One of our favorite picture books, Zen Shorts,
offers a zen master in the form of a panda bear named Stillwater. He befriends three children and
tells each one an appropriate Zen tale as they deal with questions of fate and forgiveness. Jon Muth’s watercolors and ink drawings are a delight.
The story of the “Farmer’s Luck” has been running through my
head as I contemplate Good Friday coming up. In this tale, a series of events
befall a farmer, and after each one, his neighbors respond with sympathy or
“What good luck!” they say when wild horses appear on his
“Maybe,” he replies.
“What horrible luck!” they murmur when his son breaks his
leg trying to ride one of said horses.
“Maybe” the farmer
“What good luck!”
they say, as the army shows up to conscript young men into war, and the son
with the broken leg remains free.
“Maybe,” the farmer
replies, and Muth’s lovely ink illustration shows the son ensconced in a La-Z-Boy in front
of the TV.
The story captures for me the uncertainty that the cross
casts across all our assessments of what is really going on in the world. As
far as I know, the English language is the only one that calls this Friday “Good.” In German, French and Spanish it is simply called "holy."
To me, “holy” seems a better fit with the mystery that is
the cross. Is it “good” that Jesus died? Maybe. Yes, we can say, God
accomplished our salvation on the cross. But no, to call such torture and
injustice ‘good’ is a bit of a stretch.
As a lens for looking at our own suffering, the cross puts a
great big “maybe” on all those things we simply declare bad, unfortunate,
outside the pale. If God can be at work on the cross, then maybe even those
moments when God seems most distant to us are not what they appear. Maybe –
maybe – they are where God is at work most profoundly, most powerfully.