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Written by Gradye Parsons

Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.

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March 30, 2012

April 2012-Monthly column featuring Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons

Zippy Chippy and the meaning of success

I am grateful to Lawrence Wood’s book, News to Me, which introduced me to the story of Zippy Chippy.


Zippy was a thoroughbred horse that competed in ninety-nine races and never won. Ever. He was finally banned from rack tracks “for the protection of the betting public.”


Now, I imagine you thinking that this is a classic example of the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I would agree to that on the part of the owner. However, Wood writes about Zippy Chippy to challenge our understanding of the meaning of success.


None of us likes to be unsuccessful. But the question is, what is success? And who gets to define it? One of the church’s deepest struggles with the culture is over this very thing. What is a life well lived? What makes for a meaningful relationship? Why are we here? These are all questions at the core of who we are and why we live the way we do. A successful life tends to be defined by how much more a person is or has than someone else.


The disciples of Jesus were not immune to this struggle as they wrestled for positions of power. The Corinthian church knew something about it as they vied for who could look down on whom. The Old Testament has more than one story about the gods of success luring people away from the God who brought them out of their bondage in Egypt.


We will gather on Easter Sunday in our Easter best with our family and friends squeezed in the pew with us. We will hear again the story that the world went to sleep at the end of Good Friday thinking they had witnessed the gods of success defeating Jesus Christ. But they were wrong. The Son of God rose a victor over the grave, as well as the world’s definitions of power, privilege, wealth, and, yes, success.


Zippy lived to run. Let us live to run the good race of faithfulness, in the name of the Risen Lord.

Tags: easter, gradye parsons, monthly column, stated clerk