Baby, remember my name

Jul. 03, 2016

2 Kings 5.1-14; Gal 6.7-16; Lk 10.1-11, 16-20

How many times have you been told that real influence is measured by who you know? But, it's not just who you know, but it's also a matter of who knows you that can make all the difference in the world. Actually, it works both ways. Recognition and influence is based in relationships. That makes life a dialogue, not a monologue. It's who we know and who knows us and that's how important things get done.

And one very important upshot of this is to remember the most important connection we can have in this life is to our God...and God knows and loves us. But we so often lose sight of that important fact when we get caught up in our own successes and failures. Just as Jesus told his disciples who were elated with their own successes in the mission field, Jesus said, "do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Like I said, it's very important...who knows you.

In ancient times, great athletes and those celebrated for great accomplishments were presented with a wreath of greens woven into a crown. They were like gods in the eyes of adoring fans. But like the wreath they wore, fame and success, fade and wither and are gone. That's why when someone has their 15 minutes of fame, as Andy Warhol lasts, well, 15 minutes. As the English writer Samuel Johnson put it, "There lurks in the human heart the desire (for) distinction which inclines every (person) first to hope and then to believe that nature has (gifted) them something peculiar to themselves." But great and small, rich and poor, celebrated and uncelebrated alike...we're actually all in the same place.

We have all had the experience of meeting celebrities we may have seen on TV or in movies, and our first inclination is to greet them as a friend because we have seen them in all different kinds of humorous or stressful dramatic situations. This celebrity function allows advertisers to use their faces and endorsements to sell everything from cologne to underwear. We see Michael Jordan selling Hanes underwear, Christy Brinkley and Cindy Crawford selling anti-aging creams, and the Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady selling a mattress. We are drawn to celebrities because they seem larger than life and seeing them in the media we feel we know them. And by attaching ourselves to them, their persona lifts us to a new and higher place. So, we grant them our adulation, praise, and we may even imitate them.

I remember a couple of years ago, I was boarding an airplane in Berlin, Germany and I was lugging my stuff back into the steerage part of the plane called "coach" where even a short guy like myself doesn't have room for his knees. And, you know how you have to walk through the privileged 1st class section to get to those cramped seats in the back...well, I looked sideways and saw the movie star, Matt Damon. (Matt Damon has starred in more than a dozen movies including the immensely popular trilogy, the "Borne Identity" and recently in the movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars.) Well, I remember that as our eyes met, that he self-defensively grabbed the bill of his baseball cap and pulled it down over his face to cover his eyes. He looked down to negate the bridge we'd established between us through with our eye contact, but I knew who he was and he knew I knew. I'm sure when some people meet celebrities in public places they gush over them to the point that the celebrities feel they have no ownership of their faces...their faces, their whole being, belongs to the public. Paparazzi follow them everywhere...they have no private moments...the public scrutinizes every action. And when they fail our expectations (and they do, they are human after all), the public's fury is unbounded. When Bob Dylan performed at Woodstock years ago, he said he felt like a piece of meat, which had been thrown to a ravenous pack of dogs. Celebrity has its costs. As the French writer Voltaire said, "What a heavy burden is a name that has become too famous." Everybody makes a fuss over celebrity.

I think about this in relation to the story from the OT today of the healing of the Aramean soldier Naaman by the Hebrew prophet Elisha. Elisha's reputation had spread beyond Israel and the hope of a cure for leprosy had brought this powerful man to the prophet's door. So, this great and well-respected man thought the red carpet would be rolled out for him upon his arrival and that the prophet would fuss over him and do some great, noisy incantations to drive out the hideous disease. But, no, the prophet didn't even make an appearance, instead he just sent the simple instructions to go and wash in the River Jordan seven times. I mean, I understand the let down Naaman must have felt. The prophet's instructions were something he could have come up with on his own (and as he said, "aren't the rivers of Damascus better than the rivers in Israel?")! So, why'd he journey all that way without the benefit of some deference to his celebrity or why had not the prophet prescribed a more aggressive treatment for his disease? If I went to the cancer institute in Houston, I'd expect them to have me meet with experts in their fields who would level the best science available against my disease. But there were no elaborate protestations, no ceremony, no embellished prayers over this celebrity soldier from Aram...just these simple instructions to go and wash.

Elisha did not do any "Hocus Pocus" after all HE wasn't doing the healing...God was. There was only the prophet's faithful attendance to God's word, to God's instruction. But the important thing for Naaman was that Elisha knew God and was known by God. Celebrity or not...Elisha was connected to God and that connected Naaman to God and that meant that God knew Naaman. It's not who you know, but who knows you. With Naaman and the disciples of Jesus...we rejoice to know that we are known to God. And that's how important things get done. Amen.

The Reverend WA Ray

St Thomas Church
Diamondhead, MS