Theme: God’s absurdity
Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, we are in sorrow over hearing of Jesus’ torture and death; we mourn; we mourn because of our great love of him and you: let us never forget what great sacrifice looks like, inspiring us to greater love for you and others, whom you have made, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“When (Jim Taylor) lived in Prince Rupert, on B.C.’s north coast, the city’s Little Theatre group put on a play by Eugene Ionesco. Ionesco -- with Beckett, Pinter, Stoppard, and Albee -- pioneered what became known as Theatre of the Absurd. They believed that human existence had lost meaning and purpose. Communication broke down. Logic and reason no longer applied. As TV-producer Danny Schechter put it, “Their writing was their way of reacting to a world that seemed out of control and out of its mind.”
“The plot of this particular Ionesco play had so little coherence that leading man Ed Wagner had trouble remembering his lines. Whenever he got stuck, he blurted whatever came to mind. The rest of us picked up his cue and carried on from it, as if that’s how it should be. It didn’t seem to matter. Incoherence made its own point.
“An actress was supposed to make a dramatic entrance by knocking a door flat with a horrendous bang. When it became evident, one night, that Ed had skipped that scene completely, she knocked the door down anyway to make her entrance. No one but the other actors realized that we weren’t following Ionesco’s script.
“. . . The same feeling (happens) now as I watch logic and reason fade from the theatre of the world. Schechter applies absurdity to the theatre of war in Libya. NATO nations . . . have launched a military intervention with no budget, no authorization, no exit strategy, and no clear understanding of who they’re supporting. Schechter cites it as ‘one of the stupidest martial enterprises... since Napoleon took it into his head to invade Russia in 1812.’
“At a time when the intervening powers are desperately trying to reduce deficits resulting from bailing out the financial institutions who caused the economic crash that required a bailout, writes Schechter, ‘the cost of this exercise is now over a billion dollars and rising... Within the first two days... 162 Tomahawk missiles had been sent Libya-wards, at more than $1 million a pop.’
“If the intent was to impress Muammar Gaddafi, Schechter speculates, ‘it might have been cheaper just to organize a giant fireworks extravaganza.’
“Alice in Wonderland starts to look rational. In that book, the Queen of Hearts screamed, ‘Off with his head!’ as a knee-jerk response to any opposition. Every U.S. president seems obligated to have his own war, to commemorate his time in office. Perhaps it’s today’s way of shouting ‘Off with his head!’
“Theatre of the absurd might also describe Japan, where every attempt to reassure people about radioactivity provokes more uncertainty, more fear... (Then the Japanese government upgrades the disaster to a level only shared by Chernobyl. Yet, experts say that Fukoshima is no where near as bad as Chernobyl.)
“ . . . Franz Kafka’s bewildering, miasmic, novels begin to look prophetic -- more so than Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World. Orwell and Huxley at least provided an underlying rationality, whether it was right or wrong, wise or misguided. Kafka’s world lacked any reason at all.
“In 2011’s real-life theatre of the absurd, the last word surely belongs to Alice in Wonderland. As the Cheshire Cat told Alice, ‘We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’ ‘How do you know I’m mad?’ Alice demanded. ‘You must be,’ the Cat replied, ‘Or you wouldn’t have come here.’”
Anyone not familiar with the Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday story would say that we just put on a theater of the absurd. We waved palms in jubilant celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Then we take part in Jesus’ arrest, his two trials, and his execution. Jesus, our leader, is put in a tomb and now it is guarded. We can’t get near it even if we wanted to.
And all of this happens as Peter denies ever knowing Jesus and all the disciples, but the women, run for their lives. We ran. We ran. Where is the hope? Where is the hope? It is all so meaningless. Even Jesus calls out to God in loneliness and abandonment. God does not answer even Jesus. God has left the building and Jesus dies. It is all so absurd.
But is it? Well, we know the rest of the story. If we didn’t know the rest of the story, we wouldn’t be here. It is all too sad. It is all too meaningless. Seven days from now it all turns around.
Except there are questions that early Christians were forced to deal with and maybe we need to deal with. God’s son, the messiah, the Christ, was executed. How can we follow an executed convict? How can we follow an executed God? It is too absurd.
The answer lies in our separation from God. It can only be answered through knowledge of Israel’s relationship with God as recorded in what we call the Old Testament. We are damaged goods. We are not holy enough to be with God. We are not able to fix it. So, God is the only one who can. God must take on human form. God must carry our sins away. Once this barrier is broken, then we are reconciled with God. We are holy. We are worthy of being with God. God turns absurdity upside down.
Text: Matthew 26:14–27:66 (NRSV)