“The Star Thrower” John 12:20-33 4/18/2018
There is a story in a book called The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eiseley about a man called the Star Thrower. It goes like this: On a beautiful tropical beach occasionally the tide and the surf would be just right, and they would combine, and cause a lot of shellfish to be cast far up onto the beach.
Some of these shellfish were very beautiful, and so after they were cast up on the beach professional collectors and sellers would descend on the beach and swoop up all the shells to take them home where they would boil them and clean out all the flesh of the animals inside them and then sell the shells to tourists. Some of the shells were very valuable for they were very rare, and a lot of money could be made by a diligent collector.
One morning, after the moon and the wind had been just right, and many shellfish had been tossed up on the beach, a man was seen at the far end of the beach all by himself, picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back into the sea.
Curious about what he was doing with the starfish while so many other people were busy collecting the shellfish someone went over to him and asked him if he too collected things on the beach.
“Only like this”, he replied, “I collect only for the living.” And throwing another starfish back into the sea he said – “See, one can help them”
I think that this story has a lot to say to us about Jesus and about ourselves.
You see, in the midst of this world most people exploit things for their own personal benefit.
- They take every advantage to get ahead.
- To gain more than they already have,
- And even the things of exceptional beauty are not exempt.
Given the right circumstances – people rush to pick up that which is suddenly and unexpectedly made available, ignoring meanwhile, the suffering that is all around them in their hurry to look after themselves.
Jesus was a Star Thrower. Jesus walked this earth.
Jesus walked amongst people like you and me, who like dying starfish stranded on the beach, long for the ocean from which they have been tossed. And instead of taking what he could from that ocean, instead of seeking to enhance and enrich his own life, Jesus paid attention to those who were in need. Jesus collected for the living; he helped them instead of himself.
Jesus came into our world to rescue and reclaim lost souls, to set them and us free from the power of sin and death by returning all of us to the ocean of God’s love, God’s peace, and God’s justice.
Jesus came to restore wholeness to those who lay helpless and stranded upon the shores of life because either the tide or the winds of life had cast them there like starfish; or as is so often the case with humankind, because they had thoughtlessly and foolishly stranded themselves on the shore.
And Jesus did this, at a cost to himself. As Jesus said to someone who thought to follow him: Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Jesus renounced everything for the sake of bringing life to those around him.
He renounced his family, his home, and finally gave his own life. He did this . . .
- So that others might live,
- So that others might know the blessings of God,
- So that others might be returned to the ocean of God’s love.
Some might say the cost of this is too high to expect of us as followers. We are not Jesus, but we are called to follow him, and to have his mind within us.
And it is true too, that Jesus had some special breaks. But God has promised these very same breaks to us, if we but would walk with Jesus as he walks with us. These special breaks include the power, the love, the compassion, the joy, the sorrow, and the life everlasting of Jesus, which are all available to us for the asking and the wanting, if we but follow him; if we are but willing to walk as Jesus walked, to give unto others as Jesus gave unto others, in obedience to God.
Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life will lose it, but those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
This is part of the law of God that is written upon our hearts, and which is fruitful in us, if we but allow ourselves to hear it and to heed it.
Jesus knew this inner law of God, this law that states that the more we seek for ourselves, and the more attached we become to the life we have; the more we ignore the needs of others and seek instead to meet only our own needs; the more wretched and the closer to death we become.
Jesus was faithful to this law of God; to this law of life. He knew that by caring for others, by putting the love of God and neighbor ahead of his own desires:
- that God would be glorified, honored & served
- that many who were lost would be found.
“What profits a person to gain the whole world, but lose their soul?”
There are so many around us today with lost souls; with lost lives. They crave acceptance and love; and hope to find it by gaining power and influence, and by ignoring the needs of others. Or they hope to find it by simply doing whatever anyone else asks, no matter how good or bad it may be for them, or for the one that has asked.
Others numb themselves into a stupor by various means to avoid the pain they feel. They use the wonderful things God has given us to conquer physical pain; or the things that God provides for simple enjoyment, to deaden in themselves all feeling.
There are so many who hold so tightly to their lives in fear that they refuse to experience their lives in all the fullness that is available to them, in both the good times and the bad times. They are turned in on themselves and their own needs, rather than turned outward to the world.
- Think of the people you have the most difficulty with.
- Think of those whom you do not like, and find it hard to love.
- Think of those whom you feel sorry for and when you have the strength and grace to love them, find it so hard in fact do so.
Do not many of them share this in common?
- Are they not wrapped up in themselves, clinging to things that others have put aside, whether it be resentments, hates or fears?
- Or in some cases aren’t they dealing with an inflated estimate of themselves.
And whom do we admire? Who do we glorify or praise in our heart of hearts?
- Do we not glorify and admire deep within us those who show true love for others?
- Those who have accepted not only others in their weaknesses and strengths, but also us in our weaknesses as well as in our strengths?
- Do we not admire those, and sometimes even gently chide those, who give of themselves and ignore want we think their own needs are or should be?
Don’t we want to hug and encourage them and thank them for what they do? Don’t we want to give them a bit of what they give others?
Jesus spoke the truth very strongly at times as in today’s gospel reading. He said, those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
That truth is meant to grab your attention, and to remind you that you yourself often stand in the way of what God has in mind for you to see and experience.
What I am saying to you here today is simply this: what we really need in life cannot be grasped by us.
- It cannot be fashioned by our own desperate efforts.
- It cannot be taken by us from the shelf in the store.
- Rather it can only be received as a gift of God.
A gift that comes to all those who give up trying to grasp it, trying to fashion it, trying to take it.
A gift that comes to all who follow Jesus, to all who love God and those around them that God has entrusted to their care.
Jesus was a Star Thrower.
He walked among us as one who cared for the living, and sought to restore them to the ocean of God’s love. Because he was faithful in this, God was glorified by those around Jesus, those who felt his care and his compassion. They praised God for what Jesus said and did, and for the love that he poured out on them. And they in turn gave back to him.
You see, love given is love multiplied. Love only taken is love lost.
God multiplied the work that Jesus did on earth. Rewarding Jesus for his faithfulness by granting to all who call upon his name, and who walk in his way, forgiveness for their sins and life everlasting.
Jesus was a seed that did not stay lifeless in the bag. But which instead fell to the ground and gave up all that made him a single seed, thereby giving life to others.
Like the Star Thrower, Jesus could have enriched himself in this world, but he chose instead to follow the law of love. In so doing Jesus conquered evil, and destroyed the power of sin and death.
Alone we are nothing, we have no power that lasts beyond the day, but with God we are a mighty host, able to endure and to triumph with those who are responsive to God’s call.
When you choose to give of yourself; when you begin to loose your life for others; when you offer compassion and love; when you care for the living; you become like Jesus and you become a Star Thrower.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory. Amen
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, 3/2018
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 3-18-18” name of the sermon.