Monday, July 6, 2009

Celebrating a win?

Tomorrow, a huge memorial service will be held for Michael Jackson.
And today, I’m shocked by the news stories about the “winners” of the lottery to attend to the Jackson service “celebrating.” Just what did they win?
You don’t have to travel far to find someone grousing about the nonstop TV coverage about Michael Jackson’s death, and it’s only a little farther to find someone complaining that Jackson doesn’t deserve all this adulation, what with the accusations against him and all. But that’s not my complaint today. I get it that someone could be both amazingly talented and flawed at the same time, and I’m not here to join in throwing stones at Michael Jackson.
But I guess what I am complaining about is our capacity to lose perspective when it comes to the death of a celebrity. What we ought to be noticing right about now is not only that celebrities put their pants on one leg at a time like everybody else, but also that “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27 in the old KJV), no matter who you are.
In recent years I’ve been learning something about how quickly the closing parenthesis to our lives can come, and how quickly it can be that our life becomes a finished book, to be analyzed and remembered (or not) by others. This should be a sobering thought, and if we are reflective, it ought to make us think about the meaning and purpose of life itself.
That the same end comes to the “greats” among us should only underscore it.
So what is the meaning of strangers to Michael Jackson celebrating over winning a lottery to sit at his memorial service, as though it were the concert ticket to beat all? Perhaps it is a way for people to avert their eyes from what has really happened: that a person so talented came to such an end, that the very things he fought to keep secret are now known to everyone, that in the end we lose control. We don’t like to know those things – so turn the music up and let’s pretend it’s just one more concert, this one a tribute to the Michael we think we know.
I know nothing about where Michael Jackson stood with his creator, but I know that his creator knew all about him – knew about his hurts and his dreams and his fiercest loves, and the things he felt powerless before. So I hope that at his memorial service there is a hush that will finally overtake the circus atmosphere, that there will be a moment to recognize mortality, and even more, I hope there is a turning, from the best this life can offer, to a glimpse of eternity, and the One who invites us to know Him and love Him, even to the extent that He already knows and loves us (1 Cor. 13:12).
Janet Jackson spoke briefly at the BET awards last week, pointing out that though Michael was image and icon to his fans, to her, he was family – and her grief, over losing a brother that those celebrating their ticket win never knew, was visible in the lines of her face. Michael’s Maker knows a Michael no one else knows (and he knows a “you” and “me” that no one else knows, too) – and the meaning of that ought to fill up that hush at his service.
Let there be awe – not just at Michael Jackson’s footwork, but at the reality of death and the promise of an appointment with God. Let there be humility, that no matter how big the crowds are here that call your name, in the end you really can’t take much with you. And how would it be if then the celebration began, not to drown out the fearful specter of death, but instead to participate in the glory that we aren’t stuck in death, thanks be to God?
That’s what I’m praying for, when it comes to Michael Jackson’s memorial service.
Lord, thank you for the gifts and talents you gave this man – now have mercy on him. Surround his children and family with your comfort. And cause an awe to fall on all who are attentive to his death…that we would see death for what it is, and that we would value your overcoming it for us in Jesus. May we not turn our heads too soon, and so miss your grace. Amen.

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