Summary: What is your legacy going to be?
Title: And now, for some real news…
Text: Ecclesiastes 9:11-18a
FCF: Even Jesus faced the injustice of being ignored for his contribution, so we need not lose heart when the same happens to us – we’re on the right side!
SO: I want to encourage my congregation by letting them know its natural not to receive recognition for the hard work they’ve been doing, and not let it discourage them from the task we face ahead in re-growing our church.
MP: It’s more important to be faithful than it is to be recognized.
It was Andy Warhol was the one who coined the phrase “fifteen minutes of fame.” He thought that in the modern age, “every one would be famous for fifteen minutes.” Well, one of the effects of a major catastrophe like Katrina is that it sweeps away the utterly inane stories that so often grip the headline news. I haven’t heard a single story about Michael Jackson, space aliens, or a new diet. It’s amazing the effect that a real story can have on what merely passes for the “news.”
In this media-saturated culture where it seems the only goal is to be famous, it almost seems obscene to ask the question, “What’s your legacy?” I’m not even sure the media has a capacity to understand why one would ask the question. After all, what is it that is really going to last? It’s clearly not fame. And we’ve learned that even a great city can be brought down by a single storm.
When the storm comes, I think it’s more important than ever to realize that the chaff of your life literally will be blown away. It’s worth thinking about what lasts, what we need to stick to. And I want you to have that in mind as I read this little story from Ecclesiastes.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this story makes me a little bit angry. I mean, think about – here’s a city that was about to be invaded. It was going to be taken down and the inhabitants probably sold off into slavery, except for one poor man’s wisdom. But does anybody care? No! How ungrateful!
We don’t know if this is based on a real event, or if it’s just a parable, but the facts of the case are simple enough. Here’s a wise man that saves a city he loves, and nobody cares.
This happens all the time. People do great things, but they never get their fifteen minutes. Let me give you an example. I consider myself to be pretty well read, but I had never heard of Rosalind Franklin. Have you? Again, me neither. But, I’ll tell you after spending a few hours learning her story, I’m pretty well convinced she was rightfully due a Nobel prize.
I suspect if I told you the names Watson and Crick, you’d recognize them. Back in 1953, they wrote a paper in which they famously described DNA as a double helix. DNA, of course, is the blueprint for every cell in your body. The problem was, prior to the 1950’s, nobody realized that it contained the instructions for every genetic characteristic you hold. Well, what Watson & Crick did was to propose that it was basically a ladder, which you could cut apart and rebuild. It’s a pretty important discovery.
But, what I learned is that all Watson and Crick did was to propose a model – and to make matters worse, it was a model based on someone else’s data. You see, Rosalind Franklin knew how to take pictures of atoms by shining light against them and looking at the resulting wave patterns. She spent three years taking pictures, and then working out the complex math to figure out how the 2-d pattern reflects a 3-dimensional thing it represents. It was a lot more than just taking a picture – there was some serious grunt work involved.
What Rosalind Franklin didn’t know is that one of her colleagues – Marcus Wilkins, who later went on to claim that third spot on the Nobel platform – was secretly passing her data along to Watson & Crick. She basically had done all the work except for building the model – she had been waiting to tell anybody about her discovery until she was more satisfied with her own work. But, when Watson & Crick got this data, they published first, and so they got the glory. James Watson even went on to write a famous book, called the Double Helix, in which he hints at her role, but he carefully writes her story in such a way to minimize her involvement and maximize his. Talk about an injustice!
The X-Rays that Rosalind Franklin took in while taking these pictures eventually killed her – when she was only 37 years old. But to me, it seems even more unfair that she never got the credit, because nobody told her part in the story.