Maybe some of us should have spent a little less time mocking and rolling our eyes and a little more time listening to the message behind the media blitz. I watched the first half of the last Oprah show this afternoon. Although I'm about to speak of it nicely, I did find it a little annoying and tough to watch in one setting. It seems that as a long as I have been in the pulpit it has been en vogue for preachers to complain about the way our hearers turn to Oprah for advice and life guidance instead of Scripture (or more honestly, instead of us). I've done it a time or two myself.
However, today as I listened to what Oprah had to say on her last episode, sort of her "last lecture" in the style of one of her famous guest, Randy Pausch, I began to think maybe we preachers have been a bit too quick to judge. Actually, I began to think we preachers should pay a bit more attention to Oprah ourselves.
Whether we like her or not (for any number of reasonable or unreasonable excuses), Oprah knows our congregants. In her second or third segment today she lectured the church on who are people are. She told us the needs we are called to address with the Word of God. She articulated the longings of the people in our pews, the longings of the children of God in this and every generation - - the desire to belong, be needed, be worthy, be loved.
It wasn't brand new stuff. Theologians and sociologists have been saying some of the same stuff for a long while. But it's still worth it to listen to it all again. It's worth it to listen to it from Oprah because whether you like her or not or are merely indifferent, she has the ears of a WHOLE LOT of the people in our pews. Her language is already out there and her words are ringing in people's ears. Much of what she had to say in that arena was not just compatible with Christian theology and preaching it was laying the groundwork for us to walk right in with the gospel message.
We are loved by God. We are worthy in God's eyes, simply because we are created by God. We belong to God. And the challenge message to the church is to embody the love and the acceptance and the uplifting nature of God in the world, so that others can experience and believe what is true. Oprah has primed the pump for probably the better part of 25 years. We don't need to work against her; she has set us up to fill in the rest of the message with the good news.