american beauty

Read: Matthew 4:1-11

Alex Kuczynsk, a long-time style reporter for The New York Times, wrote a book about our obsession with beauty, particularly plastic surgery.  It’s a subject she knows firsthand.  She started out slowly, having this procedure and that.  Then it was once a month, and then every other week.  Until one day:  it was the funeral of her best friend’s father.  There was a visitation in the morning, followed by the funeral later that day. 

Alex had a Botox treatment scheduled.  The doctor’s office was right on the way to the funeral. It would just take a few minutes, she thought, so she saw no reason to reschedule.  She slipped out of the motorcade line to run in and have her lips injected.  But something went wrong.  Her entire face swelled up, and she missed the funeral of her best friend’s father. 

In Matthew's gospel, that’s how the devil works.  I don’t mean the Botox disaster, and I certainly don't mean a guy in a red top hat and tail with a pitchfork.  I mean the sinister, inexplicable voice that says:  You aren’t enough.  You don’t have enough. 

It’s a tough message to counter.  We're surrounded by it, immersed in it, both in shouts and, even worse, in whispers.  Its destructive power is everywhere to be seen - from the anxious fashion editor to the anorexic teen, our own homes and apartments to our polluted and damaged earth.  

What can we do?  As far as I can tell, our best hope is God's gracious word of love.  Every chance we get, we should wrap our children and our earth in those good words:  "You are the body of Christ, beloved and beautiful, cherished and chosen."  These words should be our daily bread. These words, in songs and, even better, in whispers, can help us counter the temptations of the desert.  They are the Spirit's way of letting us lean into lives of true beauty, trusting God to provide what we truly need, and so worshiping God - and God alone. 

Loving God, from anthill to mountain top, from desert to vegetable gardens, your creation reflects your genius and glory.  Calm our anxious spirits and give us confidence that we live in your heart.  Amen.


A million thanks to Ruth for this gorgeous moment from 1957.  And thanks to Holly McKissick for her courageous words (check out her Fellowship of Prayer, published by Chalice Press).