Sermon Text: Star Voyage
I’d like to dedicate this sermon to a t-shirt.
There is a 7-year old girl who sits in the front pew almost every Sunday at our 8:00 service. Her name is Layla, and she has a t-shirt that I love. It says this: “Forget princess — I want to be an astrophysicist.”
She and I both love books, and we both love outer space — the galaxies, the stars, the planets. So this sermon is for her, and for all the kids of St. Mark’s who are curious about the universe.
Books are friends. Anyone who knows me knows I feel that way. Books are friends.
I brought one of my best friends today for Show & Tell. It’s on that stand right there. It’s called “The Home Planet,” and it’s one of my treasures. This coffee-table book is packed with gorgeous pictures of the Earth from space, taken on space flights.
And it is also full of the words of astronauts, those lucky few who have been out there.
James Irwin is one — he flew to the Moon on Apollo 15. As the spacecraft left Earth orbit and traveled to the Moon, he looked back. And later, he said this:
The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away, it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger, it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.
I have my beloved book open to the page containing these words from Jim Irwin, who later became a Christian minister. Photos of the Earth have always moved me deeply.
Another beloved book for me, of course, is the New Testament. And one of its stories has always moved me deeply. The visit from the wise men of the East to the Christ Child has always had mystical power for me. All the elements of the story speak to me — the night sky, the brilliant star, the long journey in the desert, the danger from the evil king, the three exotic gifts, and the discovery of the Light of the world. I have always loved that story.
You know, the Wise Men from the East were not Jewish. They were probably Zoroastrians from Persia. Zoroaster was a prophet who lived 500 years before Christ. The religion he began still exists, although it does not have an overwhelming number of adherents. But I did once have the delight of co-officiating at a wedding with a Zoroastrian priest.
The story of the wise men from the East is from Matthew’s Gospel. And one of Matthew’s themes is the appeal of Jesus beyond the usual boundaries. This story at the beginning of his Gospel is the first appearance of this theme.
It continues throughout Matthew’s book, and ends with Jesus telling his followers to go everywhere to everyone and invited all people into his family. No more boundaries.
These wise men from the East followed the star. You could say they were “star voyagers,” which is what the word “astronaut” means. An astronaut is a star voyager.
Many of the modern astronauts have been transformed by seeing the blue marble from space. They saw the lack of boundaries on our home planet when seen from up there.
They are amazed by the beauty of the blue marble. And they are moved by the fragility of our little planet. As the great poet Robinson Jeffers said, “It’s only a little planet...but how beautiful it is.”
In this wonderful book I have with me today, I read that one astronaut said, “You can’t see the boundaries over which we fight wars.” And there was a Saudi astronaut who flew on a shuttle mission, and he said, “The first day or so, we all pointed to our own countries. The third or fourth day, we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware only of one Earth.”
One the men who flew on Apollo 12 said, “I’m not a religious person. But I think, really, the whole Earth is the garden of Eden. We’ve been given a paradise to live in. I think about that every day.”
So we have a story of star voyagers in Matthew’s Gospel, as the wise men from the East follow their star. And we have stories of star voyagers in our own time who have literally ascended into the heavens in spacecraft.
In the old journey, a Child is found. In the new journeys, a blue marble is found. But in all the journeys, home is found. In all the journeys, boundaries disappear. In all the journeys, if our hearts are prepared, we move toward compassion.
You and I have a journey to make, too.
We have a light to follow.
We have pathfinders who have gone before.
We have a quest.
What we will discover is the beautiful blue planet which is our home.
What we will discover is the love of God.
What we will discover is that we are all in this together.
It’s our story now.
We can follow our star.
We can have light in our lives.
We can have the star Child — the Christ Child — born in our hearts — again.