Pastor's Weekly Newsletter

Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

PHILIPPIANS 2:12-18 | SHINING STARS

SHINING STARS

PHILIPPIANS 2:12-18

AUGUST 14, 2016

 

JONI MITCHELL WAS RIGHT WHEN SHE FAMOUSLY SANG IN WOODSTOCK:

 

WE ARE STARDUST

WE ARE GOLDEN

AND WE’VE GOT TO GET OURSELVES

 BACK TO THE GARDEN…

 

AND EVEN MORE CORRECT WHEN SHE REVISES THAT CHORUS A BIT IN THE LAST VERSE SHE SINGS:

 

WE ARE STARDUST

BILLION-YEAR-OLD CARBON

WE ARE GOLDEN

CAUGHT IN THE DEVIL’S BARGAIN

AND WE’VE GOT TO GET OURSELVES

BACK TO THE GARDEN…

 

(SHE WAS ALSO RIGHT WHEN SHE SAYS, AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SONG, HOW WALKING ALONG THE ROAD, SHE “CAME UPON A CHILD OF GOD…”)

 

BY THE WAY – THE 47TH ANNIVERSARY OF WOODSTOCK IS THIS COMING WEEK!

 

ASTROPHYSICIST KAREL SCHRIJVER, A SENIOR FELLOW AT THE LOCKHEED MARTIN SOLAR AND ASTROPHYSICS LABORATORY, AND HIS WIFE IRIS SCHRIJVER, PROFESSOR OF PATHOLOGY AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY, HAVE JOINED TOGETHER IN WRITING A BOOK ENTITLED:

 

LIVING WITH THE STARS: HOW THE HUMAN BODY IS CONNECTED TO THE LIFE CYCLES OF THE EARTH, THE PLANETS, AND THE STARS.

 

IN THEIR BOOK THEY EXPLAIN HOW EVERYTHING IN US ORIGINATED IN COSMIC EXPLOSIONS BILLIONS OF YEARS AGO, HOW OUR BODIES ARE IN A CONSTANT STATE OF DECAY AND REGENERATION, AND WHY JONI MITCHELL WAS RIGHT.

 

“EVERYTHING WE ARE AND EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE AND ON EARTH ORIGINATED FROM STARDUST, AND IT CONTINUALLY FLOATS THROUGH US EVEN TODAY.

 

IT DIRECTLY CONNECTS US TO THE UNIVERSE, REBUILDING OUR BODIES OVER AND AGAIN OVER OUR LIFETIMES.”

 

AND ANOTHER QUOTE:

“SO MOST OF THE MATERIAL WE ARE MADE OF COMES OUT OF DYING STARS, OR STARS THAT DIED IN EXPLOSIONS. AND THOSE STELLAR EXPLOSIONS CONTINUE.  WE HAVE STUFF IN US AS OLD AS THE UNIVERSE, AND THEN SOME STUFF THAT LANDED HERE MAYBE ONLY A HUNDRED YEARS AGO.  AND ALL OF THAT MIXES IN OUR BODIES.”

 

I’VE HEARD SIMILAR COMMENTS MADE BY STEPHEN HAWKING IN HIS PBS SPECIAL, UNIVERSE; AND THE SAME KINDS OF THINGS FROM ASTROPHYSICIST NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON IN HIS COSMOS SERIES; AND ALSO FROM LSU PHYSICIST EDWARD ZGANJAR.

 

WE ARE STARDUST; WE ARE STAR CHILDREN; WE ARE, IN THE WORDS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL, THE AUTHOR OF PHILIPPIANS, TO “SHINE LIKE STARS IN THE WORLD.”

 

THIS MORNING’S PASSAGE IS ONE OF THOSE FROM WHICH WE COULD MINE A DOZEN DIFFERENT LEARNINGS, AND THAT JUST FROM THE VERSES AND PHRASES IT CONTAINS, NOT INCLUDING THE OVERALL MEANING.

