Let’s Be Losers Together

Let’s Be Losers Together

The book of Esther is a story about power run amok. King Ahasuerus throws a ridiculously indulgent party in his palace. Memucan legislates that wives are legally prohibited from defying their husbands. And Haman legislates that others must bow down to him. And when Mordecai runs afoul of Haman, Haman makes his vendetta not only against Mordecai, but against all the Jews, legislating that they are to be annihilated. This is how power behaves in the story – it behaves indulgently and it legislates others into submission.

And yet, God, though never mentioned, is clearly understood as being on the side of those who are lesser than in this story. When Mordecai finds out that his people are facing annihilation, he mourns loudly, putting on sackcloth and ashes (which makes the statement that I feel that life has been reduced to little more than ash). And when Mordecai wanders close to the palace, he’s stopped – no one wearing sackcloth and ash is allowed in the palace. Esther offers him new clothes, but he refuses. His grief is not done with him yet. We notice the striking contrast between the excessive partying of the palace against the loud grief of Mordecai, and how the palace refuses to allow the two to mix. We notice his determination to remain in his state of grief even when Esther tries to pull him out of it.

Power believes a lie about itself, that it’s not allowed to mourn, that it’s not allowed to experience loss, that it is only allowed to win. Mordecai refuses to be taken in by this lie. Mordecai apparently believes that experiencing loss is not only acceptable, it is essential. For Ahasuerus and Memucan and Haman, life is a conquest, and a non-stop pleasure-fest. Mordecai intentionally chooses for himself the opposite kind of existence. Mordecai seems to know that God is on the side of the losers, the mourners, the outsiders. God makes himself the ally of small, broken people. Mordecai seems to know what Jesus knows, that to experience loss and grief is a blessed existence. “Blessed are those who mourn,” says Jesus, “for they will be comforted.”

Being faithful to this God means feeling perfectly comfortable being the losers, experiencing grief and staying in grief for as long as the grief needs to work on us, not pushing it away, not jumping back into the clothing of daily and weekly busyness that must deny death and grief in order to stay productive, and embracing loss rather than finding enemies so that we always have someone to be victorious over.

We’re constantly told the lie that Mordecai refuses to buy into, that we must always be winning, always succeeding, always producing, always conquering. And here is Jesus, saying, “Blessed are you who mourn. In my kingdom your grief will not continue on forever. On the cross, I am plunging myself into the very same grief and loss that you experience. Do not try too hard to win. Do not fall for the lie that will drive you toward too much success. That’s how you block out the grace. Let yourself lose. Clothe yourself in sackcloth and ash. Join me and all the losers I have brought into my kingdom. Take up your cross and let’s be losers together.”

The kingdom of God is experienced not in success and power, nor even solely on the other side of grief. The kingdom of God is experienced in grief, in loss, in mourning, in joining Jesus in being powerless, being lesser than. So let us be fully at home in experiences of loss and powerlessness, because that is to be fully at home with Jesus.


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