Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

August 6, 2023

Series: August 2023

Speaker: Guest Preacher


Today's Sermon


"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"


Scripture Reading

Ephesians 5:8, 9, 15-17, 18b-20                                                  (Gelineau translation)

O sing a new song to the Lord, Sing to the Lord all the earth. O sing to the Lord, bless God’s name….
Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad, Let the sea an all within it thunder praise,
Let the land and all it bears rejoice, All the trees of the wood shout for joy
At the presence of the Lord for the Lord comes, Comes to rule the earth.
With Justice the Lord will rule the world.


Ephesians 5:8, 9, 15-17, 18b-20                                                   (J. B. Philips’s translation)

Once you were “darkness” but now you are “light.” Live then as [adults] of the light…. Let your lives be living proofs of the things which please God…. Light is capable of showing up everything as it really is. It is even possible for light to turn the things it shines upon into light also….

            Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men [and women] who do not know the meaning and purpose of life, but as those who do. Make good use of every opportunity you have, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague, but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of the Lord…. Let the Spirit stimulate your souls. Express your joy in singing among yourselves psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making music in your hearts for the ears of the Lord! Thank God at all times for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            Today is a delightful reunion with friends and co-pilgrims on the journey of faith and life. It’s well-known that the role of the church in America is steadily declining, but not here. You all, and Rob, Bethany, and Jeff, bring to the world a faith practice that’s healthy, enthused, vibrant, and contagious – love, compassion, engagement.

            I believe it was 2011 … Yes! Now where did we leave off? (open Bible and blow dust off the pages.) Meanwhile…..

            Early in life, my cosmology was formed by three forces. In childhood, Jane Taylor’s 1806 lullaby “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” engraved its lines on my young mind, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder whatyou are,” wondered whatyou are.

            Later, Saturday Matinees featured Flash Gordon going up against Emperor Ming who famously warned Gordon, “Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void…. If you had known anything about the universe, anything at all, you would’ve hidden from it in terror!” I am grateful for visionary, courageous women and men who turn deaf ears to Ming to explore and learn about the universe.

            And, on the spiritual level, the Psalmist’s mystical, lyrical, radical amazement and awe-inspiring love of the heavens and the earth moved my soul and continue to incite my own sense of awe and wonder: “Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad” (Ps.96).

             If a lullaby, a celluloid spaceman, and the biblical poet laureate invited me to imagine the creation in fresh new ways it’s not hard to guess what the James Webb Space Telescope has done to my cosmology! Scholars argue persuasively that everythinghumankind has ever thought and taught about the universe, mathematics, astronomy, and physics must be thrown out because of the findings of The Web. And to be certain, theology, philosophy, and cosmology have big work to do, too. It is literally a whole NEW world! A whole NEW way of thinking about the universe. It is not wasted on my poetic/mystical mind that The Web was launched on its million-mile journey on Christmas Day 2021. Just as The Web commands an entire NEW way of thinking about the universe, the Nativity compels us to embrace our Divine-Humanness in whole New ways.

            Speaking of NEW ways of seeing, standing before the Giza Pyramid this Spring wasn’t about how an ancient people could so creatively piece together 2.3-million limestone and granite blocks some 4,500 years ago. Standing in the presence of Giza offered a full measure of mystical, spiritual awe and wonder. First and foremost, one stands before a pyramid that radiates what is holy, ineffable. Anthropology and engineering come after. Giza’s inner being is revealed by Cosmic Ray Scans that are locating interior chambers, corridors, and tombs. It’s a whole NEW understanding of an advanced, intelligent ancient people.

            A caveat, we dare not do to the unfolding mysteries of outer space, spectacular construction, and revelational discoveries, what priests did to Galileo: fear, ignorance, and the delusion that the Bible and theology know more about the real world than science must be fully resisted. Science and theology shall exist in a union of revelation and awe, as co-pilgrims.

            On to another dimension. Savoring the NEW Web revelations and Cosmic Ray Scans, and both ancient and modern lyrical spirituality compel me to pay attention to what is NEW in life here and now. And to examine why we may resist NEW things.

            The birth and life of Jesus is a summons to NEW life and Being, urging us to fresh ways of understanding human relations. St. Paul knew the human heart, “Once you weredarkness’ but now you arelight.’ Live then as [adults] of light….” He continues, “Light is capable of showing everything as it really is.It is even possible for light to turn the things it shines upon into light….”

            Indifference or fear of what is NEW or unfamiliar is often how we become darkness. As so many in my generation, there was a preponderance of darkness in my family of origin: racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, clannishness, misogyny, white supremacy, homophobia. Almost everything in society that was NEW or different was met with suspicion and too often dismissed out of hand. We lived in a dimly lit cave that gave light no chance to turn the things it shines on into light.

            As many of you, by the grace of God, I was blessed with “light-living” mentors, teachers, ministers, friends, colleagues, and innumerable experiences with “Others” and “Strangers” who were decidedly different than me. In time, under those blessings I unconditionally embraced St. Paul’s call to “Live life…not as men and women who do not know the meaning and purpose of life, but as those who do” <<repeat>> The next lines prod me throughout the days, “Make good use of every opportunity you have, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don’t be vague, but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of the Lord.”

            As best I understand it, the will of God is that I, that we, strive to bring down walls that divide people, that we turn hostility and hate into understanding and welcome, that we dispel fear and indifference, that we be stewards not despoilers of Creation, that we give our hearts wide open spaceto ask revealing questions rather than assert assumptions. We all know that our nation is reeling with a poisonous pandemic of anger, violence, disregard, self-righteousness, entitlement, prejudice, and importantly a poverty of soul and of sustenance. That is not who we are as Christians and cannot be what we are as a nation.

            And so, as Christians, with St. Paul, we live life as “living proofs of the things that please God.” We choose to “live life with a sense of responsibility… knowing the meaning and purpose of our lives” Despite the trials and tribulations of our days we take every opportunity to be light and to let light transform what it shines on.

            What then shall we trust as the meaning and purpose of life? It’s simple, Jesus said, “You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The simple part is to choose to live as if those words are true and trusted.

            It’s less easy to figure out the applications. May I suggest that the simplest starting pointfor figuring out how to love your neighbor as yourself in every situation and relationship is Jesus’s teaching, “Always treat others as you would like them to treat you….” With empathy, kindness, vulnerability, welcome, showing up and being present, fairness and justice. With St. Paul “Let the Spirit stimulate your soul.” Your creativity will hone the details. That’s the heart and soul, the sum total of Scripture and of faith and life.