A Pentecost Moment Among “The Walking Dead”

While prepping for Pentecost, which pops up this Sunday in the church calendar, I looked up last year’s sermon and re-watched it on our Community UCC YouTube channel.

And, y’all, I forgot how much I LOVE THIS SERMON!

Know why? Because I talk about ‘The Walking Dead’ in it a lot.  A whole lot. And as you know from the Pop Culture Preacher’s short, little history here on the blog, I love, love, love this show. If you are a TWD fanatic, you will eat this up. If you aren’t a fan of the show, as many in my congregation weren’t at the time….I’ve won them over since…..don’t worry, you won’t be lost.

But I also love this sermon because I really tell it like it is: The world often feels like it is falling apart, and yet, here we are, trying to find our way through it together. It’s the only way — we have to do it together. That’s the way it works in the TWD world, and that’ll preach.

You can watch “A Pentecost Moment Among ‘The Walking Dead’” here.  Spoiler alert: if you are not up to Episode 12, season 5, get on it! Go catch up, then come on back.

Blessings, y’all….

Pop Culture Preacher

 

Slice: the Work of Remembering & Being You

{Warning: this post contains mild spoilers for The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 9, No Way Out}

When my mom died, I thought I would break. I felt fractured, like her death fissured my soft middle into sharp pieces, which stayed held together by my skin. The brokenness rumbled, poking from the inside out. Stabbing. Slicing. That’s how grief felt: like the pain would kill me. I didn’t think the sadness would ever leave.

There’s no fast forward button on grief.

I hate that.

It’s completely inconvenient that we’re allotted mere days to mourn in this modern life before we’re expected to be back at work, back in full swing, back to life as usual. Body and soul, heart and mind – they move on when they are ready to move on and not a minute sooner.

Meanwhile, the brokenness inside keeps stabbing. Without warning – slice. Something you see or hear or smell or taste or touch — some something you were not expecting — bumps up against your life. One of those sharp edges from the broken contents of your inner self cuts through a thin place in your skin. Slice. That mask you maintain so well gets slashed, from inside, and suddenly, you’re vulnerable. Conspicuous. Anyone who’s looking can see the big gaping wound.

That’s what I saw in actress Katelyn Nacon’s character, Enid, during the mid-season-six premiere of The Walking Dead. When she read the inscription over the church’s door, “Faith without works is dead. – James 2:26,” it bumped her. Slice. Oh, Enid, babe. I see you. I see how those words, for some reason, broke open the thin skin.

Slice.

How do you survive in this life when the people you can’t live without are gone?

This is the question Enid struggles with every day. When her character was first introduced, I thought she was just another moody teenager, because surely teenagers are allowed to be moody in the zombie apocalypse. Especially teenage girls, right? (I mean, for real, y’all, can you imagine your 16-year-old self on your period in Alexandria – I would’ve taken people’s heads off.) But, seeing Enid’s backstory, we see she’s not moody; she’s grieving. She’s surviving, somehow. Enid is orphaned. All alone. Even in a room full of people, she’s by herself. How will she live life without the people she’s never lived without?

Something about that phrase over the back door of the church bumped her. Slice. Glenn, masterfully portrayed by Steven Yeun, sees. He responds. “People you love,” he says, “They made you who you are. They’re still part of you. You stop being you [and] that last bit of them that’s still around inside who you are — it’s gone.”

Glenn, where were you five and a half years ago when I needed to hear that?

I struggled so much after my mother died, which may come as a surprise to you since I’m a clergy person…aren’t pastors supposed to know the secrets to life’s deepest mysteries and sail through this existence with Zen-like peace and tranquility? Well, if that’s what we’re supposed to do, I missed that lecture in seminary. Somebody send it to me.

In the years after my mom’s death, I felt like I was losing her constantly. When her yellow Tupperware bowl got put in the dishwasher, erasing her signature from the “This dish belongs to…” sticker on its bottom, I cried for days. When the lone voicemail I saved from her got accidentally deleted, then permanently deleted, I did not think I could go on. When my kid got sick, and all I wanted to do was call my mom to ask, “What should I do?” even though I am an adult, who is quite skilled in adulting, who has been adulting, proficiently, every day for YEARS, I crumbled. I needed to talk to my mom. Each time I got reminded of her and felt like I’d lost her, the wound busted open from the inside out.

Each time – slice.

But, then, that pain started to change. I’d be talking to my girls and hear her voice echo in mine, her practical brand of wisdom winging in my words. Or, David, my husband, would make me laugh so hard I’d snort. The snort-laugh: it’s so unbecoming and absolutely perfect – the way my mom laughed when something really got her. See, she shows up in my life all the time. When I’m being creative, speaking the truth, noticing the little details other people skip over, and doing other things I inherited from her, she’s there. She shows up, too, when I’m doing things she never dreamed of doing herself, but would be awfully proud of me for trying and testing, even if I don’t succeed.

