by Rev. Joan Kessler
I thought today being Valentine’s Day we would take some time to reflect upon the movie Shrek. You likely have seen this movie for yourself. A grumpy ogre sees his swamp overrun with fairytale characters and the only way to restore his home is to go and rescue Princess Fiona from her captivity and deliver her to the nasty Lord Farquaad. Shrek is big and loud and has no social etiquette and makes no apologies for the way he is. He is good in his own skin. He grew up believing that it was the work of ogre to scare people. Along the way he meets a noble stead named Donkey… Donkey is fast-talking with the hopes it will distract people from the things he is scared of. Shrek and Donkey make an unlikely team, yet their differences bring out the best in each of them. And together they head out on an adventure and rescue Fiona who lives with a secret… she has been cursed by a witch as a child who made her a beautiful princess between sunrise and sunset but at twilight, she took the form of an ogre and lived a life hidden away… the curse read:
By night one way, by day another
This shall be the norm
Until you find true love’s kiss
And then take love’s true form
As the story unfolds, we see the main characters loved into their beings. As the journey unfolds, Shrek comes to realize that he doesn’t have to eat people or scare people to be an ogre… he doesn’t have to be sarcastic and rude all of the time… he realizes an ogre can love and receive love in return. He compares himself to an onion with multilayers. There is more to him meets the eye.
Then there’s Donkey… who finds love in a dragon, an unlikely match up we might say. And he realizes that there’s a difference between the Donkey on the inside and the Donkey on the outside… that Donkey, despite his fear and insecurities, can love and be loved.
A beautiful princess who lives imprisoned in a castle, waiting to be rescued, a woman who turns into an ogre when the sun goes down. A Princess who decides she would rather have love and live her life as an ogre and be married to an ogre than naught. In the final scene we witness Love’s True Form as the main characters come accept who they are, on the inside and the outside. It is not the typical fairytale happy ending…but it is a happy ending. As the sun sets, she takes the bold step to show Shrek and everyone else who she truly is and who she truly longs to be. She is lifted in radiant light and love and transfigured before them… the inner essence of her spirit, her soul, are still the same… transfiguration changes what is on the outside and in effect, the experience of her with others in her life.
This is a story of becoming… of accepting the things we wish were different about ourselves and seeing them as gifts rather than deficiencies so that we might live a life fully known and fully loved. This is how God Loves. The theological virtue of Love is the greatest Paul says, because we are always fully known… we may look in a mirror dimly but we will see face to face… all our possibility and potential.
Today we remember Jesus’ transfiguration…on that mountain top he had a mystical theophany… he was bathed in light whiter and brighter than any bleach… it was an experience that not only reminded him of who he was, God’s Beloved, but perhaps more importantly, it showed his friends who he truly was. They would go back down that mountain together and never see their Jesus, their teacher and friend, the same way again… Love found its true form.
We too head back down the mountain… COVID has us isolated and distanced, uncertain and anxious about the future. How do we express ourselves as we once did when the nature of human interaction has become so altered? But maybe the more important question to ask is what difference does Love make? Not just the romantic variety. But I am thinking about the Capital L kind of Love, the kind that accepts us as we are, fully known by a Love greater than ourselves that comes from the Source of our beings. What difference does Love make to the way you do your work or interact with your kids and grandkids; or the way you move about and live your life in these COVID times; or how we organize our church community and develop a mission? Or the way we talk to each other about differences of opinion and things that cause us hurt and disappointment. Love makes all the difference. Jesus will live out the rest of his life proving this to his community and those who would come long after. Shrek and Fiona will ride off in their ogre sunset. We long for happy endings. May the big L Love surround us all this Valentine’s Day, loving and accepting ourselves for the skin we are in, all that we are meant to be because Love makes all the difference. May it be so.
Amen and amen.
Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
– Mary Oliver