wickedly good news

I recently very much enjoyed seeing the musical Wicked
for the first time—
and for reasons those of you familiar
with both the musical and me
might well be able to surmise:
a familiar and beloved story
turned inside out and retold anew,
the apparent and accepted questioned,
expectations undermined and inverted,
unsuspected connections suggested—
origins of personality and prejudice,
and characters identified as wicked and good
revealed to be … well, complicated.

Gregory Maguire, author of the book the musical’s based on
(Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West)
has made explicit that while very much wanting
to tell the witch’s story from beginning to end,
he was not so much seeking to explain her
as to deepen her mystery.

And I was struck by the fact that the musical
begins with the proclamation of gospel—
good news, right?
The very first words we hear, in fact, when the show starts,
in resounding, celebrative chorus: “Good news!”
followed immediately by the words: “She’s dead!”

Ding, dong.

It subsequently occurred to me,
considering the particular good news we proclaim—
as those who tell the story of God in the stories of Jesus,
it occurred to me to notice, to affirm, and to celebrate
that ours is not a proclamation of good news
by virtue of anyone’s death—
or by virtue of anyone’s defeat, for that matter, in confrontation,
but the proclamation of, initially, a birth
and, then, a resurrection.

So it is that in contrast to the ways of the world,
we affirm; we don’t denounce.

Not to say there isn’t confrontation, defeat and denunciation
as part of the unfolding story of God—
even risky confrontations, significant defeats,
and important denunciations,
but they come as implication not as intent—
as consequence, not as purpose.
And as much as that might sound like a word game,
it’s a crucial inversion
that allows us to look through

the vitriol of our culture,
all the blame and the scapegoating,
all the efforts to win, succeed or progress by defeating and denying,
allows us to look through
all the lying and distorting, the mudslinging and name calling—
all the waiting with bated breath for the next
gaffe, blunder, misstep, mistake
someone else makes that represents opportunity for us—

to notice our affirmations,
to proclaim our celebration,
and to announce
a close tight focus on

our wickedly
good news!

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