In a few minutes, I’m headed for church. Of course, the focus in church is the Bible. The standard Christian version has 66 books. Of these, some 38 (by my hurried, informal count) are named for specific men and women. Joshua. Ruth. Samuel. Ezra. Nehemiah. Esther. Job…Matthew. Mark…Timothy. Titus. Philemon….John. Jude. You get the idea. Many of these names are familiar to synagogue-goers as well.
Some names are household words. Some aren’t.
Of the rest of the books, many are accounts of people-plural. Like 1 Kings and 2 Kings. Many are letters to people. Romans, Corinthians…Thessalonians…One way or another, all books in all religions are about people.
My friends of faith, who see the Torah or the Bible or the Koran or other text as completed, all too often are tempted to see their faith as a spectator sport. It’s all about reading and rehearing and retelling the lives of a small handful of people, from a remote part of the world, from a time long ago, again and again.
True enough, there’s much to learn from this approach, and most studies of this type focus on application to our present lives as well. But we all too often forget that God is working with each of us to write a new, personalized book…the book of Pedro, or Park, or Ling, or Abdul, or Jane, or Chandra, or Sydney, or Lauren, or (add your name here)…a book that’s never been written before, or will be again. Furthermore, when failure or mistakes or error (or obscurity) come, we tend to think “that’s all she wrote..” We forget that these stories are about love and courage and forgiveness and redemption and new life being born out of the ashes of brokenness and failure…and yes, out of exhaustion or burnout. No book will be without its sad, even tragic, chapters. None will have a meaning that is defined by these chapters…or ends on a down-note.
My agnostic or atheist friends also struggle with the same issues. We all wonder whether our lives matter or have meaning, and all too often we see ourselves merely as bit players on the world’s stage, or maybe as stage hands…
…or as theater-goers.
So tonight, many of us may find ourselves watching the Oscar awards. Or (blush) even the red-carpet walk. Some of us may be eagerly anticipating the evening. Some of us may find ourselves sucked in, like moths to the flame. We may tune in just to see Billy Crystal’s opening spot…and then hang on.
[Going to ignore the proceedings entirely? Don’t feel smug. Fact is, the vast majority of us spend far too much time focusing on our loneliness, or shortcomings, or both. We spend too little time seeing and appreciating our own lives for the great and profound drama they contain, and far too much time envying others their prominence or fame or fortune.]
Whatever the path that brings us to the Oscars, chances are we’ll tend to fall into the trap of seeing a chasm or divide between those in front of the camera and the rest of us.
Tonight, and in the days ahead, let’s not fall into that trap one more time. Instead, let’s see ourselves more accurately…as the heroes and heroines of our own real-life drama…as singular individuals who are called one by one to meet a unique challenge, whose contributions matter, as people whose stumbles are of concern to all, and as people whose triumphs are changing the course of history, one person at a time.
I know some of your stories. They are uniformly remarkable and inspiring in this way. For that reason, I’m also looking forward to hearing from all the rest.
I’m especially looking forward to hearing your acceptance speech as you receive your lifetime achievement award.