This past Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held their 95th Academy Awards. As always, it’s a festive broadcast saluting filmmakers, directors, actors, actresses, musical scores, writers, editors, cinematography, and a host of all the other supporting positions that go into the production of films. The Academy Awards show garners a lot of attention, some 18.7 million people watched this year. That was a 12% increase over the 2022 affair.

I can remember in years past how I would gather with family and friends to see who won in the various categories. It’s been some years now since I’ve actually watched the awards show. I kind of lost interest. I just haven’t been as tuned in to who wins what.

Every now and then though, there are a few nuggets from the show that really astound or inspire. You may remember at the 43rd Academy Awards, George C. Scott was nominated for best actor in his portrayal of General George Patton. Scott refused the nomination, and the Academy still voted him best actor that year. He refused the award saying he was not in competition with other actors. Or, you might remember at the 57th Academy Awards when Sally Field won an Oscar for best actress in “Places in the the Heart.” Her famous speech went viral when she said “You like me.” And this year had its own really inspiring speech from Jamie Lee Curtis, as she won the Oscar for best supporting actress. She said, “I know it looks like I’m standing up here by myself, but I am not. I am hundreds of people.” She went on to include so many in this win, including as she said, “the hundreds of thousands of people” who watched her genre of movies. She also paid homage to her parents, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis who both were nominated for Oscars. She said for all of them, they’ve won an Oscar.

So often, I think, we tend to strive for honors and awards in order to validate and hold up our own self-worth. After all, awards try to hold out the idea that the awardee is the best of the best in whatever category they are focused on. We do it with sports. We do it with literature. We do it with music. We do it with art. We do it with science. We build into so much of our culture the idea that there is a “Best” in every field of endeavor. And of course, there are very great people in all fields. But to single one out and say they are THE best, that’s really saying a lot. Those who go on to win these types of awards are hopefully well-grounded enough, like Jamie Lee Curtis, to understand and acknowledge they didn’t get to their award on only their own efforts. There is a whole cast of persons behind and beneath those selected and acknowledged as the best, who support and prop up that best designee.

When it comes to the living of our lives as followers of the One we know as Jesus, are there bests? Are there categories from which we could designate the best of the best? Maybe the best Sunday School teacher, or the best greeter or usher, or the best choir member or accompanist, or best clean up crew after a fellowship dinner, or best nursery worker, or best compassionate caregiver. Would those categories manifest any awardees?

We don’t tend to think of the aforementioned categories when it comes to handing out awards, but maybe we should. If a community of believers is going to be effective in spreading the love of God, it will take the whole community pulling together. It will take the best of the best, and even those who have no desire to compete for such a title.

In the end, it’s the mission and message of Jesus that is the best of the best. Loving all persons because God loves them. Not separating out those who are easiest to love, or loving only the best persons. Loving the unloveable and even more so, enemies. You see, the best of the best gave his best on a cross on Calvary. During this Lenten season, we are to remember what has been sacrificed for us, because God thinks of us as God’s best of the best.

I can’t help but be reminded of a line from one of my maternal grandmother’s favorite hymns, The Old Rugged Cross. “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. And I love that old cross, where the dearest and BEST, for a world of lost sinners was slain.” God truly offered all of us the Best of the best in Jesus. Jesus shares with all of us the message he came for the best and the worst, the fastest and the slowest, the greatest and the most humble. When we win awards for our endeavors they are nothing compared to what we receive from the head, hands, and feet of Jesus the Christ. “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, til my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”

As we continue in this Lenten season, may our hearts be moved to look beyond the human designations of the best, and look at others through the eyes of Jesus. For in Jesus’ eyes, all of us are his best.

Your fellow traveler on the Way,
Pastor Tom

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