Pastor’s Letter

Pastor Rhodes 1986

I enjoyed growing up in the 1980s.

This funky little decade gave rise to some of the best (and cheesiest) music, the most iconic movie themes and images (think “ET, phone home”), styles that made you laugh (leg warmers? Parachute pants?), and moments in history that made you stand and shout (“Mr. Gorbachev, bring down that wall!”).

I know everyone thinks “their” era was the best, but, well, the ‘80s was pretty darn cool.

For me it started by playing PacMan endlessly at the local Put Put Golf Course. It wasn’t long before I was sneaking into my first R rated movie (Caddyshack), convincing my mom that midnight movies were safe, wholesome places (I’m not sure I mentioned anything about “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”), and watching Michael Jordan sink the game-winning shot to win a national championship.

I remember thinking MASH was edgy until MTV introduced me/us to a whole new world of temptation and overexposure (think “Like a Virgin” by Madonna). I remember driving to Charleston with Allison singing Huey Lewis’s “The Heart of Rock and Roll” and searching through Brad’s vinyl collection for anything by REM or Police (sing with me, “Every breath you take …”).

The Olympic hockey team made us cheer while Mary Lou Retton brought us to tears. The ‘80s make me think of the Reagan Ranch, the Challenger, fall of the Berlin Wall, and the first PC. I think of the Wall Street Crash, Iran-Contra, and the Cold War.

I sing along to Queen, Footloose, “We Are the World,” and the song of my youth, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”

I also think of Michael Jackson. And, well, that’s where it gets a little touchy.

Last week, I watched part 1 of the new documentary that uncovers the sordid story of Michael Jackson’s obsession with children. It’s hard to watch, in large part because this performer had such a defining role in my growing up years. Billy Jean, Thriller, Beat It. Even if you didn’t like his music, you knew all the words to his songs, and you knew how heroic and iconic he had become around the world. He was everywhere.

But I’m having a hard time listening to his music these days. Suddenly it feels like a lie, that it represents something entirely different from what I remember about his music and the ‘80s. It represents an underside that was always present — there’s always an underside, right? — but that I chose not to accept.

I don’t mean to cast stones before everything is known about Jackson and the men who are now sharing their brutal stories. But I am reminded of how careful we have to be in choosing heroes.

I’m also reminded of a Gospel that sets aside heroes for the sake of servants, ego for the sake of humility. I’m reminded that truth is not always connected to perception, but is found in faithful living. And, yes, I’m reminded that in spite of the sordidness of sin, there is always the promise of new life.

The season of Lent walks us from that place of sordidness, sin, and death to a place of truth, light, and resurrection. While Mary Magdalen walked to the tomb assuming death, she walked away that Easter morn filled with life.

The lesson: Hope wins. Love wins. Light shatters the darkness. Good stands in the way of evil. Why? Because God is always about the business of restoring the Garden until all the world might know the beauty and power of his love.

“What’s love got to do with it?” you might ask. Everything, as it turns out. So, my fellow ‘80s friends, “Don’t stop believin’.”

Please, don’t stop believin.’

+Pastor Rhodes