As a boy, and even as young man, I looked at people with titles as being powerful and unique in so many ways. There is also intelligence, which gives someone a great basis for his or her particular field. Of course there is also pure talent--people who are superbly gifted in certain ways. Tony Gwynn, who passed last week said, “I knew I was given good eyes and quick hands . . .” Titles are awarded through work, talent, and intelligence. And finally, there is fame, which has too many factors to list. Regardless, all of these things add up to involve people we look up to at some point in our lives. The truth is, of course, that we all possess some of these attributes. We all have talents, gifts, and intelligence. The wild card of fame all depends on how you define it. We sum it up by describing celebrities or people who enjoy some form of being in the spotlight.
I used to think that fame was some sort of escape. It seemed like people who were famous or rich had some way of avoiding the tragedies of this life. But now all I have to do is look at the magazines that invade my house to see that is not true. One famous person is in rehab; another is depressed; and new stories are published in magazines every week about some famous person’s problems. One show that definitely gave me a fresh look on this was a show called, “Broke.” “Broke” was all about how famous athletes go broke after their careers end. One example of this is fairly well known to St. Louisans through the Matheny story. People talk these athletes, who had tons of money, into business opportunities. The problem is, that for most of them, their money needs to last them from the time they retire in their 30s throughout their entire lives. That situation made me think about car depreciation ever since our purple car bit the dust. The second that a car is driven off the lot, it depreciates immensely. This means every athlete, or car collector like Jay Leno, could be involved in things that decrease in value. I know it may seem odd, but I had a moment of concern for these people who might be caught up in the hype of being famous. If they just knew how to live like us normal people, they would be so much better off. But then again, someone could say that about you and me and our houses and cars--people who live with much less.
The point is not to make us feel guilty; rather, this discussion relates to what Matthew’s Gospel describes about faith in this week’s lesson. Believe it or not, we do this in our faith communities also. We look to people in high positions of faith and hold them up to a higher level. We view their jobs as more important than our own. We look at pastors, worship leaders, prophets, and others who lead people, and view their jobs as higher callings. In this section of Scripture, Jesus sets this straight. He brings us back to the simplicity of the Gospel. The reward of a prophet and common people is the same in that what we all really need is salvation and forgiveness. Matthew goes on to say one of my favorite lines in Scripture, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” Jesus’ powerful words remind us of what we are all called to do. We are to show God’s love in every situation and action that our world might even consider trivial. This week we celebrate the work of Peter and Paul. We thank God for the wonderful gifts they gave to the Church in their ministries. We acknowledge their work, knowing they were being faithful to the Holy Spirit’s direction in their lives. While we know this is the most important work in the world, and because of that, we can give greater value to work being done by other believers. In the same breath, we also know this work could not be done without the hand of Jesus. Jesus is the reason we are rescued and prepared to do this kind of work. And that inspires us.