Lessons from the Life of Michael Jackson
In the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy spirit, One God, Amen.
Glory be to the Father to the Son and to the Holy spirit, both now and to the ages of all ages, Amen.
I would like to meditate tonight on a contemporary subject, which is some lessons from the life and death of Michael Jackson.
The reason I wanted to bring up this topic tonight is because for the past nine or ten days, this subject has overwhelmed the media. Whether you are hearing the news on the TV or the radio or any other news source, newspapers, internet, this is the biggest subject that everyone is speaking about. And I didn’t want this occasion to pass by without maybe or possibly gaining some spiritual insight and learning a bit from his life.
The purpose of this discussion or meditation is not take some cheap shots at someone who has passed away or merely to condemn him, we want this discussion to be a means just to look at the life of a person who lived amongst us for some time, what is his legacy, and some of the things that we can learn from him, so it is not in any way to judge because, people would have two extremes concerning (…) his opinion about this person; either they idolize him and think of him as the King of Pop music, the best artist who has ever lived, and sang and produced shows and went on tours, and entertained, and there are other people who would look at him as a bad role model, or someone who wasn’t really sure of himself, whether in terms of his gender, in terms of his ethnicity or race, even in terms of; is he an adult or a child; he was a mixture of all these things, and even he was controversial in his sexuality, and the way that he presented these subjects. Again, there is a lot of controversy around Michael Jackson, you know, he lived for fifty years, a little bit over that, and he’s been in the media for over forty years, so actually many generations have or have been contemporary of him, and have listened to his music.
Of course he had thirteen number one hits, and his song Thriller, and the album was the best selling album of all times, and sold over fifty million copies.
What can we learn from his life and from his death?
If we look at… from a positive as well as a positive perspective; so we want to be fair in evaluating him as much as possible fame as much as possible, but in every lesson we look at him or at his life, we have to compare that to us to see how we can actually gain or benefit or grow from mentioning his legacy or his life.
The first lesson that we learn from him is his gift or his talent. Again, many people will disagree, so we are not discussing this subject, I’m just saying that he achieved fame or success throughout the world; he was one of the more known artists or singers around the world, and even people didn’t know much about the west; they lived in the far east, in Asia and Africa, the name Michael Jackson will ring something to them, so basically what he did is that he took his talent, and he was faithful with it and he actually became famous.
Some report say that in the beginning he was forced by his parents, especially his father, to sing but a little later he started to enjoy it and he was faithful in his talent.
So the first talent I can learn from myself is what are my own gifts that god has given me? I start to think not everyone of us is going to be as famous or nearly as famous or nearly as famous, but each one of us has a gift or a talent that was given to him or to her by him by Almighty God. The discussion of gifts and talents is mentioned several times in the scriptures, but let’s look at the first epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians in chapter twelve he speaks about the spiritual gifts and how there is diversity in the body, but all of us work together to make this body a glorious body; one that is known, one that is fruitful, one that reflects the image of The Almighty God.
He says: ‘’For us the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body being many are one body. So also is Christ, for by one spirit we were baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink from in to one spirit. For in fact the body is not one member, but many. But if the foot should say: ‘’Because I’m not a hand, I’m not a body’’, is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say:’’Because I’m not an eye, I’m not of the body”, is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?”
He continues this beautiful discourse, and discussion about diversity in the one body of the Christ.
Also, in the epistle of St Paul to the Romans, also chapter twelve, he speaks about the spiritual gifts, and he says “For us we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. Having then gifts according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them. If prophecy, let’s prophecy in proportion to our faith, or ministry, let us use it in our ministering, he who teaches in teaching…” so he is asking every person to discoverer the inner gifts and talents and perfect it and work for it and have some kind of vision of where this talent is going take me. It doesn’t have to be in music or in singing or in arts, etc… whatever talents God has given me, there is a passion for reading, there is love for one another; he says “behaving like Christians, let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, clean to what is good…maybe this is my talent, but I’m not going to judge others I’m not going to look at them in a bad way or speak behind their back, maybe being kind and affectionate to one another, this is my gift.
