>nobility and celebrity


'The Judgement of Solomon', oil on canvas painting by Gaetano Gandolfi, mid 1770s
The Judgement of Solomon by Gaetano Gondolfi
(mid 1770’s) reminds us of the wisdom by which Solomon
achieved his noble status. The story is told in I Kings. It
reads like a plotline from Eastenders!

I didn’t know that “noble” literally means “known” – and so “nobility” is a community of persons who have become knowable because of the quality of their lives. Celebrity should similarly be the status of those whose lives are worth celebrating. Through the media (deserved?) we celebrate those who have achieved celebrity status through their ignobility – in spite of their lack of talent and human qualities.

Conversation with friends yesterday led us to reflect on Hitler who we saw as a good leader turned bad. A noble leader turned tyrannical monster. In that he is not alone. Michael Sadgrove, in considering the life of Solomon in Wisdom and Ministry, reflects on the processes and temptations for the noble of “grandiosity”. We know that nobility and grandiosity often go together. It is wisdom that keeps them apart.

Sadgrove writes: “The temptation is to stand as tall as we can so that we fill the institution we lead. Yet Jesus says that true greatness means becoming like a little child. This suggests that true ‘standing’ means not filling the space ourselves but making room for others.”

I shall reflect on how I have become known – how I may even be noble. I shall confess my ignoble sins of grandiosity. The ways of Hitler and Solomon lie open before us.

Image rich

>I think it takes a particular mindset to respond to opportunities of the new media. I was pleased to read that Liverpool Diocese is “working to engage with the online community” and has a twitter account to prove it. My own mindset seems to make me hang back awhile till the case is proved.

I delayed getting my first PC – I couldn’t see the point until friend Richard Todd persuaded me and guided me so that ministry in Tarvin became revolutionised through the new media we could use. I too have now been dragged into Facebook and Twitter. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I am getting a kick out of getting messages from John Sentamu and Ed Milliband!

I used to search for images for hours when I was a young curate in Sheffield Manor. I wanted to make things presentable to youngsters who were preparing for Confirmation. There were no images in books. Books were text-books. All that was possible was using a stylus pen to create line drawings on a stencil for the old Roneo copier. The drawings had to be so simple because otherwise you ripped the skin of the stencil and it was back to square 1. (I spent many a Saturday night with duplicator ink up to my elbows!) It was a major technological breakthrough when electric duplicators were introduced – a lot easier on the arm, though jamming became the new issue.

Now we are image rich – particularly with digital cameras. We no longer count the cost of taking photos. The challenge now is how to manage them all. One person using images to amazing effect is Dave Perry through his Visual Theology blog. He is creating some stunning images to go with the lectionary. This is a real gift for preachers – and a wonderful new way for people to “read” and “hear” the sermon.