When I am who I am, it’s like my mom is alive.

When I forget who I am, I start to forget who she was, too.

“People you love,” Glenn says, “They made you who you are. They’re still part of you. You stop being you [and] that last bit of them that’s still around inside who you are — it’s gone.”

So, here’s the truth, y’all: God needs you to be you in this world. No one else is going to be you. Who you were made to be by the Divine, and molded to be by the people who love you throughout your life, no one else can ever be that. You have to work at it. It’s easy to get swayed, thinking you have to be someone else, or that you should be a better, shinier, more perfect version of who you already are. It takes faith to believe in yourself, and that’s work, but when you do, you come alive, and so do the people who you’ve lost. “People you love…they made you who you are. They’re still part of you….” You stop being you and you’ll disappear right along with them.

So, Love, believe me when I say this: don’t disappear, the world needs you too much.

Blessings, y’all,

Pop Culture Preacher

Obsessed: The Walking Dead

{Spoiler Alert — there are spoilers here — consider yourself warned.}

Mr. RM is a good sport. We didn’t spend our anniversary together, nor will we share a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. Why? The Walking Dead Season 6 premiered on our anniversary, the mid-season premiere is on Valentine’s Day, I’m obsessed, and TWD gives Mr. RM nightmares. Sorry, Love-of-my-life, we’ll be romantic, sans zombies, another day.

I am o-b-s-e-s-s-e-d.

I’m so obsessed with TWD that it served as the main metaphor in my 2015 Pentecost sermon at Community UCC, Champaign, IL. (You can watch that here: A Pentecost Moment Among The Walking Dead ). As a result, some of my congregants started watching the show. For the next few months, I got TWD-related emergency texts from the church Moderator, a 60-something Grandmother. When you’re a pastor, emergency texts are never good news. Either the church has burned to the ground or someone’s dropped dead…or both. But for a few blissful months, her messages read, “OMG! They shot Carl! Call me,” and “The Governor is nuts.” It was a nice change of pace.

I am so obsessed with TWD that during a funeral luncheon, one my church members approached me, smiling, and said, “Happy Walking Dead Premier day! I know you’re watching when you get home. Here….” She handed me a package containing an itty bitty Rick Grimes who now lives in the Pastor’s Study at the church along with my Michonne and Daryl bobble heads. These bad asses typically stand guard around the Holy Family. (Jesus is a Buddy Christ bobble head, because, why would he be anything else?)

I am so obsessed with TWD that the church secretary gave me an all-things-zombie Christmas gift this year, including a Zombie Doodle book, a Reedus Nation t-shirt which I sport proudly, and a Saint Daryl Dixon candle she decoupaged herself. I light it when I’m writing sermons. 12338703_933579796725713_874268080_n

I am so obsessed with TWD that when Josh McDermitt (aka Eugene) liked one of my tweets, I jumped up and down for ten minutes and texted one of my bff’s, the one who introduced me to TWD, who was equally excited. We’re going to a Walker Stalker convention to celebrate my big 4-0 later this year.  Happy birthday to me.

I am so obsessed with TWD that I’ve started a regular Instagram series: #liturgiDaryl (Liturgical + Daryl Dixon = LiturgiDaryl, a Daryl Dixon bobble head clad in the liturgical color du jour). I’ve made tiny vestments for Daryl to wear as he poses around the sanctuary or in the altarscape in my Study.  You can enjoy this internet oddity on Instagram by following @revlkrm.

If a Pastor who’s obsessed with The Walking Dead seems odd to you, maybe you don’t know that one of Jesus’ best friends was a walker: Lazarus – Jesus raised him from the dead after he had been dead long enough to stink. Now that’s friendship. To read this story, which is pretty great, actually, see the Gospel according to John, chapter 11, verses 1-44 (which you can read here: John 11:1-44).

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about TWD and its characters. Being the PopCulturePreacher, though, these daydreams happen under the banner of my own personal genre of weirdness and churchnerd-dom. I see the theological themes in the show (and have the extensive notes to prove it). Most interesting, to me, is what I imagine to be the faith journeys of each character.  Why does Carol spout a litany of “I don’t know whether I believe” statements about heaven, hell, good, and evil at Daryl in the parking garage?  Why does Lori tell Carl to go say his prayers, yet Rick says that Lori wanted them to be “the kind of family that has pancakes on Sunday mornings”?  Why has Glenn, the moral compass of the show, struggle through a silent prayer on the Green’s porch, yet Merle, one of the most morally conflicted characters of the show, readily prays while hand-cuffed to the roof?

I love thinking about these questions and mapping out the journey that may have gotten our favorite characters where they are today. Think about it with me, would you?

For your theologitainment, beginning tomorrow, look for PopCulturePreacher to feature an on-going series, “Faith Journeys:  TWD Characters.”

Blessings, y’all…

PopCulturePreacher