So, discovering my gift being faithful in it and trying to use it in the glory of God would be the first lesson we can learn from him.
Secondly, we can learn his love and appreciation for his supporters. It was known about him that he always wanted to make his fans happy in one way or another. And it is possible that… you know, we’re not going to be as famous and have fans and people who are around us, but even our family or our friends, people who are close to us, or members of our community. These are the connections that we need to develop because the word one another or each other is mentioned so many times in The Holy Scriptures, but specially in The New Testament; the body of Christ, this unity that we have amongst one another, so not only the talents that we have, but also the amount of love and appreciation that we can share with one another, not taking anything for granted , because the exact same people that are around me, that care for me and look out for me, if I don’t appreciate, if I don’t show some kind of thanksgiving, and show reciprocal love we might not have in some years. So many people who are angry with loved ones and… for one reason or another, they may pass away, or leave them or lose contact with them, they regret it for a long log time, saying “We had a chance to reconcile with them but we never did”, so it is really important to show this kind of unity, and compassion and love for one another as members in the same body of Christ.
The third lesson the we can learn from him, something which he, unfortunately was not very wise about is the whole concept of how to use money. Some people say that he possibly sold records or made in excess of one billion dollars in his lifetime. But when he died, most people agree now that he was in debt. How is that possible after making so much money? Well, people say that he was very generous or he gave without account, and again this goes back to the wisdom of a person. He may try to show off in front of people, but the bottom line is that money never gave him happiness or joy, because it is reported that he was always lonely or he was dependent on drugs to give him to give him … to put him to sleep. He was lonely, maybe his physician or his doctor and of course we feel sorry, we are not here, you know, to condemn in any way but just the fact that all this money that he had acquired in his lifetime did not buy him happiness. Relationships; people came in his life and left him, and divorce and The Holy Scriptures speak about money that it is only a means, but not a goal. It helps us to live, to function, to eat, to drink, but never make it a goal in our life, to pursue it, because it will not buy us happiness. For example in the third service of the midnight prayer, we read The Gospel according to St Luke chapter twelve2 starting from verse thirty-two, and our Lord Jesus speaks about money and says:
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sale what you have and give, provide yourselves money, bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thieves approaches, nor moths destroys, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”; a different equation that our Lord Jesus is providing to the people unlike the one that they were used to. In people’s minds, the more wealth we accumulate, the greater prestige maybe we have in the community or people praising us, or more things that we can buy or purchase, which we think that will make us happy, but as a matter of fact, The Lord is telling us that we should use this income for his glory. See the means of our living, and use the rest for his glory, for this is our real treasure, “because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. And also, on another occasion, St Paul speaks to his disciple Timothy, in I Timothy 6:10, and he is telling him that the problem is not with the money, the problem really is with the love or the dependence on the money.
I Timothy chapter 6 and verse 12: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life to which you were also called and have confessed, a good confession before Pontius Pilate”. He is encouraging him and telling him that “The love of money is the root of all evil”. So it is not really the money itself that is the root of all evil, but it is the love of money, the dependence on money. When money becomes just a sole vision for us and we lose track on mercy and compassion and love for people who are around us, and the relationships that really matter, and we lose all of this for the sake of money.
“For the love…”, it is I Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, from which some have strayed from the faith, and their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
The fourth lesson that we can learn from his life, which was in a way very controversial topic, is his faith. Which religion did he belong to? And up until this moment no one really knows. He was born a Jehovah’s Witness, his mother is a Jehovah’s Witness, and sometimes he would speak about gong in his childhood going door to door, in Southern California, to preach his religion on Sundays, then in the past years, there were rumors that he converted to Islam, because one of his brothers have converted to Islam, and that he was going to move to Bahrain in the Middle East, and that he was going to build a mosque, and also some people said well, he confessed you know, to Christ as a Savior, he became a Christian, and some other people say that he became Jewish, because his former wife whom he has two children is Jewish, and he joined the Kaballah religion, and… basically no one knows, and they are still speculating what kind of service they are going to have on Tuesday for his memorial which will happen at the Centre.
