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October 18, 2015, 12:00 AM

Proper 24 Year B- Becoming Star-throwers


 

Proper 24

Year B

Christ the King, Quincy

 

    Great things, Thou hast done, O Lord, my God. I would name them and proclaim them, but they are more than I can tell. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

 

    

    Last week, Pat and I drove to Santa Rosa to attend the College for Congregational Development. Pat, as you may or may not know, has a Ph.D. in Anthropology. Spend 11 hours in a car with an anthropologist, and you’re going to learn a few things about Anthropology. I for one, have only read one Anthropologist in my life—but after spending some concentrated time with one, I decided to return to the work of Loren Eisely…and much to my surprise, the story fits with everything that has been going on here at Christ the King this past month!

    The great naturalist Loren Eiseley was spending his vacation at an English seaside town. Suffering, as he did most of his life, from terrible insomnia, he would spend the early hours of the morning walking alone along the quiet, predawn beach. Each day at about sunrise, he found that many of the people in the town would come down to the beach to comb the sand for any starfish which had washed ashore during the night. Those they found, they would quickly collect and sell in the market that day. 

    But one morning, Eiseley got up particularly early, and discovered a solitary individual walking down the beach. Like his fellow townsfolk, this man, too, was gathering starfish, but each time he found one that was still alive, he would pick it up and throw it as far as he could out, beyond the surf-line, where it would be safe and be given a new life in the nurturing arms of the open sea.  And each day, everyday, Eisely found this man embarked upon his unending task of mercy each morning, seven days a week regardless of the weather. To this anonymous man on his solitary mission, Eiseley gave the name of "the star thrower."

    To me, this little story illustrates two completely contrasting ways in which to view life. That is not to say that one is right and the other is wrong, but, rather, that life, to a large extent, is what you make of it. 

    To the stalwart, practical gatherers of star fish, life is a struggle. Each morning at dawn they go forth to wrest their living from the bounty thrown up by the surf. They collect what star fish they can and sell them to provide for themselves and their families. There is nothing "wrong" with this, all of us work hard in our different ways to provide for our needs. It is the serious business of life. 

    And again, these are not bad people, they are not rapacious or greedy. They simply collect as many  star fish the tides have washed ashore and sell them for whatever price the market will bring. There is nothing morally, or ecologically wrong with that. 

    In fact, they remind me a great deal of each of us. We, each, go about our daily business in a serious and responsible way. We do not steal or cheat, we just do our jobs as best we can, and try, thereby, to provide security and comfort for ourselves and our families. And for most of us, most of the time, work is serious business. We plan, we struggle, and often as not we succeed. Succeed in terms of the task we have set before us, and succeed in terms of making our lives comfortable, and in supplying our various wants and needs. And when our best efforts are crowned with success, that victory becomes that platform from which we launch ourselves toward higher and more exacting goals. 

    That is life, those are the rules, that is how we succeed. And we have, each of us, learned to play be those rules. We would not be living where and as well as we do if we had not learned how to play this very serious game, and to play it well. 

    If that seems a little general, let me offer a very personal example.  Two weeks ago, we blessed and rededicated St. Giles’ Hall. The service and reception capped two weeks of frenetic energy, as we banded together as a parish to meet our deadline. We welcomed representatives from the wider diocese, enjoyed a shorter than usual sermon from the Vicar, and enjoyed the fruits of our success with a lunch in our new program space. From beginning to end, it was an wonderful weekend.

    But by Monday morning it was back to the job at hand. Will families actually show up to Lego Sunday School? Will our class on “Who wrote the Bible” be well attended? Am I really leaving town for the third week in a row on behalf of the church?

    Now that is how responsible people ought to behave. Having met one challenge we move on to the next. But, at least for me, the transition from one task to the next was just too quick. The latent "star thrower" in me, really just wanted to jump up and say, "Wait, not so fast. Before we move on to the next challenge, we have some serious celebrating to do." I really wished that I had had the nerve to say: “It doesn’t matter if St. Giles’ Hall brings in new parishioners or not, let's just take ten minutes to celebrate, to congratulate one another, to give thanks for to God for this wonderful moment in the history of our lives together." 

