Thursday, January 14, 2016

In Threes

Earlier this week, it was David Bowie.

Today, it's Alan Rickman.

Both died this week at age 69, both from cancer.

If the saying really is true that such deaths come in threes, I dread that third shoe dropping.

As much as Bowie had an impact on me because of his iconic status to the outcast and the oddballs, Rickman's actual work had a genuine impact upon my faith in God, an impact that has lasted to this day.

I say this realizing that many, perhaps most, of you will most remember Rickman as Professor Severus Snap in the Harry Potter universe, or as terrorist mastermind Hans Gruber in the Die Hard series.  There may even be one or two of you out there who are like, "You know what?  Alan Rickman in Love Actually really taught me it was okay to love again."  And I will respect you for that, even as I stifle my chortling.

For me, Alan Rickman was, and will forever be, the Metatron, the herald of the Almighty and voice of the one true God, in Kevin Smith's movie Dogma.

Dogma--as you can imagine because, well, it's Kevin Smith--was patently and gleefully irreverent in its reverence and thoughtfulness, enlisting outspoken atheist George Carlin to play a schlocky Roman Catholic cardinal and deputizing another oddball musician--Alanis Morissette--to play God.  The film received quite a bit of criticism from a number of Christians over its irreverence, profanity, and, well, Kevin Smith-iness (never mind that Smith himself was and is a practicing Catholic).

But Dogma's message, that even the most hardened and cynical of believers can still seek the truth and can count on finding devoted (if demented) help along the way, was something my teenaged self desperately needed to hear as an alienated and bullied progressive Christian in the whitebread, cookie-cutter world of suburban Kansas from whence I came.

I felt alienated from God because I felt alienated from the world God had made for me.

But it was Alan Rickman, as the Metatron, that was, with one line in the film, able to say to me (and Linda Fiorentino, but I'm convinced mostly me) that God simply does not give up on God's children: "Noah was a drunk, and look what he accomplished.  And nobody's even asking you to build an ark!"

Nobody asked me to build an ark.  Just the church.

Still big, still soul-sized, but at least the latter is something I can handle doing.

I can truthfully say that I have experienced God's presence directly and profoundly in my life--when I had to preach at age 18 the morning after a childhood friend had died in an automobile wreck the night of my senior prom, when I stood in a room in a hospital's ICU with a family and watched their father sit up and open his eyes--but I am not sure if I have heard God's voice, or the Metatron's voice speaking in my ear like Moses at the burning bush.

Were I to do so, however, I continue to hope that this voice that would speak to me, call me, commission me...would be rather like the voice of Alan Rickman, telling me that no matter my faults, no matter my flaws, my nickel and dime sins, that I am still capable of accomplishing something great and good on behalf of the God for whom he speaks, and for whom I love.

It is a hope I have.

Enjoy your new wings, Alan Rickman.  I hope God is everything you have said God would be.

And if this is the second of three, I must say, I rather dread the third.

Vancouver, Washington
January 14, 2016

Image of Alan Rickman as the Metatron courtesy of Youtube

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