 

“WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING…”

“FOR IT IS GOD WHO IS AT WORK IN YOU…”

“ENABLING YOU BOTH TO WILL AND TO WORK FOR HIS GOOD PLEASURE…”

 

“DO ALL THINGS WITHOUT MURMURING AND ARGUING…”

“SO THAT YOU MAY BE BLAMELESS AND INNOCENT…”

“CHILDREN OF GOD WITHOUT BLEMISH IN THE MIDST OF A PERVERSE AND CROOKED GENERATION…”

“IN WHICH YOU SHINE LIKE STARS IN THE WORLD…”

 

THEN, AFTER PRAISING THE PHILIPPIANS FOR THEIR FAITHFULNESS, PAUL REMINDS THEM OF HIS OWN; HE, IN PRISON, “POURING OUT HIS LIFE AS A LIBATION OVER THE SACRIFICE AND THE OFFERING OF YOUR OWN FAITH…”

 

“GLAD AND REJOICING WITH ALL OF THEM…” AND ASKING OF THEM, THE SAME: “YOU ALSO MUST BE GLAD AND REJOICE WITH ME.”

 

THERE IS SO MUCH GOOD IN THIS PASSAGE THAT IT’S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO IMPROVE UPON IT BY EXPOUNDING UPON IT; BUT LET ME TRY FOR A MOMENT OR TWO LONGER.

 

PAUL IS TELLING THE PHILIPPIANS THAT THEY’VE GOT WHAT HE’S GOT, AND WHAT HE AND THEY’VE GOT IS WHAT GOD INTENDS FOR THEM TO HAVE:

 

FAITHFULNESS, OBEDIENCE, SERVANTHOOD, JOY, GLADNESS, AND THE ABILITY TO NOT ONLY “WORK OUT THEIR SALVATION IN FEAR AND TREMBLING” BUT TO BE “SHINING STARS IN THE WORLD.”

THEY’VE GOT IT ALL!  WE’VE GOT IT ALL!

 

LET ME QUICKLY SAY THAT THIS IS ONE OF THOSE INSTANCES WHERE THE BIBLE USES THE WORDS “FEAR AND TREMBLING” BUT NOT IN THE SENSE OF BEING SCARED, BEING AFRAID, AS WE MIGHT USE THEM;

 

BUT RATHER IN THE SENSE OF AWE, WONDER, ADMIRATION, RESPECT, REVERENCE, AND AMAZEMENT.  “WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION IN AWE, WONDER, REVERENCE, AMAZEMENT…”

 

AND WHY?  WELL, PAUL ANSWERS THAT QUESTION IN THE VERY NEXT PHRASE: “FOR IT IS GOD WHO IS AT WORK IN YOU.”  GOD – WHO IS AT WORK IN YOU!

 

WE ARE STARDUST.  WE ARE STAR CHILDREN.  AND WE ARE ALSO CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, AS GOD’S OWN CHILDREN, FOR IT IS GOD WHO IS AT WORK IN US!

 

AND WE OUGHT NOT FORGET THAT.

 

IN ONE OF THE SECTIONS OF THE SCHRIJVER’S BOOK, LIVING WITH THE STARS, THEY TALK ABOUT ORDINARY, EVERYDAY, TABLE SALT.

 

“WHATEVER YOU MENTION, ITS HISTORY BEGAN IN OUTER SPACE.  TAKE SALT.  WHAT WE USUALLY MEAN BY SALT IS KITCHEN SALT.  IT HAS TWO CHEMICALS, SODIUM AND CHLORIDE.  WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

 

THEY WERE FORMED INSIDE STARS THAT EXPLODED BILLIONS OF YEARS AGO AND AT SOME POINT FOUND THEIR WAY ONTO THE EARTH.

 

STELLAR EXPLOSIONS ARE STILL GOING ON IN THE GALAXY, SO SOME CHLORINE WE’RE EATING IN SALT WAS MADE ONLY RECENTLY.”

 

THINK ABOUT THE NEXT TIME YOU EAT A FRENCH FRY OR SALT YOUR BAKED POTATO!

 

ITS BILLIONS OF YEARS OLD STARDUST THAT WE ARE EATING, AND THAT IS DOING THE SHAKING AND THE EATING AS WELL.  FOR WE ARE STARDUST!

 

I’LL NOT EVEN DRAW THE RATHER OBVIOUS CORRELATION BETWEEN ALL OF THIS AND JESUS’ OWN WORDS ABOUT OUR BEING BOTH A “LIGHT UNTO THE WORLD” AND THE “SALT” THAT GIVES LIFE ITS MEANING AND FLAVOR.

