Matthew 18:1-5; Psalm 8

The Reverend Phillip Blackburn

January 14, 2018

Just so you know I am here to help you out.  Over this past week I have decided that we all need to become internet famous.  In order to do this, we all need to boost our social media profiles a lot.  So I have taken the time to research how one goes about becoming internet famous.  Here are some tips:

  1. Watch topically relevant and trending hashtags. Join these conversations to get in front of more people.
  2. Use your bio link to drive traffic to your newest or most popular content.
  3. Write descriptive captions. Storytelling will help generate engagement and sharing.
  4. Don’t want a tagged photo of you or your brand on your profile? Edit Tags to hide images from your profile.
  5. Develop your own unique, recognizable visual style. Figure out how you want to stand out and make it so!

There, now, aren’t you glad you got out of bed this morning and came to church?  We can all get busy becoming more famous.  And since we are Americans, being famous is important.  Fame, in our culture, is a big deal and the internet has only accelerated the need for exposure to the masses.  In our nation, there is simply nothing more important than fame.

And in order to become famous, some people are doing more than just using the list above.  On YouTube, for example, people do all sorts of weird things.  There is a famous guy named Coyote Peterson who went around the world and let himself get stung by the 10 most painful insects, culminating with a bullet ant sting.  I’d never heard of a bullet ant but the name alone implies one doesn’t want to be stung by it.  There is a guy named Felix who has 7 million followers who watch him play video games.  And there is a couple named Heather and Mike Martin, who have a YouTube series where they play pranks on their kids.

One time they poured invisible ink all over their carpet, then they convinced their 9-year-old son, Cody, that he had done it and started yelling at him.  Then he started to cry.  Then the video was reported to the police and they lost custody of their son to his mother.  And this gets closer to the point.

The pursuit of fame is not in any way, really, Christian.  And this brings us to Psalm 8.  Scripture is an antidote to the fame virus which plagues us, and Psalm 8 can play an integral part of that.  As the Psalmist describes the beauty of creation in the opening and closing verses, he brackets a conversation about us, humans.  Verse 5 is really the key, “Yet you have made them (people) a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.”

We have all heard this sort of thing so many times that we can kind of tune it out.  Yes, we know we are created in God’s image.  We understand that creation is here, in many ways for us, but as the Psalmist points out, we are not just the privileged species on this planet in some sort of general way.  God has chosen to elevate us and that role we fit here, and in God’s good view of the world, is significant.  God’s care and concern and love for us is written all over the world in the book of nature and is reflected quite explicitly in verse 5 of Psalm 8.  Humanity has been crowned with glory and honor.

With this in mind, then, we can see that seeking fame is in many ways an attempt to find our relevance in the wrong place.  Our significance as people comes not from how many social media followers we have, nor how many people know our names, but rather in the Gospel truth of God’s love for us.  That is our relevance.  But this is not a sermon about the failures of our society.  No, what I want to talk about is our failure as Church.

I get tired of hearing about how America is rejecting the Church.  In my view, it is the Church that has consistently failed the people of this nation and I understand why many are upset with us.  And this issue of fame, in my mind, is reflected on the Church.  While I hope that what I have said thus far has not been news to any of us, I can say that we have completely failed to communicate this message of love and grace to people.  If we are passionate about the Gospel, which I hope we are, and if we believe in the truth of Jesus Christ, which I hope we do, then anybody we encounter should know that they have just met somebody who loves them.

If we do not show God’s love in powerful and unconditional ways then how can people experience the truth of verse 5?  I remember a time back at my old church in Lincoln.  In the summers neither the choir nor I would wear robes from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  One particularly warm summer, we extended this past Labor Day.  At the next worship committee meeting, we received a letter of protest.  A member of the church wrote, “please have the choir put their robes back on, we are tired of looking at their flabby arms.”  One of the members of the committee, who was in the choir, immediately broke into tears.  It made me wonder who someone could come to church their whole lives, listen to the Scripture read, sing beautiful songs, even hear a decent sermon or two and say something like that to someone else. If people cannot experience love from the Church, and they have experiences like this when they join us, then we can see around us that they will seek it from the masses, and that quest, the quest for fame, comes at a horrible price to people and our culture.

So here is what I want you to do.  Psalm 8 is our Psalm of the year and you’ve all been given a card with Allison’s beautiful work on the front and the Psalm on the back.  Put that card somewhere you can see it, and either side is fine because the art is based on verse 5.  Then I want you to look at that and remember that God chose to crown us, all of us, old and young, rich and poor, Haitian and American, everybody with glory and honor, and that we have been given the opportunity with our lives to show that truth to everybody we meet.  Then I want you to remember, that nobody, and I mean nobody, should ever have an encounter with any of us and not know that there is a God who loves them unconditionally, because God’s people love them, unconditionally.

We don’t need fame in this world.  It is useless to us.  But what we do need, all of us, is to remember that God cherishes us like his own child, that God sent his son into the world for us, and that all of us, each and every one, have been crowned.  You and I know this.  We have heard this all our lives, and nobody should be able to encounter us without experiencing that love, in that moment, for themselves.  Amen.