At any rate, there is important lesson to be learned here. For myself, I’m thinking, am I firm in my faith, or is my faith going to be shaken due to any wind that may pass by? Even if I have certain doubts, do I deal with them, or does that take me to a whole new realm? We praise God that maybe we are not going to go to this extreme that he has gone through; this is just another controversial issue in his life, among many others, but the bottom line here is that, I know as The Lord said, and also as St John said that there will be so many false prophets who will come confusing the people and teaching different religions, and different ways of living, for example in I John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but taste the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Anti-Christ which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”.
The bottom line here is that I need to pray hard for this spirit of the sermons, and the spirit of wisdom, to know that this teaching is coming to me, that person who was knocking on the door, and trying to confuse me with some verses, or that person who meets me on the buss, or the bus stop, or on the street, or my co-worker, he wants to shake my faith. I need to have the spirit of the. Is he coming to me with the pure orthodox message or is he just trying to confuse me by giving me the earthly wisdom?
We need now more than ever to be confirmed in our Orthodox faith, in the holy sacraments in the love of God, in serving one another, in the knowledge of The Holy Scriptures, to be able to have profitable dialogue with others who may not share with us the same faith. It is very dangerous now because I feel that the world is in big confusion now especially concerning spirituality; there are different religions and denominations, and unfortunately, people who are within these faiths and beliefs have not held the world much because they are not being as authentic or genuine in their faith, but out of the religions of the world today, it is coming hypocrisy, and hatred and war and envy and all sorts of things that may put this world in even more disarray rather than to unite. So more than ever, now we need to unite in our faith as a church, as a congregation, as a community of believers, to put to rest these doubts. To show the world that we are the light of the world, to show the world that indeed we are not only speaking the message of The Gospel, but we are living it in truth and in love, and in passion, and in all honesty in front of God; that this is truly what we preach as what we live, or how we want to live our lives.
The next lesson that we want to learn from him is the fact that achieving goals, great goals needs passion and needs a plan and the whole fact that it is not going to happen all of a sudden but gradually.
Like a person doesn’t become a superstar over night. It takes so much time with rejection, and failure… because in many times we get discouraged. We say we tried prayer, but we couldn’t, or we didn’t feel like it so we just stopped. But if we have the spirit of victory in us; “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world”. If I understand this verse correctly and the message of Christ that we are called for extraordinary life; I’m going to keep trying. A child when it is learning to walk, just merely crawling, and starts to stand up and fall again, and stand and fall, until finally he or she gets to try it. Trial and spiritual guidance until I attain all my goals is really important. Not to be in a rush, to say “Well, the saints did and I heard the story of this great person, and I want to achieve this level so quickly”, maybe it is not going to work this. It takes gradual trial, and I need to go back to my spiritual Father.
St Moses The Black, when he was just starting his spiritual walk with God, he would be tempted with the evil thoughts to return back to the old grace, and he would go back to St Isidores and tell him that “ I’m being tempted with this thought, what can I do?” He said “Go back to and fight the evil one. Go back to your cell and try over”. Maybe seventy times he would go to him in one night, and he would still tell him to continue his spiritual struggle until he would give up on his fear. This is how the saints became saints; not that they were born in it, but they practiced and they had passion, and love of God, until finally they attained this spiritual level.
The 6th lesson that we can learn from his life is the whole concept of addictions, and again this is really unfortunate, because to be in ailment or sickness or psychological problem, but the bottom line, maybe it was just part of his life, but dependence on substance and substance abuse, and this always tells me that I need to watch what is entering into my body and my system. Maybe it is not merely a drug, maybe it is a bad habit that I am getting used to, and it is getting back to me to hunt me, and it is preventing me from many important things in life, such as taking and partaking of The Holy Communion, if I have some kind of habit, because I am starting to think of myself as a bad person, and if I have this bad habit, how is it possible that I can go and take communion?!