 

WE ARE SHINING STARS!  WE ARE IN THE WORLD; “IN THE MIDST OF A PERVERSE AND CROOKED GENERATION” AND SEEING HOW PAUL WROTE THOSE WORDS A COUPLE OF THOUSAND YEARS AGO, SO WERE THEY, SO NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED.

BUT WHAT PAUL IS SAYING, WHAT HE IS DOING, IS AT ONCE LAUDING US AS BELIEVERS – THAT IT IS GOD IN US WHO ENABLES US TO WILL AND DO GOD’S WORK – AND THAT WE ARE TO BE SHINING STARS…

 

WHILE AT THE SAME TIME REMINDING US THAT WE ARE TO REMAIN OBEDIENT, FAITHFUL, IN SERVICE TO GOD AND OTHERS, AND ULTIMATELY, AND THROUGHOUT, BE “GLAD AND REJOICING!”

 

AND HOW COULD WE NOT?!  WHEN WE ARE STARDUST!  STAR CHILDREN!  CHILDREN OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD!

 

AND AS IF ALL OF THIS WERE NOT ENOUGH, THERE ARE PLENTY OF PROMISES OF WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS, AND HOW, WHILE “WE ARE DUST AND TO DUST WE SHALL RETURN,” DEATH IS BUT PASSING INTO YET ANOTHER REALM OF ETERNITY WITH GOD.

 

IF, AS WE HAVE BEEN SAYING, WE ARE STARDUST FROM BILLIONS OF YEARS AGO, AND FROM YESTERDAY, OUR FUTURE IS EVEN BRIGHTER, AS IT IS TO THE ALMIGHTY GOD THAT WE WILL ONE DAY RETURN.

 

AND THAT THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY GONE BEFORE US, HAVE RETURNED TO GOD ALREADY.

 

NOW I COULD QUOTE YOU PLENTY OF PASSAGES FROM SCRIPTURE;

GIVE YOU MULTIPLE PROOF-TEXTS BY WHICH TO MAKE THIS POINT;

CITE YOU CHAPTER AND VERSE FROM THE HOLY BIBLE AS TO GOD’S PROMISES AND FULFILLMENT OF THOSE PROMISES TO US ABOUT ETERNAL LIFE;

 

BUT I THINK I’LL LEAVE IT TO AN ANCIENT POET AND PLAYWRIGHT;

 

AND TO THE WORDS OF A YOUNG GIRL LONGING FOR HER LOST LOVER;

 

FROM JULIET, FOR ROMEO, IN WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO AND JULIET:

 

COME, GENTLE NIGHT, COME, LOVING, BLACK-BROW’D NIGHT,

GIVE ME MY ROMEO; AND WHEN HE SHALL DIE,

TAKE HIM AND CUT HIM OUT IN LITTLE STARS,

AND HE WILL MAKE THE FACE OF HEAVEN SO FINE

THAT ALL THE WORLD WILL BE IN LOVE WITH THE NIGHT

AND PAY NO WORSHIP TO THE GARISH SUN.

 

THE APOSTLE PAUL WAS RIGHT – WE ARE TO BE CHILDREN OF GOD WITHOUT BLEMISH IN MIDST OF A PERVERSE AND CROOKED GENERATION, IN WHICH WE ARE TO SHINE LIKE STARS IN THE WORLD.

 

AND JONI MITCHELL WAS RIGHT ABOUT OUR BEING “A CHILD OF GOD” BUT AT THE SAME TIME “CAUGHT IN THE DEVIL’S BARGAIN…” AND HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR US TO “GET OURSELVES BACK TO THE GARDEN…”

 

GARDENS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PLACES, SYMBOLS, OF PEACE, PERFECTION, TRANQUILITY.

 

FOR US, AS BELIEVERS, IT IS TO GET BACK TO THE GARDEN OF EDEN – A SYMBOL OF GOD’S PERFECTION AND PERFECT WORLD;

 

TO THE GARDEN OF THE 23RD PSALM – WHERE WE LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES, BESIDE STILL WATERS, OUR HEADS ANOINTED, OUR CUPS OVERFLOWING, GOD WITH US IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH, AND WITH GOD’S GOODNESS AND MERCY FOLLOWING US ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES…

 

UNTIL SUCH TIME AS WE “DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER…”

 

SECURED FOR US, BY THE WAY, IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, AND ON A HILL FAR AWAY, AND BY AN EMPTY TOMB IN YET ANOTHER GARDEN…

 

HOW FORTUNATE ARE WE, AS AMERICANS, THAT STARS ARE A SUCH AN IMPORTANT AND POWERFUL SYMBOL OF OUR NATION?

