man looking over valley

Fame or Fortune or..

As a child of the sixties, it easy to look back at that era with rose tinted spectacles. Of course, in some ways it was a more innocent and cohesive time. Yet within that greater trust and togetherness we now know that there were many dark corners in our national life; areas which are only coming to light today.

 

This can no better be illustrated than the celebrities of back then. Most have faded into well earned obscurity. Others are pillars of society or, even more cringe-making, awarded the status of national treasure. However, a few have been found to have been the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Whatever – however they are seen today, none have retained their ‘god like’ status of 50 odd years ago.

 

Nevertheless, despite the experience of history, we continue to thrust divinity onto celebs, politicians and other ephemeral worthies. It seems then that the time-honoured wheel of human psychology demands we ever confer immortality on humanity.

 

Now I think I said not so long ago that when I did my Naval Instructors course, we were taught to start each lesson with something to engage interest. Well, that day in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas certainly did that (Acts 14.8-18). Yet, I have to say, by conducting such a spectacular curing, Paul and Silas did rather ask for the adulation they gained. I am not saying they courted it, but it was pretty obvious what the outcome would be. Nevertheless, they quickly realised their danger and to their credit soon put it right. They made clear they were but agents of the living God; a caring divinity that stood just outside of the pagans’ line of sight. And as a result of rejecting this unmerited fame, they returned to being the type of followers which earn the highest honour – that of being called ‘disciple’.

So where does the Lystra story leave us? How do find our place within the short lesson from Matthew (Matthew 10.37-42)? How indeed do we find greatness within the sometimes uncertain framework of being Christ’s disciples?

 

Well, rather as Paul did, we need to keep our eyes open. For there is little point trying to serve as Christ’s disciples to someone whose mind is closed. Instead, like Paul let us spot faith no matter how ill-formed or ill-informed it is and use it. Let us respond to an openness to things beyond self. Let us work within that space created by the sense of beyond. Since after all, few here would claim to absolute certain of their doctrine on this issue or that, yet we can lay testimony of Jesus’ present and curing in their lives.

 

Next, we need to let matters not lie there. Instead we need to move the another’s spiritual awaking to a sharper focus. It needs to be – front and centre – aimed at the life and teaching of Christ. Because in the false deifying of Paul and Barnabas the greatest danger was not in them becoming too big for their boots. No the real threat was the distraction – the distraction from a God who nurtures humanity, provides for humanity and wants every human life to have meaning, purpose and worth.

 

But then what can we cure?

 

The university faculty gathered for their weekly meeting. A professor of Archeology brought with him a lamp recently unearthed in the Middle East. It was reported to contain a genie, who, when the lamp was rubbed would appear and grant one wish.

 

A professor of Philosophy was particularly intrigued. He grabbed the lamp and rubbed it vigorously. Suddenly a genie appeared and made him an offer. He could choose one of three rewards: wealth, wisdom, or fame. Without hesitating, the philosophy professor selected wisdom. “Done!” said the genie and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

 

All the other faculty members turned toward the professor, who sat surrounded by a halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something. What wise insight do you now have?”

 

The professor, much wiser now, sighs and says, “I should have taken the money.”

 

Today, most people would have taken not the money but the fame. It seems worth is popularly measured in fame and attendant wealth. And if they don’t have it, then they feel their lives are humdrum, unfulfilled even worthless.

Consequently there is a huge amount of people around who suffer from a lack of self-value. Moreover, there are many whose  abject sense of  inner poverty is a genuine handicap to living a full and free life.

Here then is an affliction,we as Christ’s disciples can aspire to cure

 

 

For the sixties are well behind us. And the years may not have brought fame and wealth. They most probably have not brought outward beauty. Yet they may well have brought the internal beauty of wisdom. The wisdom to see that in using  our godly gifts we  can bring real healing. The wisdom to know we can bestow worth and meaning and purpose with simple listening. The wisdom to offer, through Christ, the quiet encouragement that transforms – transforms the everyday into  the outstanding – transforms the commonplace into the priceless and transforms the  ordinary into true greatness.

 

Above all, we need the wisdom to be ourselves.

 

Since others will then see a priceless dignity in our ordinary discipleship,  they will find the living Jesus in our cheerful everyday-ness and they will rediscover in our godly contentment their own way to inner valuing and meaningfulness.  For Thomas Moore said that by learning to discover and value our ordinariness, we nurture a friendliness towards ourselves and the world that is the essence of a healthy soul.

 

So go and don’t just have an ordinary day, instead be someone else’s great day!

 

 

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