Easter Vigil service. Mass sheets copied, everything under control. So the Maundy Thursday service starts. Opening hymn. confession. kyrie, absolution. And then … a horrifying silence. I’ve screwed up. I haven’t got anyone to do the first reading. Even worse, I haven’t even got the reading written down in front of me. Have you ever had that sinking feeling? you’ve forgotten something important. You’ve failed. You are praying not toooo many people will notice your failure. And of course, the one thing you don’t do when you have messed up is make sure the whole rest of the world knows about it by broadcasting it in a sermon on Easter Sunday morning.....
Failure is such a horrid sounding word. We are quite happy to laugh at other people’s failures. There was a wonderful book in the 1980s called “The book of Heroic Failures”. It listed people who had failed spectacularly. One of my favourites was the worlds worst Guard Dogs. Two Massive Alsatians bought to guard a house. When robbers broke in, the ferocious beasts... came and slobbered all over them while the thieves looted all the valuables. Luckily for the owners the alarm had gone off and within a little while the police arrived, sirens blazing. Well as the Police armed response unit charged in, the Guard Dogs knew what to do - the leapt for the copper’s throats and pinned them to the ground - enabling their new friends the Robbers to escape with all the loot.
Failure is such a horrid sounding word. We are quite happy to laugh at other people’s failures. But the last thing we want to be thought of is as failures ourselves.
I’d like to share with you four stories of failure.
The first story is about Mark. Mark has a wonderfully successful career. In his twenties he trained with the big accountancy firm Arthur Anderson. He does well. He is promoted. he is soon earning good money. In his thirties he is made a partner. In his forties he moves out into industry, becoming the financial controller - number 2 to the finance director of a FTSE 100 firm. His career is doing well. Next promotion he’ll be on the board. He could soon MD of a major firm. Life is good. Just that next promotion. But that next promotion does not come. Some one else is promoted over his head to become the next Finance Director. Recession hits. Jobs are to be cut. He’s called into a meeting - he thinks to talk about who he should be firing. He discovers it is him being fired. Aged 51 he is out of his job. unceremoniously escorted from the building, no time even to say good bye. He’s full of confidence - there’s plenty of jobs out there for someone with his qualifications. he applies … and the polite letters come back - very sorry but the job has gone to a younger candidate. He tries applying for lower paid jobs - “ very sorry - you are over qualified”. He’s ashamed to tell his friends. Ashamed to queue up to collect his job seekers allowance. At 51 will he ever work again? His career that had begun so brightly - a failure.
Second story. Maggie is an attractive young woman. At school she’s the one all the boys ask out. She enjoys her twenties, moving from one bloke to the next. It feels free, liberating. In her early thirties she settles down. She marries Shaun. He’s everything she could ask for. Good looking, wealthy, great career prospects. Big house in chigwell. two 4 by 4s. The wedding is amazing. You can’t imagine a bigger or more romantic affair. after that come two beautiful Children. Life is good. And then on her 46th birthday she comes home to find an empty wardrobe and a note on the table. Shaun has left her for a younger model. A twenty three year old secretary from his office. She feels empty - even though its not her fault, ashamed. Her relationship that had begun so brightly - a failure.
Third story. Helen and Peter are happily married, with three beautiful children. They love their children and are very proud of them. Joan is doing so well at school. Nigel is grade 7 on piano. Matt is in the first team for football. And then, Nigel is suspended from school. Joan starts coming home late, and the boys she is with don’t seem the right sort. They discover she’s had an abortion. There’s a row. She walks out. They don’t know where she is. While they are waiting to hear, there’s a knock on the door. It’s the police - no its not Joan - its Matt he’s been arrested for dealing drugs. Joan won’t come home. They begin to hear stories, frightening stories about her - is she on the game. Please, if only she will come home. Matt is looking so thin. He promises them that he is off the crack, but things start to go missing, and they don’t believe him any more. Then one day the Police bring Nigel home - a caution for drugs. Not him too? The Family that looked so full of promise, that they were so proud of, a failure.