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JULY 2014
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News item: A church official’s recent admission to stealing parish funds to fuel his gambling addiction makes one wonder if there weren’t warning signs.

Essay

Brothers and sisters, some among you may have heard whispers within our community of certain questionable financial matters at this parish. Let me assure you that such foul vapors are just that — transitory and to be avoided with pinched noses and squinted eyes. They whimper like a toy dog brought on to a casino floor for too long and in need of a bathroom break while their owner continues to feed a clearly rigged Battlestar Galactica slot machine. Much like that dog, I come here today to relieve myself.

Such did Jesus, uh, relieve himself in today’s gospel, Luke 7:11, with the raising of the widow’s son. His luck had run up — or so it would seem. How many of us have not felt as lonely as this widow, having lost all in our life? You will find yourselves in the pawn shop of your soul, trading off those antique figurines you inherited from your dad. You never really liked them, but knew they might be valuable one day. Yet somehow you feel sad selling them off, though they were a little creepy and racist. In those dark moments, if we believe in Him, we know that our luck will soon get hot again. You’ll get those figurines out of hock, as well as that antique revolver you sold off last month because of, uh, sinning. And lo, The Lord has the bullets for that rare pistol, and you will brandish it wildly at any methed-up flunky muscle who comes to recoup for the loan sharks of, uh, the Devil. Heck, you might even fire off a round to let them know that you mean business though you know the noise may alert the nuns in the convent. 

Truly it is God who is the greatest gambler of all, the Kenny Rogers in the sky who knows always the times for holding and for folding. Let’s think about it. There are four gospels and four suits in cards. Two suits, red and black, like the wine and bread in communion. The Joker? Clearly, the Devil. The instructions card is the Bible, which we so often forget. Sometimes it can seem so far away from daily life, but we must play by the true rules of life and not by whatever rules the guys in the secret Russian poker games at the North Las Vegas Airport conference room play. I mean, the North Las Vegas Airport conference room of, uh, straying from His word. The Ace card? The card of faith, where believing rewards us with the 11, but doubt will bring us down to the 1. You have to believe, like you have to “see” the dice hitting that score you want at the craps table. You can always get on a roll with believing in Jesus. And it’s all in the wrist twist, like when he raised that widow’s son. See the connections?

Which is the luckiest gospel — if you will, the King card? Definitely John. In the first 11 chapters, John describes 7 miracles, 7 declarations, and 7 discourses. What does that get us? Blackjack. It’s all there if you look closely. Speaking of, anyone else notice that the carpets at Bellagio are looking a little run-down?

Sin is like a slot machine. We take our chances that we’re going to gain from it, but we always lose in the end. The house always wins. Especially the house of God. Besides, the real players know that the true money is in the card games and smart craps playing. Sure, you can make a killing on a fluke NCAA tournament pick and you can bet that one 12 seed is always due to knock off a 5. But a Cinderella like Davidson making it past the Sweet Sixteen is a rare miracle, like the raising of the widow’s son, and sports betting is for the feeble of spirit and intellect. God does not condone such squandering of His gifts. 

So let’s pass that collection plate around one more time, I’m feeling lucky. But let me blow on it first. Amen.

 

David Hart, formerly an altar boy, is currently a writer for McSweeney’s, Monkeybicycle and other outlets.


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