 

WE ARE NOT ALONE, OF COURSE, IN INCORPORATING STARS INTO OUR FLAG, OR AS SYMBOLS OF OUR NATION; THIS, SO EVIDENT IN THE FLAGS OF THE WORLD BEING DISPLAYED RIGHT NOW AT THE OLYMPICS.

 

MEANING THAT MANY PEOPLES AND NATIONS STRIVE FOR THE STARS!

 

BUT INCORPORATED INTO THE SHORTS AND SHIRTS, SWIMSUITS AND LEOTARDS, FENCING MASKS AND CYCLISTS’ HELMETS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ARE THE FAMILIAR STARS, AND SOMETIMES STRIPES, OF OUR NATION’S FLAG.

 

THEY ARE IMMEDIATELY RECOGNIZABLE, AND WHILE NO BETTER OR WORSE THAN ANY OF THE OTHER ATHLETES OF THE WORLD; NO BRIGHTER NOR BOLDER; POSSESSING NO MORE HEART OR SKILL THAN ATHLETES OF EVERY NATION;

 

AND THEIR NATIONS AS PROUD OF THEIR ATHLETES AND COACHES AS WE ARE OF OURS;

 

THE STARS ARE AN EVER PRESENT REMINDER FOR AMERICAN ATHLETES OF WHO THEY ARE REPRESENTING, JUST AS OUR BEING “SHINING STARS IN THE WORLD” SHOULD BE A REMINDER TO US, AND TO THE WORLD, OF WHO WE ARE REPRESENTING.

YES, AT TIMES, OUR NATION, BUT AS PEOPLE OF FAITH, AS BELIEVERS IN GOD, AS FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, REPRESENTING THE GOD IN WHOM WE BELIEVE.

 

FOR WE ARE STARDUST.  WE ARE SHINING STARS.  AND WE ARE STAR CHILDREN, AS CHRISTIANS, TAKING OUR VERY NAME FROM THE CHRIST CHILD, HIMSELF, BORN BENEATH A STAR.

 

AND WE, WITH ALL OF GOD’S PEOPLE, OVER ALL OF THE WORLD, SHOULD BEAR THE IMAGE OF THE ONE IN WHOM WE ARE CREATED…

 

“POURING OUT OUR LIVES AS A LIBATION OVER THE SACRIFICE AND OFFERING OF OUR FAITH…”

 

THERE ARE LOTS OF REASONS THAT THE 1997 JODIE FOSTER MOVIE CONTACT IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES;

 

NOT THE LEAST OF WHICH IS THE FACT THAT IT JUXTAPOSES SCIENCE AND FAITH, ASTRONOMY AND THE MIND OF GOD, AND JUST FOR GOOD MEASURE, EVEN THE BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL.

 

WHAT JONI MITCHELL CALLED “THE DEVIL’S BARGAIN…”

 

THE OPENING SCENE OF THE MOVIE IS BUT A MICROCOSM OF ALL OF THIS AS THE CAMERA PANS OUT FROM THE EARTH TO THE FARTHEST REACHES OF THE UNIVERSE, BEFORE CONCLUDING IN SOMETHING OF A SURPRISE ENDING…

 

AS THE CAMERA WITHDRAWS WE ARE TAKEN THROUGH A QUICK AUDIBLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD THROUGH TELEVISION, AND THEN RADIO BROADCASTS, UNTIL THERE IS ONLY SILENCE, AND THEN THE EERIE NOISES OF FAR OFF SPACE.

 

AS WE WATCH, LET’S KEEP IN MIND WHAT WE’VE BEEN SAYING THIS MORNING ABOUT OUR BEING STARDUST, AND STAR CHILDREN, FOLLOWERS OF THE CHILD BORN BENEATH A STAR, AND CHILDREN, WITH ALL THE WORLD, OF ALMIGHTY GOD.

 

 

 

 

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