Thursday, January 14, 2016

Bowie, Rickman, and Waiting for Redemption

I'm not one of the people in deep mourning over celebrity deaths this week. I think it's a matter of age more than anything. I have vague memories of David Bowie in The Labyrinth, but like would be a strong word for me and that movie. By the time I saw it, it just seemed weird. I'm aware that might have always been the case, but the '80s style was too over the top.

It seems I just like the wrong genre of things for Alan Rickman. His face looks vaguely familiar, but a scan through his filmography reveals I've only seen one movie he was in. It's fine. I'm too old for the deep, unadulterated Harry Potter love. They're good books, but I didn't grow up reading them. I missed that by just a few years. Those are the only movies for which I can supply a good reason. Somehow, I've just missed the others, several because I was much too young to see them when they came out.

Mourning celebrity deaths always strikes me as a bit odd, at best. Don't get me wrong, when Julie Andrews dies, you'll find me sitting on my couch singing along to The Sound of Music through sobs. Well, maybe I'll just be watching the good greenhouse scene over and over and over and over. Still, I'll probably always be lower key about celebrity deaths than most people.

I do rather enjoy the immediate eulogizing, though. I say that sincerely, not flippantly. Before the age of social media, how much someone meant to someone was reserved for funerals and people who happened to be nearby. News spread a bit slower and there had to be a time and place to reveal one's thoughts. That time has gone, and now immediately, I know who loved Snape and saw a gif of all of David Bowie's hairstyles, both within a few hours of their deaths.

The same thing happens at most funerals. The pool of mourners is smaller, but they still share stories about the deceased. Funny stories and sad stories, with food and favorite music tossed in. Sometimes, the stories go on for most of the day. It's true of most people, even the person whom others struggled to like, much less love. That has always been, to me, one of the weirdest things; recently, it has become one of the most beautiful.

So, this person was a jerk. Everyone knew it. In their death, though, we want to remember something good about them. I'm sure there's a very good psychological reason for that reaction. I think there's also a theological reason for it: we want to confess that no one is beyond redemption.

I don't think that should be as difficult or uncertain a confession as it often seems. I think it would be even more powerful to stand at a funeral and say, "David was a jerk, but we loved him, and so does God." I want the confession that just because someone was terrible their whole life long doesn't put them outside the realm of God's love. (Hmmm, maybe I just revealed why I don't believe in hell.)

For Bowie, Rickman, the neighbor next door, the homeless man whose name no one remembers, the same is true: they are God's, redeemed or yet to be redeemed. And as I consider what story I would tell about why I believe that, I realize there is no story; there are many stories. This is the witness of Abraham, Moses, the widow of Zarephath, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, the rich young ruler, Matthew, Paul, the woman caught in adultery, the woman who washed Jesus' feet--where would I stop? This is the witness of God's story with and among us. No one is beyond God's redemption.

Just because someone died does not mean the hope of God's love and redemption died with them.

So rest eternal, to all who died this week, whose name we know and whose name we don't. May God's light shine upon you, and grant you peace.

I cling to the hope this is exactly who God is.

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