Scripture reading: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Running More Real – Part I
The Very Reverend Timothy Jones
Dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
I remember watching an old movie as a child that made an impression on me: ‘The Invisible Man.’ The movie was later remade with the name ‘Hollow Man.’ But the version I saw was the classic, released in 1933.
The invisible man could be seen only by means of what he wore: clothes, a hat, dark glasses, gloves on his hands, bandages wrapped around his face. He was visible only when he wanted to be.I can think of some advantages to that arrangement. But in the movie, the invisible man was a tragic character. The experimental drug that made him invisible also carried terrible side effects, including an unrelenting desire for power. And whatever the advantages, he knew what it was like not to be real. He knew what it was like to have people look through him. He needed to be seen, not just heard, to live a normal life.
Perhaps you could say that of all of us. To have someone look through us as though we aren’t there is a painful experience. Sometimes we do all we can to avoid it. We have this keen need to be noticed, to have attention paid to us.
In many ways, that desire is normal. But sometimes it gets out of hand. Sometimes we want not only to be seen, but insist on being seen in a certain light. We let others see us only when and as we choose. We manage and control our image. We dress up the self we present to others. We wrap accomplishments around ourselves like bandages in order to make ourselves visible to the world.
Jesus knew this, of course. He knew that we sometimes obsess about the impression we make. He knew that our desire to be noticed sometimes leads us to hide our true selves, that we’re tempted to present to others a touched-up picture. We sometimes pretend. Maybe here in church we do it all the more. We substitute an image of what we think we ought to be for what we are. Jesus knew that we may try too hard to show off our faith, that we concentrate on the externals and not enough on the inside realities.
So Jesus tells us, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.” Don’t assume, in other words, that by impressing others with your religiousness you impress God. The act that may look fine on the outside may be hollow on the inside.
The effort to impress can happen when we do kind deeds to others, too. Whenever you give money to the poor, Jesus said, do not know what your left hand is doing: in other words, don’t watch yourself.
Don’t get so fascinated by your goodness that you pay more attention to that than to the one in need. Don’t do it for the gain of your own prestige.
Columbia Prayer Chain: Monday, February 11
In our prayers: Claudia Strattman, Jennifer Williams, Betty Jo Carson, Gary Davis, Eddie Bolton, Myrna, Esther, Pam James, Doug and Sharon, John Kelchner, Elizabeth Matthews, Nedrick Griffin, Jennifer Handy, Nancy Stuckey, Annemarie Sullivan, Rachel and Randy Wurtzbaugh, Patty Peckham, Denise Byrd, Greg and Lisa Steele, Dean Timothy Jones, Linda Langford, Marty Fritz, Harriet Hancock, Tommy and Robby Palmer, Patty and Ted Mac Laughlin, Janet Long, Bobby Wilson, Debbie and Pat Barry, Betty Jo Sullivan, Patrick and Patricia Barry, Jordan Hill, Doris Clevenger, Charles Sigel, Bob Davis, John Whatley, Nancy Zuckerman, Charles Davis Sr., Bill Carter, Betty Peavy Frick, Joye Cantrell, Fred and Gail, Dale and Norma Sessions, Padge Arrington, Jerry Callahan, Norman Masters
Special prayers for Mary Ellen’s four-year-old grandson, Joseph Patrick, who is fighting cancer
In memoriam: Edward J. Allawos, Ruth Steele Browder, KaTina M. Davis, Beryl Edwina Gilbert, Charles E. “Sweet Thang” Brown, Daniel Eugene Dukes, Helen Truick, Lillie Ticker Middleton, Lonnie L. Shealy, T. W. Tillman
Our prayers are with: the elderly, the homeless, all currently fighting illness, all beloved pets, our president and congress, our police officers and firefighters, all who serve in the armed forces
Columbia Prayer Chain is open to all residents of greater Columbia who would like to share prayers and receive the prayers of others. Please leave your name in the comment box or email me.