    Like a good responsible adult, I turned my serious attention to the new challenges which now lie ahead. And an opportunity to celebrate, a chance to just enjoy what God has given us, passed by. Never to be reclaimed.

    Like the people who gather starfish each morning, I had done the responsible and serious thing. I had done what needed to be done to keep things moving. But, where was the joy, where was the celebration? The star  fish gatherer had made his appointed rounds, but the star thrower was not to be seen.

    And I was thinking about this in the context of Jesus' last statement in this morning's Gospel: "For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve." How are we to serve one another? Obviously there are all sorts of different ways in which we can be of true service to our neighbors and to our world. But there is on way which it seems to me that we often overlook, and overlook to the peril of our soul's health. 

    That which we often overlook is our call to be, if you will, star throwers. By that I simply mean people who make a the conscious effort, who make the time, to recognize "to identify and lift up those wonderful moments, those marvelous acts, those delightful people and those beautiful stories which add life and joy to our world."

    A few examples of what I mean. Every once in a great while when I'm playing golf I will hit one shot which is just dead, solid, perfect. It climbs and soars and hones in on just the spot at which I aimed. Now this doesn't happen often, but when it does it is wonderful to just drop the club and stand there an admire what I have wrought. And it is those rare moments that make the game enjoyable and keep bringing me back. Even in something as insignificant as a golf game we need to learn to celebrate and enjoy the good things we do.

    On a bit more important level. All of us as parents have had our children come home with a good grade on a report card, it doesn't really matter if it is an A or a B or a hard earned C. But they are proud of what they have done. Now I'm sure all of us respond by saying how wonderful their accomplishment is, but unless we are very careful, having offered our congratulations we slip into another statement like "that's great, now just keep it up", or "a B+ is wonderful, maybe you can get an A next time." We need to learn, we need to discipline ourselves to celebrate what is, and not reduce it to a platform for some other accomplishment yet to be achieved. 

    The same dynamic is often at work on our jobs. In the midst of a myriad of deadlines and all the pressure which work involves, it takes a sustained conscious effort to celebrate and remember to sincerely thank the people we work with for doing a fine job. Now I am not suggesting this as some new management tool and subtly improve employee morale or raise precious productivity, but as a genuine Christian form of service to hold up and celebrate the fact that people do good and wonderful things and they ought to be recognized. And I am speaking to myself as much as to all of you. I know I do not always take the time to tell people what a great job they continue to do, and how much I value and count on their help and support. We need to make that kind of celebration a real part of our lives. As Jesus told us, we can serve our neighbors by celebrating all that they have done.

    And finally as a Church we need to spend more time celebrating and giving thanks for all that we have received and all that we have done together. Each Sunday during the prayers of the people we pray for the "special needs and concerns of this congregation". And from the prayer list or from our own hearts we pray for all those who need God's help. And this is how it should be, our list of intercessions should include all those who are in our hearts and minds.

    But then we are called to "thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life" and very little is said. Now probably many of us are silently thanking God for all the miracles that bring joy to our lives. But wouldn't it be wonderful, if every once in a while our thanksgivings out numbered our petitions. 

    We need to learn to celebrate, to give thanks to God for all the blessings we enjoy. For in our celebration we are remind that God is the one source of all that  we enjoy and learn to see his gracious hand in all that we see around us. And the more we learn to celebrate, the more we will see that deserves celebration. It is, at last a way of looking at the world, as a gift from God, a gift to enjoy and to celebrate.

    To return to the original story. We have all learned through our lives to be efficient, productive, serious gatherers of star fish. We know how to plan, to accomplish and to reap the benefits of our serious efforts. But we need to learn to be, we need to practice becoming star throwers, who can see not just tasks to be performed but miracles to be celebrate and joy to be shared. And as we learn to hold up and celebrate what God has done, and what he has allowed us to do with him, we become not those who served, but those who serve others. Those who bring joy, and light, and life to the predawn darkness of God's coming Kingdom.


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