The Gospel According to Ben Affleck

No matter how glitzy or over-the-top or elitist they are, the film lover in me looks forward to the Academy Awards each year. I don't necessarily care "who" the stars are wearing, although I do sometimes wonder what exactly they consider clothing.

When I was a full-time student, living in more urban areas, I would see as many of the Best Picture nominees as possible. I'd read all of the predictions of who should & would win the top awards. I'd make my own predictions and wishes. But now, living in smaller areas as a full-time pastor, I rejoice if able to see one or two nominees before the awards. Even though I did not see this year's winner for Best Picture, Argo, I was rooting for it to win -- because of Ben Affleck.

Like so many people, I loved watching Affleck and Matt Damon win their first Academy award for Good Will Hunting in 1997. It was a Cinderella story of long-time pals writing a story that landed in the right hands at the right time. Their enthusiastic acceptance speech replays each year when the Oscars roll around again. At the time they won, I was in my first creative writing class in high school, and I remember thinking what great writers both of them were when I saw Good Will Hunting. In the 15 years that have followed, it goes without saying that both of these artists were the subjects of tabloids and entertainment magazines. Their private lives were sought out by the public. But no matter what was going on (or not going on) in Ben Affleck's personal life, I never forgot the quality of his writing. In 2007, when he released his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, my dad and I went to see it. Years later, it made such an impact on both of us that we still talk about it, and I consider it one of the best films I've ever seen. His second film as director, The Town, was also powerful. When positive buzz began to swirl about Argo, I began hoping that he would receive some well-deserved recognition.

He did. And his acceptance speech was worth the win for the gospel it contained. Yes, there are critics who are overanalyzing it. But in this Lenten season, when we recall God's mercy, grace, long-suffering, and forgiveness, these words summarize what we so need to hear:

"It doesn't matter if you get knocked down. What matters is that you get back up again."

Simple but true. We hear them often, but do we really understand this concept of the second, third, fourth chances? Affleck thanked all the people who encouraged him and stuck by him even when times were tough. He acknowledged that he was "just a kid" when he first came on the Oscar stage and that he'd made a lot of mistakes in the years that ensued. When we break down his speech, we find a beautifully honest psalm of confession and thanksgiving--with dashes of humor.

The gifted young writer had honed and developed his talents over the years into another piece of art. The road to this Oscar was obviously not easy; it required mercy and forgiveness and grace and patience. Isn't it the same with all of us in our lives? This Lenten season, with God's help let us "get back up again." Mercy is great, and grace is free. Let us take hold of it, friends.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian