"Do You Hear What I Hear?"
Lyrics by Noël Regney & Music by Gloria Shayne Baker
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea,
With a voice as big as the sea.
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold-
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.
Said the king to the people everywhere,
Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people, everywhere,
Listen to what I say!
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light,
He will bring us goodness and light.
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" is a song first written in October 1962, with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker, they were married at the time. The song was written as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it is widely known now as a Christmas Carol.
It is still an important message to share even now at this time. Especially, in a war weary world where it is long past time to end the religious strife that divides humankind so often. To come to some understanding of our common humanity, one that takes us beyond the tenets of any faith, in an interfaith dialogue and acceptance, as surely as Jesus taught us to love one another.
It will soon be Christmas Eve and then Christmas morning!
Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear the song high above the trees?
Do you see what I see? Do you see the star dancing in the night?
Do you know the child shivering in the cold?
Listen to what I say: He has brought us goodness and light.
Thus, for Christians, begins the first day of Christmas. There will be twelve entire days before we arrive in Bethlehem to offer our gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, which will take place on January 6, another Christian feast day called Epiphany.
Epiphany means to manifest, to see a spiritual event unfold. This is a manifestation of the Divine love in human form, for Christians it is a celebration of the revelation of God as a human being in Jesus Christ. God’s love made manifest in the world. And brings about an indwelling of the Spirit for all humankind.
This was and still is God's gift to us. We decorate our trees, our houses, our yards and we become excited as we wait for the event to unfold. We even give gifts to others, which are symbolic of God's gift to us.
I work with children and even adults who know nothing about this gift. Christmas is simply a secular holiday in which school gets out for two weeks and gifts are exchange. They know there is a baby somewhere in the picture - Baby Jesus, they say, but other than the name they know nothing about him. They don't know that he came to save the world from our sins - to make us whole again.
Do you know that people sing Amazing Grace - a catchy little tune, but have no real concept of what it is all about. It is sad because they are not even aware when Grace strikes them.
I cherish the words of Paul Tillich, noted theologian in his sermon You Are Accepted, from his book The Shaking of the Foundations.
He says: “It would be better to refuse God and Christ and the Bible than to accept them without grace. For if we accept them without grace, we do so in the state of separation, and can only succeed in deepening the separation. We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace.”
He goes ahead to say: “It happens or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness.
It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life, which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure has become intolerable to us.
It strikes us when, year after year, the longed for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you.”
Love came down at Christmas. It can happen at Christmas but it can happen at any time. After such an experience (a happening) we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presuppositions, nothing but acceptance.
I think now of Jeremiah, known as the Prophet of Prayer. "This is the covenant I will make with them I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Jeremiah made God very personal for he told the people that they shall, all know me from the least of them to the greatest.
Then John in the New Testament tells the story of Nicodemus. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus did not understand Jesus' saying.
He asked, "How can a man be born when he is old?" We now know that being born of the spirit has nothing to do with chronological age. It has nothing to do with one's social or economic status. It does have something to do about being struck by grace.
Christmas is certainly about such grace - about being transformed. Once this happens we know what it is to be one of his disciples. We know something about discipleship - knowing what it is all about and living it. The poet Ann Weems has provided us with a beautiful poem in her book Kneeling In Bethlehem. I used it five or six years ago.
Christmas Trees And Strawberry Summers by Ann Weems
What I'd really like is a life of Christmas trees and
A walk through the zoo with a pocketful of bubble gum and
a string of balloons.
I'd say "yes" to blueberry mornings and carefree days
with rainbow endings,
I'd keep the world in springtime and the morning glories
But life is more that birthday parties;
life is more than candied apples.
I'd rather hear the singing than the weeping.
I'd rather see the healing that the violence.
I'd rather feel the pleasure than the pain.
I'd rather know security than fear.
I'd like to keep the cotton candy coming,
but life is more than fingers crossed;
life is more than wishing.
Christ said, "follow me."
And, of course, I'd rather not.
I'd rather pretend that doesn't include me.
I'd rather sit by the fire and make my excuses.
I'd rather look the other way,
not answer the phone,
and be much too busy to read the paper.
But I said yes and
that means risk-
it means, here I am, ready or not!
O Christmas trees and strawberry summers,
you're what I like and you are real.
But so are hunger
and hate-filled red faces.
So is confrontation.
So is injustice.
Discipleship means sometimes it's going to rain in my face.
But when you've been blind and now you see,
when you've been deaf and now you hear,
when you've never understood and now you
once you know who God calls you to be,
you're not content with sitting in corners.
There's got to be some alleluia shouting,
some speaking out
some standing up
Discipleship means living what you know.
Discipleship means "Thank you, Lord"
for Christmas trees and strawberry summers
and even for rain in my face.
Poems, prose, and lyrics used under "Fair Use" guidelines & standards for non commercial educational non-profit purposes, with links provide below to each work.
"Do You Hear What I Hear?"
Music by Gloria Shayne Baker
Lyrics by Noël Regney
Written October 1962
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" is a song written in October 1962, with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker. The pair, married at the time, wrote it as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis but it is widely misunderstood to be a Christmas carol. It has sold tens of millions of copies and has been covered by hundreds of artists. (Wikipedia)
The Shaking of the Foundations by Paul Tillich
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Pub; Reprint edition (May 16, 2012)
Kneeling In Bethlehem by Ann Weems
Paperback: 108 pages
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (January 1, 1987)
A Christmas Sermon ~ DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?
Written by Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., PhD
Edited by Ron Starbuck
Saint Julian Press, Inc. © 2014
Sermon originally delivered at Sunset United Methodist Church on 12-28-08.
This sermon and others will be included in a new book of prose and poetry to be titled,
In My Father’s House are Many Mansions, from Saint Julian Press in 2016.
By the Rev. Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., PhD
Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in front of a campfire with the flame going up and down, back and forth. You are mesmerized! You go on a journey to Never Neverland. You have no concept of time for 30 minutes or an hour is in itself lost in time.
Whoever was there a few minutes ago has left. You are all alone - quietness grips you and your thoughts return to the evening just ended and the future that awaits you. The fire before you is gone - only the burning embers remain - the afterglow.
It is the second Sunday in Christmastide. The decorations have already been taken down. The Christmas tree is gone, and the beautiful poinsettias too, but look! - We still have the cross, lectern, the pulpit, and the candles on the altar are still burning. We need to keep them burning for Christmas is not over. The Wise Men have not arrived. The Star in the East is still shining as they make their way to Bethlehem.
A couple weeks ago I was talking to the mother of our next-door neighbor. She was telling me with a sparkle in her eyes that her son and his wife were in the process of adopting their second child. He would be arriving on January 6th.
I said, "O, that's a special day."
"That's your birthday?” she asked.
"No, that is Epiphany-the day the wise men arrived in Bethlehem with their gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.”
Then I told her the story of the Twelve Days of Christmas. While she knew the song she did not know the story. She is active in her church but it doesn't follow the Christian year as we do.
Like the wise men we too journey toward Bethlehem. We too want-even need to lay our gifts before the Lord Jesus. He's waiting for us - you know.
"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Jesus admonishes us to love God but also to love one another and above all to love our selves. I think now of the hundreds of people I have worked with through the years that do not love themselves. Since early childhood they have been physically, emotionally, verbally, and many sexually abused. They depend on others to make them feel good - even to feel loved.
We are on this good earth to love and be loved. Listen to Luke as he writes: "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read, and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah.
He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
The Prophet Jeremiah was often referred to as the suffering or weeping prophet; he prophesied in both the pre and post-exilic era. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to the Assyrians and in 586 BC the Babylonians conquered the Southern Kingdom and many were taken to Babylon. It was during their captivity that Jeremiah told them of the New Covenant God would make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
"I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
During my years in the parish minister I simply could not understand and later felt anger because certain church people were complaining that I was spending too much time with the youth. In the late 60s and early 70s, I loved going to Lakeview to work with the youth. I always enjoyed Youth Activity Week, which was so evident in churches throughout our Conference during that period of history. It reminds me of this poem.
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
Ms. Will Allen Domgoole
As we celebrate the afterglow of Christmas and wait for the wise men to arrive with their gifts may we gather up our own gifts - continue on our journey with a life full of wonder and excitement. We too have seen his Star in the East and have come to worship him.
I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly. It is the eighth day of Christmas. It is Epiphany Sunday. A new year awaits us. Our world awaits us. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
By Ruth Comfort Mitchell
A tired old doctor died today, and a baby boy was born-
A little new soul that was pink and frail, and a soul that was gray and worn.
And—halfway here and halfway there-
On a white, high hill of shining air,
They met and passed and paused to speak in the flushed and hearty dawn.
The man looked down at the soft, small thing, with wise and weary eyes;
And the little chap stared back at him, with startled, scared surmise:
And then he shook his downy head-
"I think I won't be born," he said;
”You are too gray and sad!” And he shrank from the pathway down the skies.
But the tired old doctor roused once more at the battle-cry of birth,
And there was memory in his look, of grief and toil and mirth,
"Go on!" he said, "It's good-and bad:
It's hard! Go on! It's ours, my lad."
And he stood and urged him out of sight, down to the waiting earth.
Ruth Comfort Mitchell
Published in Harper’s Magazine ~ December 1921-May 1922, Volume 144, page 252
Ruth Comfort Mitchell and John Steinbeck both lived in Los Gatos, California, and she wrote her novel Of Human Kindness, as a literary rebuttal to Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath.
A Christmastide Sermon ~ THE AFTERGLOW, written by Rev. Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., PhD, in 2011; edited by Ron Starbuck, Saint Julian Press, Inc. © 2014.
This sermon and others will be included in a new book of prose and poetry to be titled, In My Father’s House are Many Mansions, from Saint Julian Press in 2015.
As a Methodist minister for over 50 years, and practicing psychotherapist for over 40 years, my father never read the Bible in a literal way. He saw the Bible stories, readings, and lessons, as a way of wisdom, being, renewal, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
He saw them as something to be taught and celebrated as sacred literature and scripture pointing humankind towards a much higher truth and experience of the divine, pointing us towards an intimate and eternal relationship with the divine that is ours to claim, a new being. As a clergy he believed in and administered the sacraments of the church, and he believed in the Divine Mystery and Love of God actively at work within the world.
He was able to live in that mystery, to accept it fully and completely, and came to realize early in his adult life that what Jesus was teaching humankind was to love God, yourself, and others as your self.
Hear what our Lord Jesus saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:37-40
He urged people to embrace life, to live their life in great spiritual abundance, without separation, fully and completely. He believed in Jesus and the message and gift of God’s love, of salvation and oneness within the Trinity. He saw these as higher mysteries that take us beyond all religious beliefs, faiths, symbols, words, and images.
He believed in the unity of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, unseen and invisible that is always waiting for us to claim the power of God’s love and healing within our own lives.
Ron Starbuck, Saint Julian Press.
January 1, 2015
Something More than Palms - April 7, 1968 - Three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
April 7, 1968, three days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a day declared by then President Lyndon B. Johnson as a national day of mourning, for Christians it was Palm Sunday.
There is no room for violence and destruction in this great country whether it be the rioting and violence of Black America or the subtle and poisonous mind of prejudice, which reaches out and cuts us from within, time after time, to destroy and dehumanize our civilization.
Jesus, —knowing he would meet death returned to Jerusalem. He wept bitterly over that city. He died for that city and the world but his truth goes marching on.
Something More than Palms
Palm Sunday Sermon by Rev. Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., Ph.D.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on an ass,
on a colt the foal of an ass.
The prophet Zechariah (9:9) has spoken. In the year 530 B.C. he "began to prophesy, his was the period following the Jews return from exile. It was also the period of Jewish history when the people's hearts and minds were heavy and filled with hopelessness and discouragement; we catch something of this in the 5th chapter of Lamentations.
Lamentations 5:1-2 (RSV)
A Plea for Mercy
Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
behold, and see our disgrace!
Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to aliens.”
Into this setting the prophet Zechariah came. Feeling the feelings of his people —reaching out to them, loving them —knowing of their discouragement and hopelessness, he gave them hope. He prophesied saying:
“I will strengthen the house of Judah,
and I will save the house of Joseph.
I will bring them back because I have compassion on them,
and they shall be as though I had not rejected them;
for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.
12 I will make them strong in the Lord
and they shall glory[c] in his name,”
says the Lord.”
Zechariah has spoken…
“Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, 0 Daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to yon
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on an ass,
on a colt the foal of an ass.”
And five hundred years later he did come. He marched triumphantly and victoriously into the city of Jerusalem. He came riding on an ass as Zechariah had prophesied. Spread on the ground "before him were garments, and "branches of palm trees."
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes by the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!
Use of our imagination!
We too can see Him -there. He is among the throng. A vast multitude has come out to -greet him. Some are waving. Some are shouting. Some are there out of curiosity; I know of no greater description of this event than is found in Lloyd C. Douglas book, The Robe, for caught in the press of that crowd was the Greek slave Demetrius.
“Standing on tiptoe for an instant in the swaying crowd, Demetrius caught a fleeting glimpse of the obvious centre of interest, a brown-haired, bareheaded, well-favoured Jew. A tight little circle had been left open for the slow advance of the shaggy white donkey on which he rode. It instantly occurred to Demetrius that this coronation project was an impromptu affair for which no preparation had been made.
Certainly there were no efforts to bedeck the pretender with any royal regalia. He was clad in a simple brown mantle with no decorations of any kind, and the handful of men—his intimate friends, no doubt—who tried to shield him from the pressure of the throng wore the commonest sort of country garb.
Demetrius, regaining his lost balance, stretched to a full height for another look at the man who somehow evoked all this wild adulation. It was difficult to believe that this was the sort of person who could be expected to inflame a mob into some audacious action.
Instead of receiving the applause with an air of triumph—or even of satisfaction—the unresponsive man on the white donkey seemed sad about the whole affair. He looked as if he would gladly have had none of it.
'Can you see him?' called the little Athenian, who had stuck fast in the sticky-hot pack an arm's length away.
Demetrius nodded without turning his head.
'No, not very,' answered Demetrius, candidly remote.
'What does he look like?' shouted the Athenian, impatiently.
Demetrius shook his head—and his hand, too—signaling that he couldn't be bothered now, especially with questions as hard to answer as this one.
'Look like a king?' yelled the little Greek, guffawing boisterously.
Demetrius did not reply. Tugging at his impounded garments, he crushed his way forward. The surging mass, pushing hard from the rear, now carried him on until he was borne almost into the very hub of the procession that edged along, step-by-step, keeping pace with the plodding donkey...
...At present there was a temporary blocking of the way, and the noisy procession came to a complete stop. The man on the white donkey straightened as if roused from a reverie, sighed deeply, and slowly turned his head. Demetrius watched, with parted lips and a pounding heart.
Everyone was shouting, shouting—all but the Corinthian slave, whose throat was so dry he couldn't have shouted, who had no inclination to shout, who wished they would all be quiet, quiet! It wasn't the time or place for shouting. Quiet! This man wasn't the sort of person one shouted at or shouted for. Quiet! That was what this moment called for—quiet!
Gradually, the brooding eyes moved over the crowd until they came to rest on the strained, bewildered face of Demetrius. The eyes calmly appraised Demetrius. They neither widened nor smiled; even so, in some indefinable manner, they held Demetrius in a grip so firm it was almost a physical compulsion.
The message, they communicated, was something other than sympathy, something more vital than friendly concern; a sort of stabilizing power that swept away all such negations as slavery, poverty, or any other afflicting circumstance. Demetrius was suffused with the glow of this curious kinship. Blind with sudden tears, he elbowed through the throng and reached the roadside. The uncouth Athenian, bursting with curiosity, inopportunely accosted him.
'See him—close up?' he asked.
Demetrius nodded; and, turning away, began to retrace his steps toward his abandoned duty.
"Crazy?" persisted the Athenian, trudging alongside.
'No,' muttered Demetrius, soberly, 'not a king.'
'What is he, then?' demanded the Athenian, piqued by the Corinthian's aloofness.
'I don't know,' mumbled Demetrius, in a puzzled voice, 'but—he is something more important than a king.'”
Something more than a King…
There in the midst of the throng were all sorts of people. Let us see if we can identify them, the subject and the object. Now we are standing in front of a mirror —the recollection of the crowd comes back to us. What do we see?
First, we see the curious ones. Not truly caring for the man Jesus, not sincerely knowing who it is that has attracted the crowd's attention, but simply present because of the crowd. Conforming once again to the winds that swept across Jerusalem that day and in the days immediately ahead.
But there is the; Blind man.
The woman caught in the act of adultery
The crippled boy
And there is a young man who cannot hear…
Can we find ourselves in this crowd!
What infirm condition do we take with us? Are we there and are we here this morning out of curiosity or have we come in search of a meaningful faith?
Second, there are those in the throng who have come once again to trap Jesus. Now they are more sure than ever they will reach their goal —accomplish their task,
Paying taxes to Caesar
Healing on the Sabbath
Stoning to death a woman who sinned.
She broke the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
And then there is Judas! Someone used him.
Politics —Using people
SOMETHING MORE THAN PALMS
Third, and the most important person in the midst of the throng on that Palm Sunday was Jesus himself.
Something more than a King.
Yes, —King of kings and Lord of lords.
He was the Saviour of the world. He had been sent by God to save the world, but the world knew him not. Only a few of his own people really understood this man Jesus. Only a few men today understand him and are willingly to give their lives for him, Jesus was 33 when he died.
He healed the sick. He caused the blind to see the lame to walk. Even so, such miracles as these did not kill Jesus. It was the political and economic and social changes, which he advocated that killed him. It was the same injustice, which he spoke against that finally put to him to death.
The hatred of men; not the love which he taught and exemplified brought him to that cross on Calvary.
The man, who was killed by an assassin's bullet last Thursday night, was killed because he too advocated political and economic and social justice for all men. I do not really want to talk about Martin Luther King this morning. It is too painful.
And yet I must even though I know you are exhausted of the subject, and I too am exhausted. It was not my intention even to mention the race problem in today's sermon, and of the things I have prayed about since my coming to you, is that I would not alienate you or cause you to think that I was trying to coerce the love which God has given me for the black people on you.
Above all, I do not want to do either of these things this morning.
So I'm going to stop preaching —right now!
I'm only going to talk to you as you talk to me when there is a death in your family. So I do not seek your respect for the man who meant so much to me; I only seek your love in sharing with me the pain and suffering which the event of history has thrust upon me in the tragic death and loss of my brother.
So I talk out of deep pain, sorrow, grief. It was in 1963 that I first came to know Martin Luther King. I was fresh out of seminary and had struggled with some of the problems of life, including the race problem. However, I never took it seriously.
A part of my bringing up was to play it safe; don't be controversial. Don't get involved.
And then I received this letter from Martin Luther King, and I cried and sometimes I still cry when I read it. This is where my brother has been misunderstood because people have seen only the violence, which often has followed the non-violent movement.
But, Martin Luther King, Jr. never carried a gun or a knife from the day he walked into the Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., following his seminary and doctorate work at Boston University. He preached love, and he died because of it. I wish there was time to read the whole letter but let me complete it by sharing the last few paragraphs.
A Letter from Birmingham Jail – A vigorous, eloquent reply to criticism expressed by a group of eight clergymen.
“Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent—and often even vocal—sanction of things as they are.
Nevertheless, the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 20th century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom.
They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the south on torturous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been kicked out of their churches; have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers.
But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.”
Something More than Palms!
Jesus, —knowing he would meet death returned to Jerusalem. He wept bitterly over that city. He died for that city and the world, but his truth goes marching on.
There is no room for violence and destruction in this great country, whether it be the rioting and violence of Black America or the subtle and poisonous mind of prejudice, which reaches out and cuts us from within, time after time, to destroy and dehumanize our civilization.
I would pray that both groups might reorder their lives and rather than have a hell on earth, which is more than a possibility. We might strive to have one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Let us pray!
Historical Note: In the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination there followed a nationwide wave of riots in more than 100 cities; this was the greatest wave of social unrest the United States had experienced since the Civil War. People were scared White America was scared. This sermon was delivered in this social and racial context at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Beaumont, Texas.
In April of 1968, my father was only 41 years old. I was nearly 16, soon to get my drivers license and a sophomore attending South Park High School in Beaumont, Texas. We lived at 3705 Chaison Avenue, in the parsonage of St. Paul's United Methodist Church. The house was located in the blue–collar working–class neighborhood of South Park.
St. Paul's United Methodist Church and South Park High School were one block from one another. The church at Woodrow Ave., and the school on Highland Avenue, were only four blocks from Lamar University. The old high school building built in 1922 is gone now, and in its place stands the brand new South Park Middle School.
To this day I remember with great fondness how warm and gracious and welcoming so many people at St. Paul’s Methodist were to me and my family. It is memory I treasure still; it was my first experience of Southern Hospitality. At school I was a Trainer for the football team, staying late every day to help tape up ankles for the team.
When I began dating girls that summer and into the fall, my junior year, we took our dates parking at Lamar University because the campus police would simply leave us alone to talk and neck in our innocent teenage way. No, we did not go too far, perhaps first or second base at most, just mild petting; we were All American Teenagers in every way.
I'm sharing this, because I want you to understand how young and innocent we were then.
How young, I was.
My first real job was at Highland Avenue Pharmacy, where I drove around South Park delivering drug prescriptions to people in their homes. I also mopped the floor every night, and at times helped a bit at the soda fountain.
There is another important back story here, South Park High School was integrated in the late 1960s. And in the direct aftermath of Martin Luther King's death, a group of black and white students gathered at the parsonage one evening to learn more about one another.
My parents welcomed us; they opened up their home to a new generation, a generation that wanted something more.
Most of us were only 15-16 years old and trying our best to understand so many dark and confusing things within our world.
Why do we love?
Why do we hate?
Why is there war?
How can we make the world better?
We were young and idealistic.
There is something else I remember too. It is how watching the news. My father cried like a baby the day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
And how, at some point, we simply held one another. There are deep memories here, pain and sorrow and great love. Great love, which should not be forgotten.
There are small simple transforming stories of humanity's love that need to be shared and treasured. This is one of those stories to be remembered.
Two months later, on June 6, 1968, the nation witnessed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. I'll try to share that story soon.
Saint Julian Press
SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT ~ Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., PhD ~ August 9, 1970
And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" so they might accuse him. He said to them, "What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand," And the man stretched it out and it was restored, whole like the other. But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him. ~ Matthew 12:10-14
Something More Important! On Sunday morning, June 28th, I woke up to the sounds of birds singing in the trees; the brightness of the morning sun had already found its ray across the foot of my bed.
It had been a restful night —no fans, no air-condition; only the cool night breeze of a summer night nearly one thousand miles north of Houston. I woke knowing this was to be a very special day.
There was still hay in the field that had been cut the day before. It needed to be baled and put into the barn. We were at Edna's folks and I'm sure her father of 75 years thought about the hay that morning and in his own way probably wished that it was all baled and stored safely away for the winter. But if the thought ever past his mind it was soon forgotten that day —because something more important was about to happen. On the day's agenda was a forthcoming celebration; fifty years of married life.
Edna' s brother and wife arrived at the farm shortly after 7:30 a.m. All of us were in the process of dressing for Morning Worship. Church service began at 8:30. By the time everyone was ready (which was about 8:15) Edna's dad was pacing the floor. I was helping him. He was not use to waiting, I could tell he was impatient but he didn't say anything. After all, this was a special day —something' more important.
Soon we were in the cars, —driving north over a hill or two until we reached one of the main arteries running east and west. We turned right and another half mile took us to St. John's Lutheran's Church where Edna and I were married; and where Dad and Mom Meinert were united in a service of holy matrimony one half century ago. As a rather large family we took up one whole pew. Everyone knew why we were there because in every small rural setting everyone knows about everyone else. The celebration of worship seemed so appropriate in setting the climate for the day ahead.
Young and old, rich and poor relatives and friends gathered that afternoon in the parish hall across the road. They had come to celebrate –to offer congratulations and add their blessings. The best man and the maid of honor —the two people who stood up with them 50 years ago were present. The fields were quiet that afternoon; untouched by man or machinery. There was something more important taking place.
Isn't it wonderful that every now and then we can stop doing our "thing" in this busy world of ours and join with others in a great event or happening.
It reminds us that we too are but mortal creatures and while we belong to the infinite we are still finite in nature. Sometimes death interrupts our lives —the death of someone we love. Sometimes sickness interrupts our lives or an emergency operation or a routine tonsillectomy.
The other night I had scheduled two appointments and a meeting at 8 O’clock. At approximately 5;40 the telephone rang and our oldest daughter was in need of help. She was running a high fever; complications from her tonsillectomy of two weeks ago. We discovered later that she had a severe inner ear infection. I had to cancel my appointment because of something more important.
Or if you will take the story of one of the senior pastors in a large Methodist Church in Houston; I was talking to him only last Monday. He was sharing some of his problems with three other ministers including myself. It seems as though a letter went out from his study at the end of May asking his people to continue their church pledge through December of this year. The Conference had decided to go on a fiscal year beginning January 1st. If you recall, I talked about this last fall so we got the jump on a lot of other churches. The wisdom of a fool.
He went ahead to tell us that he received a letter from one layman canceling his pledge because the church was too liberal. The very next day he received a letter from another layman canceling his pledge because the church was too conservative. In a moment of deep frustration he cried out, "What am I to do!" The question may seem trivial to you but to this pastor it was very important. It concerned him ultimately; "What am I to do?"
I wished that I could have given him the answer but I don't have the answer. Oh, I have an answer but not, the answer. My answer would be to him and to you and to myself that there is something more important.
