“Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:331 NIV)
2016 has been a difficult year for our rock celebrities. If you are a fan of music from the “Seventies’s through the Eighties” you may glance at your news feed every day with a bit of a wince wondering who is next.
Last week rock icon Prince passed away at the age of 56. As with any musician who’s music helped define a generation, especially one who dies at unexpectedly at an early age, the public mourned. Many other musicians did tributes to him at their concerts. The Broadway cast of “Hamilton!” danced to “Let’s Go Crazy” at the end of their performance. People wept, placed purple flowers in various spots, sang their favorite songs.
All of which, as I said, is to be expected. But what to do when the church jumps into the act. The day of Prince’s death this sign appeared at a United Methodist Church
I’ve no idea what the motivation could be for the church. It may be an attempt to be culturally relevant to their community (Hey were hip enough to know about Prince). It could be an honest attempt to reach out in grief. It could be the clergy will speak on the quote on Sunday (Are we called to do more than get through this thing called life)I don’t know and haven’t reached out to them, so I’m not judging.
But it does say a lot about how important our celebrities are to us in our culture. Maybe in any culture. We mourn their passing, we sing songs of tribute to them. Their quotes appear on our places of worship. We lift them up almost to godlike status. Above everything else we tend to forget the ugly parts of their lives. It’s almost as if talent, fame fortune good looks, etc. somehow cancel out the darker parts of their personalties. And while I liked a lot of Prince’s music he had a lot of dark corners to who he was.
It’s always been that way, of course. The media overlooked Kennedy’s affairs, even though he wasn’t even discreet about them. baseball writers also never spoke of Mickey Mantle’s carousing and alcoholism. The list goes one.
Not that we are exempt from that in the church. Several fairly prominent pastors, celebrities in their own rights with books and huge churches have left their churches recently. But most of them have started new ministries and churches. Jimmy Swaggert publicly confessed his sins many times, yet in time came back to his ministry.
Now we might attribute some of that to the forgiving nature of the church. And that may be true. But some of it also has to do with their celebrity status. When you’re well known, a celebrity, its easy for us to sweep the ugly under the rug.
Maybe that’s why I’ve enjoyed preaching this current series from Judges. All of the judges, even though they do heroic things, are tarnished. They sin, they struggle, they make huge blunders. But the Bible doesn’t hide these things. Rather the Bible almost revels in honesty. It’s as if Scripture wants to point out that the Judges all had faults yet God used them anyway. In spite of their problems, and sometimes through them. The Book also points out the danger of celebrity idols, and calls us to look beyond the to the course of real power and joy, God.
That’s what Paul means by the Scripture at the beginning of the blog. Paul was no stranger to what it meant to have celebrity status. But Paul was always careful to point everyone to Jesus. And only Jesus. For in the end its only the Perfect Lamb of God who bears no blemish and is worthy of our adoration.
Does that mean we can’t enjoy celebrities on earth? Or mourn their passing? Of course not. I believe God gives people talent for us to enjoy. Just don’t let what they did blind you to who they are. And remember in the end there is only one Prince of Peace who deserves our adoration.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones