Generally, I do not tend to watch the Oscars, and in fact, would likely not have even known that they were on television had my roommate not alerted me to the fact that they were taking place. But, this past weekend I spent a little over an hour of my Sunday evening being entertained by Hollywood.
The world of entertainment certainly draws our senses and peeks our collective (or at least our mainstream) interests, for after all, the cinema’s portrayal of real and fictional events are a collect of our stories and the dreams that we have for ourselves. Even when the narrative is inaccurately portrayed or the experiences are not our own, there is something in these stories that connect our lives to one another.
In her book, We Live Inside a Story, Megan McKenna writes:
There is a saying among storytellers around the world that goes: ‘If there is no one to listen, then there is no story to tell.’ The understanding is that if you hear a story often enough, you begin to believe in it. If you believe in it, you will begin to tell it yourself. And then in the telling, you will begin to make it come true in your own life. In fact, you will come true as the story begins to tell you! This may sound fanciful to some, but stories are the most ancient and revered form of communication and expression among peoples. Stories were chanted, drummed out, carried on the notes of musical instruments, danced and mimed, even ritualised, and then in a cycle of the seasons, passed on by elders and tellers by word of mouth and remembered through generations (We Live Inside a Story, 15-16).
In this light then, besides entertaining us, the Oscars are a collection of tales both obscure and mainstream that human beings have worked hard to share with the world throughout this past year. Storytelling is powerful, and throughout history we have connected our experiences through story.
What is your favorite story, and who is your favorite character in the tale? What about this character relates to you?
The gospel that we read together this Sunday is truly one of my favorites, for upon witnessing the unexpected, Peter proclaims: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter was likely blown away by the fact that he saw the great heroes in his own faith narrative alive on a mountaintop speaking to Jesus. And his first thought was one of welcoming...Let us make three tents. But, I also suspect that Peter felt much like we would feel if we were suddenly to meet one of our heroes or heroines (those people in our lives that we admire whether they be real beings or fictional characters).
Ironically, (and a twist in plot we cannot miss here as a crucial part of the gospel narrative), we meet the most extraordinary of heroes in the person of Jesus: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Though I cannot precisely guess how Peter would have known Jesus when He was being transfigured on the mountaintop, I speculate that he had yet to imagine the extraordinary gift that had landed in his day to day life. This ordinary man that wandered the earth, ate food, tasted drink, spoke wise words, but did not seem altogether out of bounds--was and is the greatest story ever told.
Mark’s gospel is the earliest of the gospel accounts to have been written, and in many ways the most dire. In fact, when one reads the text from beginning to end, it turns out that no one is faithful to Jesus; all turn away and reject him in the end. Alas, I am not a Markan scholar, so I will refrain from pretending to know more than I do. But, I think it is important to note where Jesus tells us that we will find Him throughout the gospel texts, namely, in the least of our brothers and sisters.
When do we fail to notice Jesus in our midst because she or he does not look like us? Are there stories that we neglect to tell or repeat because the people in them have less of a voice than we do? When do we focus on are own needs at the expense of those who are less fortunate? Do we spend too much time entertaining ourselves, and not enough time giving ourselves to others? And finally, who in our life today is most in need of care, that is, who among us is most vulnerable?
Like Peter, I am all too often entranced by the appearance of things, people, and ideas that distract me from the main scenario. In the ordinary and everyday moments, Peter found Jesus in his midst. What is extraordinary in our lives that we manage to miss because we have yet to grasp transfiguration and the richness of life found in the ordinary?
And back to the Oscars. My favorite scene among those I saw came when a Polish director expressed his gratitude after winning the Oscar for best foreign film. The clip is shared here, but his words transfigured me a little as he shared:
O God, how did I get here? We made a film about, as you saw, black and white...about the need to withdraw from the world and contemplation. And here we are (laughter)...at the epicenter of noise and world attention. Fantastic! Our life is filled with surprises (Oscars 2015).My prayer then for all this Lenten season is that we will be delighted to find God in unexpected and new ways, just as Peter did that day atop the mount, and that we will have the grace to see clearly what is before us with reverence and awe.
Christy Hicks is a Campus Minister in Griesedieck Hall.