So they brought him to the place Golgotha which means "Skull Place." They gave him wine drugged with myrrh but he would not take it. Then they crucified him...
- Mark's gospel
I attended the funeral for a friend's dad not long ago. It was a beautiful spring Saturday in Colorado. The service was held in a gorgeous Catholic church nestled up against the front range mountains. From the poignant eulogy by his youngest son to the presentation of colors and the lone wail of taps at the conclusion of the service, this was a funeral that moved me.
As I sat through the homily and looked at the bronzed crucifix that centered the room, it struck me: this is what faith is all about - "this" being the belief that death is not the end. Faith's rubber really hits the highway when you've gathered with loved ones and friends and they lower the casket into the good earth and the person that was your father or your grandmother or your best friend or your co-worker is suddenly no more. They are dead and gone. And for some reason you have faith that they're not gone, gone.
A gorgeous Catholic church on a redolent spring afternoon filled with a roomful of gamblers, rolling the dice that the bronzed man on the cross pulled off the most incredible trick ever and that somehow, someway, since he did it then maybe we can too. I've used the word "gamblers" to describe believers before and the word has never received rave reviews from the two or three gathered at the Shame. That's o.k. I realize it's a loaded word that conjures up images of smoke-filled rooms and dancing girls and Vegas and the queen of hearts.
But I'll stand by my word choice. A gambler believes it might just go his or her way. When the single mother stands in front of the slot machine, puts in her coins and pulls the lever, she's got faith that it just might go her way. When the broker-than-broke middle aged man throws the dice down the table, he's got faith that it just might go his way. And when the people gather in suits and ties and eulogize and say the words appropriate for death's day, they have faith that it went His way and that means it just might go our way too, when we die.
I find it all too ironic that soldiers gambled for his clothes, as the man who refused the wine drugged with myrrh hung in the air. Friend, if you do not hear hope in my voice, then you've misheard or I've mistyped. I will continue to roll the dice each day of my life. I will take the gamble that when death comes knocking, he is the ace that I can keep.