by Rev. Lori Ethridge
Minister to Senior Adults
My husband, Tom, has been out of town for over a week, and in his absence, I have taken the liberty to watch some “chick flicks.” One of the films I watched last week was Jackie, a biopic about former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, starring actress Natalie Portman. I was only two years old when President Kennedy was assassinated, but the images surrounding his presidency are iconic, especially those of his grieving family in the days following his tragic death. The film, Jackie, is an intense character study depicting a conflicted wife, mother, First Lady, as she tries to disentangle her own perspective concerning the murder of her husband, while he sat beside her in the motorcade in Dallas, from what is occurring on the larger stage. One of the film critics, Olly Richards of the magazine, Empire, wrote, “[this film] makes you view someone you’ve seen countless times as if you were seeing them anew.”
There is a particular scene in the film in which Mrs. Kennedy, presumably some weeks after her husband’s death, is talking with her priest (played by John Hurt). The First Lady is questioning the meaning, if any, behind the tragic events of her life: her miscarriages, her husband’s unfaithfulness (implied in the scene) and her new status as a widow. She remarks that God is cruel. The priest questions her recollection of the biblical story of the man blind from birth found in this week’s lection from John 9. He reminds her that the disciples essentially ask Jesus, “Why; whose fault is this?” and Jesus replies, “It’s no one’s fault; but so God’s glory may be revealed.”
In John 9:8, after the blind man is healed by Jesus, some of the neighbors, and those who had seen him before, that is, when he was blind, began to “see” or to view the man in a different way. The Pharisees get involved, and the blind man comes under intense scrutiny, as does Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. It is interesting to me that both Jackie Kennedy and the man blind from birth are experiencing post-traumatic stress under a huge microscope. Life-changing events have occurred within their own personal spheres, yet their stories are playing out on a much larger stage, with monumental consequences regarding politics and power. I wonder, as Christians, how are we to respond to either extreme; to that of intense joy or to that of intense sorrow? As the priest indicates in the film, Jackie, and as Jesus implies in the story of the man born blind, we are to respond in a way that brings glory to God. Amen.