“Sounds of the Passion: The Rattle of Dice”

In this passage from Luke 23, we have the soldiers who have nailed Jesus to the cross, casting lots--rolling dice, gambling--for his clothes.  We get the idea that this is their standard operating procedure with those who are crucified--after all, it's not like the person being put to death is going to need them anymore.  It got me thinking about gambling, and the various gambles that happen in life.

A friend and colleague, a runner of many marathons, had a heart attack at age 61.  This guy is in way better shape than I am, and pays way more careful attention to his health than I do.  And yet, he has a heart attack.  We never know what might happen. 

This kind of unpredictability about life raises some questions about how we should approach our lives.  We tend make choices that seek to ensure safety. We wear seatbelts. We have our homes protected by security systems. We pay attention to consumption of too much food, too much drink. There are warnings on cigarette packages--there are TV ads that try to sell us medications that warn us about the side effects of those medications.  So much cautions us about not doing risky things, about gambling with our lives.

And yet we also do take risks; we also do gamble. In the first "Naked Gun" movie, Frank Drebin (played by Leslie Nielsen) is asked by Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban, of "Fantasy Island" fame) "Mr. Drebin, do you gamble?" Drebin's response? "Every time I eat out".

Life is full of gambles, and some of them we choose to make. It may be with our money.  It may be with our health.  It may be with our relationships.  It may involve others; it inevitably affects others. 

I suspect that what we gamble with the least is our faith.

Jesus calls us to follow him.  It is a challenging call.  We may find that we have to risk some things--we make have to "gamble" that what Jesus wants us to do is worth it--worh risking flying in the face of conventional behavior, of public opinion, of human nature and common sense. And yet this risk is the one in which the one who calls us to do it promises never to leave us or forsake us--which isn't true of really any of the other gambles we make in life.

We do risk in other ways.  Why do we struggle to risk in this one? 


PSALM                 Psalm 22:16-24 

16 For dogs are all around me;
   a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me; 
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots. 
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
   O my help, come quickly to my aid! 
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
   my life from the power of the dog! 
21   Save me from the mouth of the lion! 
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me. 
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
   in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
   All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
   stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 
24 For he did not despise or abhor
   the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
   but heard when I cried to him. 


GOSPEL               Luke 23:32-43  

32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ 34 Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ 38 There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43 He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’