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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Reflections on Michael's Memorial Service

OJ had the trial of the century. Prince Charles and Diana had the wedding of the century. So I guess it goes without say that this was the funeral of the century.

The international outpouring of love, admiration, sadness, and shock was incredible. To see people's connection to a man they cared about but really didn't know because they connected with his image, music, and humanitarian causes, as well as, fascinated about the surgeries and idiosyncrasies for which we felt confusion and pity.

As I sat there with my brother-in-law, Don, I wondered about what I was watching on TV and what an estimated 20,000 people were witnessing live at the Staples Center (not a church, sanctuary or cathedral, but an athletic arena home to the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings). Part memorial service, part tribute concert, and part entertainment extravaganza.

Now let me say this: all things considered, this was very tastefully done. Fairly simple given the person being memorialized and the scope/size of the event. It was thoughtful, honoring, and touching. All things a good memorial service has as elements.

But the whole time I was watching I kept wondering, "How will my Christian community react/slam this service?" How is it not holy enough? How is it not God honoring enough? How is it not sacred enough? And I began to answer to myself, "Yeah. How is that?"

But then I realized how could this service be all those things when those that put it together (most likely) know nothing of the One who gives meaning, beauty, and hope to times and places like that. Save for the pastor Smith that gave the invocation and possibly Rev. Al Sharpton, I didn't seem as though any of the other people had any relationship with Jesus. Spiritual people, yes, but in love with the God of the Universe and the Savior of the world? Probably not.

It was that line of thinking that got me thinking that this is why I love being connected to the spiritual community of the Church through a common bond of Christ. It's the Church and followers of Jesus that help those faraway from Him to make sense of times like these. Because only in a relationship with God does death remotely make sense (and even then it is still a brutal and harsh reality/finality). And only He brings funeral services into clearer focus of what death AND life are all about...Himself: Father, Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

It saddened me that this service didn't point to hope. It didn't give meaning to our existence. It simply idolized a mortal man with a great talent. It communicated to me an emptiness in the biggest compliment paid on that day to a dead man: He was the greatest entertainer ever. Not the best father. Not the most compassionate human being. Not the dearest loving son or brother. So empty. So sad.

This service is a reminder to me and to all followers of Jesus that people need Him. We need Him for eternity yes, but we need Him to help foster in us a deep sense of his love, hope, and peace as we walk in and live our lives by faith in the one who conquered the grave and death so that all the world might live, fully live and share that sacred state with Him and the whole world.

I wonder how you will remember Michael Jackson's memorial service. What does God reveal about Himself even in that place that didn't honor him? How will you be moved to help others see that there is ultimate hope and meaning even when those we love die all around us?

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