"You da man."

Aug. 02, 2015

2 Sam 11.25-12.13a; Eph. 4.1-16; John 6.24-35

Being a celebrity has its privileges and its costs. Most of us think of fame as a perk--but then they say we'll all have our own 15 minutes of fame, standing alone in the limelight of other people's admiration and envy. I'll always remember the line from Mel Brooks' movie History of the World Part 1, when he played the role of Louis XIV walking about the grounds of the Versailles palace outside of Paris. He looked at the camera and said smugly, "It's gooood to be da King." Yes, celebrity gets people's attention and adulation. I read recently that Don Trump charges $15,000 for 5 minutes of his time. So, I guess it is "good to be da king."

Even the artifacts of fame garner a great price...at auction Star Trek Captain and leading man William Shatner sold his kidney stone on EBay for $25,000, Judy Garland's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz fetched almost $700,000, and the dress that Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang, "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to John Kennedy, well that dress pulled down one and a quarter million dollars! It cuts both ways though...as Oscar Wilde said, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." Celebrity is a fleeting thing...Shakespeare said it was like the ripples of a stone hitting the water. The waves spread out in all directions in a very formal procession, but then, they're just gone. Celebrity seems the same.

And it has its costs too. Especially when you're in trouble...it seems everybody knows. That was true long before the National Enquirer--because inquiring minds have always wanted to know. The Bloomington, Minn. dentist, Walter Palmer wanted a trophy, so he paid over $50,000 to kill a lion in Zimbabwe and become a scourge the whole world over for destroying an animal known by name and honored in the game preserve where it had lived. If good news travels fast, bad news travels much faster. We, as well as Dr. Palmer, know that.

Usually when someone says, "You da' man," we relish the accolade, but not so when it was said by the prophet Nathan to King David in today's reading from 2nd Samuel. And yes, today's OT reading is a follow-up on last week's story about King David's adultery and his part in the murder of his lover Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite. I'll bet almost every preacher in the English speaking world was like me last Sunday and stayed as far from that lesson as possible. But unfortunately, this week, it's back. So, I guess I can't dodge it anymore.

Fact is, it's uncomfortable to watch anyone self-destruct. One of the reasons ancient kings wore a crown of woven green ivy on their heads as the adoring crowds called out their name and praise, was to remind them of how quickly fame wilts and faces like the wreath they wore. Likewise, this popular and beloved King David had been successful in defeating every enemy of the Lord, but now he had to encounter the most difficult enemy he ever faced...and that was David himself. He suddenly became a victim of his own "self-doubt." He became like a man who teeters over a great height on a very narrow ledge...and his next move could bring his destruction.

As history would prove, David's devotion to his own person and to his own ends would undo the great accomplishments that he had achieved...his fame and his charisma had united the very different and diverse twelve tribes of the Hebrew people. But in a matter of a few years, the tribes of the north would pull back from the alliance that David had forged making them one nation under God. And it left David's grandson with a divided kingdom of Israel to the north and the kingdom of Judah and its capital Jerusalem to the south. It later made them vulnerable to other conquering nations.

Well, what happened? David came to believe that the success he'd experienced as leader of the nation was about him...about David. As such the invincible image that surrounded him began to dissolve on every side. As long as he had held on to the Lord, he had been showered with God's favor and the nation with him. But apart from the Lord he didn't possess the gifts to keep the people together. He came to see that. He realized his shortcomings and pleaded with God. In Psalm 51, he wrote, "Create a clean heart in me, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me." But at the same time, he clung to those same sins at the very time he was denouncing them. He was like St Augustine many, many years later who wanted to believe and follow Christ and let go of his old life in favor of a new life in Christ...but he couldn't get to the point where he could let go of the old besetting sins. St Augustine wrote in his autobiography, that as he prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, make me pure, make me pure" and after his prayer he added, "But not yet, Lord. Not yet."

The issue for King David, and for us, is whether we will let the Lord lead us or not. Is it all about us? The ancient Greek hero Persius said, "How sweet it is to have people point at you and say, "There he is." But such thoughts are like a summer dust devil that spins the air on a hot day. It goes around and around, blowing the dust in a circle of moving fury, but then is just as quickly gone. Rather as St Paul said in Ephesians today, I "beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." That's the life we are called to live in God. It's not about us...but rather that someone might point to us as an example of Godly humility, gentleness, patience, love and peace...if we build our lives on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ our Lord, we'll be on firm ground. I'd rather have that than 15 minutes of anything. Amen.

The Reverend WA Ray
St Thomas Church

Diamondhead, MS