Lucky Bums

laughter-david-naman“Lucky bums!”  That’s how theologian Karl Barth described the poor in spirit who inherit God’s kingdom. Ever since someone mentioned that in our contemplative group, we have the urge to call each other “lucky bums.” It reminds us that we are blessed because of our weaknesses, not in spite of them.

It’s hard to resist our culture’s compulsion to distance ourselves from our shortcomings or treat them as temporary problems we must overcome or fix.* Most of us spend our lives trying to correct our inadequacies and assume this practice pleases God. We envision the model Christian as one who goes “from strength to strength.” Communion liturgies praise the Lamb who heals the weakness of our soul, and we presume our frailties are abhorrent to God. But they are not.

“Our weaknesses endear us to God,” says Rob Des Cotes of Imago Dei Communities. The Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to find the one that has gone astray and joyfully, lovingly carries her back to the fold. The Father runs to embrace the smelly, shameful prodigal and welcomes him home.

One evening I led our contemplative group in a meditation on Jesus’s radical teaching. I wondered how to integrate what we had just learned about our blessed condition with the sacrament of communion. A thought came.

“We often come to the Lord’s table offering up our dark side to God. We are ashamed of it and want him to take it away along with our sins,” I said. “God will indeed dispose of our sins, but he doesn’t take away the parts of ourselves we don’t like. He wants us to love our whole selves as much as he does.”

That night we received the body of our Lord, broken for us. As we did we also received the One who loves and heals our brokenness.

And He received us!

Jesus loved to eat with tax collectors and “sinners.” Here he was doing it again. Aren’t we a bunch of lucky bums!

  

Credits and Acknowledgements:
“Laughter” by award-winning photographer David Naman. Used with permission. “Laughter” will be published this year in Treasure Art Magazine Yearbook 2014, Volume II’
The Laughing Statues
are in Vancouver by English Bay at Morton Park.
Scripture references: Matthew 5:3; Psalm 84:7; Luke 15.
Celtic Communion Liturgy adapted by Imago Dei from Celtic Daily Prayer.
*Rob Des Cotes in “Meditation on Matthew 5:3” at Belonging to Life Retreat Nov 16, 2013.
Rob Des Cotes is director of Imago Dei Communities, an ecumenical network of Christian faith communities based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2014
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014  http://www.estherhizsa.wordpress.com.

 

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
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4 Responses to Lucky Bums

  1. J GHALA says:

    sure, we are!

    Like

  2. Esther Hizsa says:

    Thanks for your comment, Jasmine. Glad this resonated with you.

    Like

  3. Mike says:

    Hi, Esther –
    I’ve been searching all over for the source of the “lucky bums” phrase from Barth! Do you know where it’s found in his writings? Someone told me once, and I can’t for the life of me remember!

    Like

    • Esther Hizsa says:

      Hi Mike,
      Good question. I remember reading that from a number of reliable sources but not directly from Barth’s writings. Darrell Johnson, who taught a series of lectures on the Sermon on the Mount at Regent College, referenced Barth in this way as well. So he would know. You could contact Darrell through First Baptist Vancouver http://www.firstbc.org/. Let me know what you find out.

      Like

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