I was probably 10, or somewhere close, when I first became aware of the Jackson 5. The Osmonds were in there, too. (He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother) The boy singing the lead in the stratosphere was cute as a bug, and had talent forever. I was never a big fan of the moonwalk, maybe because I just couldn’t do it. But as the years rolled on, the cute-as-a-bug kid became an icon, a master of music and show, and it was truly thrilling to watch his work. Thriller was just that, the announcement of a new age in both video and music, and all should have been right with the world with Michael Jackson, King of Pop.
Obviously, it wasn’t.
Farrah was another story. The women of Charlie’s Angels were beautiful, sexy, fantasies for young adolescent boys, of which I was one. If I’m not mistaken, I still have the iconic poster of Farrah stuck in some box in the garage, pack rat that I am. She was never a real person in my mind, at least not until later years, when her life went south, too, and I became aware of various disturbances in her world. Her beauty wasn’t enough to save her, and to watch it fade in both fact and memory panged me.
I also remember distinctly thinking, way back in the 70′s, that it would be weird when the popular people who were our stars and contemporaries began to die. And it is strange. Michael Jackson was 50. I am 50. 60 is a blink away. We live and breathe by the grace of God. As I deal with people facing life’s various seriousnesses each day, I see so clearly that we are not in control of our lives. We choose, we live, we react, we take action, we love. Leaning against so much that seems to push at us, yet eventually, on the physical side, we just wear out. Maybe its cancer, maybe it’s a heart attack, maybe it’s just living way too long to keep going, but one day, it’s done.
A wonderful woman in our congregation has been waiting to die for almost a year, seems like, a victim of a brain tumor. Just this past week, she was finally released, and we all prayed our thanks to God for his mercy. Yet the whole enterprise begs so many questions. Especially in light of the books I’m reading. One is Thomas R. Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion, and the other is The Evidential Power of Beauty, by Thomas Dubay. Both books testify to Glory, to Beauty that is divine, unfathomable, unending, and beyond comprehension, and that those who are truly alive walk in it’s wake, seeking it always. In the face of mortality and loss, truth, beauty, and goodness keep speaking, keep calling out, keep spreading over the world. Tired hands offering the cup of cold water, weary feet walking alongside the lonely, aching backs picking up yet one more burden on behalf of the other, all of us moving along a path the end of which holds great promise.
Don’t really know how to say what I’m thinking, or trying to think, but after my sermon prep from yesterday, in which I encountered once again the giant questions surrounding the holiness of God, I am in a sort of tired awe. Tonight I lead worship at Celebrate Recovery, then again Sunday morning (alongside a good brother), and then again in a special Sunday night time. And I preach the final sermon is a series about what it might mean to live out the verbs of the Christ. Given mortality, seems fit to keep trying. To live the verbs, I mean.
To feed, to heal, to seek out, to embrace, to call, to train, to discipline, to challenge, to listen, to pause….to love…
After Sunday, Shakespeare…