Many of these addictions unfortunately, on our own level, not maybe at that high level, people have… maybe sexual addictions, or any kinds of addiction that could be preventing them from really pursuing a clear spiritual life. “Don’t you know that we are the temple of God and the holy spirit dwells in us”, so if I feel that my body is the temple of the Holy spirit, I will not abuse it in any way.
Finally, the last lesson is the whole concept of no one lives forever. The call to leave the earth may come sooner that I think! It was said that only two days prior to his passing away, that he was practicing for his upcoming tour. It was shown that he was in full health, and singing and dancing, and living his life as if there is no tomorrow.
The Holy Scriptures speaks about this subject so many times, that what is a man’s life? It is like a vapor that may appear for a while then it disappears again! Who knows really when our life is going to end? No one knows! We may have predictions and ideas and plans, but if The Lord calls us tonight to be with Him, then we need to be ready.
Our Lord Jesus spoke several parables concerning the end of our life, the end of time. Like the parable of the ten virgins; Five of them were wise, and five were foolish, and at that particular time, The Lord he used a beautiful analogy because, he used a contemporary scene of a wedding.
They didn’t have many watches, not everyone was wearing a watch; and they couldn’t just say it is morning, it’s midnight, it is after midnight… no one knows when the bridegroom is coming. It was known the day that it will be a wedding, but they don’t know when it is going to be. So the bridesmaid needs to be ready at any time, because the bridegroom will ask for the bride’s hand and he will go to her house and escort her from her house with all the beautiful procession, all the way to his house, and the big party takes place at his house. So once he enters, once the bridal party enters, the door is locked and no one else is allowed to go inside. He gives this beautiful analogy and He speaks about the end of times, that once the door is shut and is closed, then there is no more chance to negotiate, so the time is now to be ready for The Lord’s call.
How can I be ready? Through the life of repentance. A life of truly self searching, to see where I have gone wrong, purify myself, seeing my confession father and truly repenting and taking and partaking of the holy mysteries with a heart that is pure in front of him. Reconciling with my brother and sister, and really having no grudges against anyone else. No one knows the day or the time of the hour at which The Son of man is coming, so we need to be ready at all times.
His calling; his call to leave the earth came at a time when no one in the world expected it, because he was possibly at the top or close to the top of his career, and he was again reviving his career, but the call came that “Tonight your soul will be taken away from you, and everything that you have built or attempted to build; what is going to survive?”
Maybe his music is going to survive is going to survive, and maybe his art is going to survive, but we pray that his soul is in God’s hand, we don’t know, because He is The ultimate judge. But again, I go back again to think of myself; if The Lord asks for my soul tonight, will I be ready or not? This is the big question. His life has ended, but for you and I this is the big question, that we have to continue to ask ourselves every single night, and the church helps us with this out, with The Prayer of Comply, with The Midnight Prayer, so that we can be ready at all times to meet The Lord our God.
And what a beautiful time and event to see the one whom we have spoken about all our lives, finally to see him in heaven.
Before that day, for us who are believers it is a joyful day. A day of coming together of the groom and the bride, and He invites; The Lord invites the bride to unite with Him forever more. A place where there will be no mourning, no weeping, or gnashing of teeth, a place where only joy abounds. A place where there will be no need for the sun, because The Lord Himself will enlighten the whole heavens, and He will wipe away every tear from people’s eyes.
The bottom line, my beloved, is I just want to take this opportunity not in any way to judge or to condemn; only The Lord knows the hearts of people, but at least, we can not pass this big worldwide event without seeing how we can benefit and grow from it.
May The Lord always accept our lives and accept our ministry and accept our repentance, so that when that day comes when He calls us home, we would be ready for His own glory.
Glory Be To God Forever and Ever.