In 1950 Hollywood stunned the world and itself too when it released the movie Sunset Boulevard. An almost biographical look at itself, it took a cruel, but honest look at what had become of the stars of the early silent screen, in particular one Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson. She is or was a star at one time, and is still locked in her glory days. Time and the movies have passed her by, but she still lives as she did then, when some 20-25 years have passed. She has been planning to make another movie, to show the new generation how it should be done, and is sadly misled when her old studio calls her and only is interested in her car. She thinks they are calling....but perhaps the most telling line is when a reporter sees her, and says “hey, you’re Norma Desmond aren’t you? You used to be big?” And her reply is priceless, “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small.” An incredible line from a star who never uttered one line in any of her films, for she was a star in the silent era. Maybe saving her best and only line for last. She was big in pictures, she just failed to see the big picture.
“Hey I know you, you used to go to church here,” I have been told. Something about changing churches or taking a rest from religion inspires these words to those who haven’t. Sometimes I want to say, “ God is big, it is religion that has made him small,” but know the lines will only fall short of having the effect I desire, as religion has made them small. God moved on, and although he never changes, they didn’t either. Jesus loves them as they are, he just didn’t want to leave them that way. He saw the potential, they never saw him. A story told in both the New and Old Testaments about Moses, who when he saw God on the mountain and received the Ten Commandments, he put a veil over his face. It shone with the presence of God, and at first he didn’t want to scare the people. But as time went on, and the glory faded, he still wore the mask, to hide it fading glow. God hadn’t changed, he had. Maybe he once wore it proudly, “I’ve been with God and you haven’t,” now he only had a faded memory, and like Norma, “hewas big, it’s the message that got small.” For in the commandments God gave him were six rules on how to have relationships with man, and only four with God. No salvation found in them, it was only later when Paul related the same story in Corinthians does he remind us that Jesus wrote his word on our hearts, not on tablets of stone. Reminding us how hard hearted we are, and how only Jesus can soften that heart of stone. He went on to say how Moses kept his mask on because he didn’t want to lose what he had, that personal moment with God. Has your relationship with God been based on one moment, one event? Or is it still in progress, growing every day? Has Jesus gotten smaller, while you have gotten larger? Is you religion larger than Jesus? Can you even tell the difference?
Moses gave us the evidence, Paul made it more personal. We all put up facades, sadly to other Christians, we don’t want to appear weak. When a very young Christian, I had a headache and a pastor rebuked it out of me. Only I still had it, he was sure it was gone, I was sure it wasn’t, but lied to please him. Do we lie to others thinking it will make us look better, increase the drama of our testimony? Has our relationship faded so much we never take off our mask? Do we even know we still wear it?
Even though it is our testimony, without Jesus it is meaningless. Joining a church, going forward at Billy Graham, or praying in an emotional moment may not be true salvation. Only when Jesus softens our hearts, when we admit we are sinners and repent, when we acknowledge him as God, Lord and savior, are we born again. Consider where you are in Jesus right now, is he still as big as the first time you met him? Or has religion gotten bigger? Do you care more about what people think or what God does? Is your life just one big evangelical veil production, or do you know Jesus personally? He is ready to forgive you and welcome you, or forgive you again and welcome you back. Are you more concerned about your friends finding out how you have been living a lie, maybe not rejoicing when you repent or of the angels who do when a soul is saved? Norma never got it, Moses had a clue, do you?
In the end Norma has lost all touch with reality. And as the police come for her, she makes her final exit down the staircase jammed with reporters. She is big again, she pauses to make an impromptu speech, one she has been rehearsing for years on the comeback, her comeback, and her last line is “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.” Are we ready for ours? While we see only the outer man, God sees both, and looks on the heart. Norma waited years for her comeback, yours can happen today. Are you ready for your close up? Ready to discard the mask between you and God? God is light, the camera the spirit, all we need is some action. You see, “Jesus still is big, it is religion that has become small.” Has life become as Norma said, “we didn’t need dialogue, we had faces.” God gave Moses words, Jesus is the word. And Moses answered...
By the way, Sunset Boulevard was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won three. Jesus nominates you for one, salvation. The envelope please....
love with compassion,