September 26, 2019
Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Hollywood, award shows come and go. Somehow these people on stage seem to be more than human in their refined dresses and tuxedos and confident posture, pace and presence. We call them matinee idols and iconic, we read about them, we talk about them, we emulate them. They are bigger than life. They are almost like gods.
But we also look for their feet of clay, the chinks in their armor, the fly in the ointment. They are like parents that at one point we worship and later we might condemn for their imperfections and ultimately come to appreciate for both their human strengths and weaknesses. Why they have such importance is something of a mystery to me.
Of all the acceptance speeches that I have seen over the years, one stands out to me for its simple honesty and vulnerability. It was Sally Fields who got up, and like a little girl blurted out, “You like me, you really really like me!”
I’m not sure if they really liked her or not, but clearly that was the message she received; she had been completely accepted. That feeling took away all artifice and pretense. It seemed to be the goal for which she strove her entire life. At that moment she was a picture of transformation and apotheosis, one could feel the light emanating from her.
The Gospel can mean many things to many people. It can mean a call to social justice or a guarantee of eternal life. It can be the center of a moral life or an ideal of self-sacrifice. But before one can give up one’s life and before one can feel committed to any religion or creed, one has to truly come to know that they are not only liked, but that they are truly truly loved.
From this core-love, flows all courageous acts, from this foundational-love, comes a thirst for social justice and compassion for the poor and neglected. Many of us pose as if we don’t care about this core feeling. Many of us look around and just try to fit in and not incur the negative judgement of others. Many of us live vicariously through the figures and stories we see on the screens, large and small. But in all these ways, we are missing the joy that is intended for us.
The message we would like to get across to people, the message we call good news or gospel, is that we are God’s beloved! We belong in this universe, we are as valuable as any billionaire or movie icon, our common lives carry the incredible weight of glory at all times. It is only through a certain spiritual blindness or amnesia that we lose track of this grand truth. We preachers don’t create that love or sell it or commodify it. We simply try to help people remove the obstacles that keep them from seeing it. We point out the loss that comes from not experiencing it. We point out the consequences of forgetting our true nature as heirs of grace.
Whether it takes place on a stage, at the altar or in the privacy of our bedrooms, we all want to accept the reign of God like a child, where we hear God’s voice saying, “You are my beloved, in you I am well pleased.” And we add our amen and say to our selves, I am loved, I am really really loved! From this we can love our neighbors as we love ourselves. From this, all life flows.