the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-poster-c102861512I loved “Spaghetti Westerns” growing up. Who can forget “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” staring Clint Eastwood as Blondie with his lightning quick-draws blurs the line between hero and villain as he wrestles with the emotion of the civil rights era. Blondie creates for us a space to embrace the hero in the villain as we seek to embrace the emerging shift in cultural norms.
I did not understand the role of films such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and “Easy Rider” until I was much older. The subtle cues of cultural reflection and critique were lost on me. I was drawn to the action, the adventure of it all. To me the story was on the surface, as the amazing part, the transforming part was as allusive to me as the world’s perfect taco is to me these days.
The lectionary this Sunday offers us a Gospel lesson from Luke. Luke 1:26 to 31 reads, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
If we stop here and just look at the surface we are left without context and in a place where it is just another outlandish story. Gone is the majesty and magnificence of the glorious birth of Jesus the Christ. Gone is the entrance into the margins and transformation offered to the masses. The blurring of the norms does not happen if we stop here. Just more reinforcement of the status quo as hope is dismissed because of our convictions of what lies in our black and white, clearly defined world.
We are blessed to know the outcome. This story does not end with a crazy teenager waging the dog for attention. We know that Jesus is born to bear this existence with us. Jesus enters this world and blurs the lines between “us and them.” Jesus is born in less than spectacular circumstances so that you and I may be given a new way to be. We are offered a story full of cultural reflection and critique upon our current ways.
As we respond to the emerging culture which surrounds us, we are being called to respond to the “Good News” with blazing guns and a “Fist Full of Dollars”, as we critique the status quo to which we all operate. As we do so the Angle of the Lord calls out to us, “Do not Be Afraid…”
When I think of the angels directive to not fear I am filled with many questions. Why should I trust you? What shall I do? Where is God calling me? What is going to happen to me?
In this I am reminded of the story to which we are all a part of the same story of Jesus’ birth. The answers lie there in the humble beginning of the Christ. We are transformed by the journey. Blondie from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” was transformed as he lived the story. I have been transformed as I have lived my story. I imagine that y’all have been transformed as you have lived your story and as you have lived our story. This is the story of “the church”
The “church” is full of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. As we approach the glorious conclusion of this season of Advent in the Christian equivalent of riding off in to the sunset I wonder, What does it mean to be “the church” in particular context? Where is God calling “the church” to minister? How do we minister to our particular communities?

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