There is something more important than dividing a church or a nation into conservatives and liberals. The two words have really come me to bother me for I think they are over used and we are hung-up with them. I do not think that a Christian can be one or the other. He must be both. We must conserve and liberate at the same time. We can never severe our ties from that part of history which belongs to us.
The teachings of the Bible —the rule and guide of faith —our faith, is just as relevant now as it was two thousands years ago. Just because we live in a new day and must continually interpret the meaning of God's word for our day does not mean that we throw the baby out with the bath water. You simply do not cut off the past to get to the problems of the future or even to the problems of this day —here and now.
There is danger in a closed mind. We must always look in both directions. Therefore, we conserve and liberate at the same time.
Something More Important! Jesus was both conservative and liberal. He was open to the future but he did not destroy the past. He came not to destroy the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.
Again and again he referred to the teachings as found in the law and the prophets. They served as the very basis of his sermon —even his Sermon on the Mount. And yet at the same time he offered something new.
A new commandment I give you; that you love one another even as I have loved you.
You have heard that it was said of old, but I say of you...
Jesus conserved and liberated at the same time. He did not destroy the past but he always moved out in such a way as to give life to others and to set them free.
Something More Important! Let us enlarge our Text this morning and examine the contents, which appears in the early part of the 12th chapter of Matthew, the Pharisees, caught up in their own way of life were threatened by Jesus.
They were very legalistic in their interpretation of the Law and the Prophets. Jesus was adding a new light to that interpretation. They did not know how to cope with this Jesus so they moved out to destroy him. Eventually they were successful. They caught their game. Man can most always be successful in destroy another human being; but it is something else to be so free and at peace with yourself that you can give this same feeling of freedom and peace to others.
Something More Important! Speaking to the parents and members of a graduating class of Pasadena Independent School District a week ago Friday night, I asked them to imagine that they were at a Rock Festival or in a high school auditorium or sitting in a chair viewing their television. I then asked them to listen to the following words as sung by a Rock group known as Traffic.
"Cryin' to Be Heard" ~ written by Mason, Dave
Traffic – Studio Album
Released October 1968
"Cryin' To Be Heard" by Traffic (Google Play • iTunes • AmazonMP3)
Recorded Olympic Studios, London, Record Plant, NYC, January–May 1968
Mason – lead vocal, bass; Winwood – Hammond organ, harpsichord, backing vocal; Wood – soprano saxophone; Capaldi – drums, backing vocal
Somebody's cryin' to be heard
And there's also someone who hears every word
Sail across the ocean with your back against the wind
Listening to nothing save the calling of a bird
And when the rain begins to fall, don't you start to curse
It may be just the tears of someone that you never heard
Somebody's cryin' to be heard
And there's also someone who hears every word
Reflected in the water is a face that you don't know
And isn't it surprising when you findin' out it's your own?
And so you try to find out whether it is friend or foe
And what it is it wants from you and what it wants to know?
Somebody's cryin' to be heard
And there's also someone who hears every word
Well, you're wrapped up in your little world and no one can get in
You sit and think of everything then, then you wonder where you've been
You put the blame on someone that you've hardly ever known
And then you realize too late the blame was all your own
Somebody's cryin' to be heard
And there's also someone who hears every word
Sail across the ocean with your back against the wind
Listening to nothing save the calling of a bird
And when the rain begins to fall, don't you start to curse
It may be just the tears of someone that you never heard
Somebody's cryin' to be heard
And there's also someone who hears every word
Songwriter ~ MASON, DAVE
Something more important, than blaming others —than dividing a church or a nation into conservatives or liberals. Something more important; A new commandment I give you, that you love one another even as I have loved you.
The Missiles of October 1962 - Part 1 & Part 2
For thirteen days in October 1962 the world waited—seemingly on the brink of nuclear war—and hoped for a peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
These two pieces are a response to what was going on in America and the world at this moment in history, each one is a piece of history in and of itself. I will let you explore that history more on your own, the events are well known now.
Eight months later, in June 1963, President Kennedy offered Americans the following words, "For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."
It may be helpful to remember that President Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic to hold the office, much like President Obama is the first African American to hold this office now.
What you will read here in the text of this sermon is a call to an ecumenical dialogue between Protestants and Catholics, between fellow Christians. It is in my mind a literary allegory or an allusion, a reflection of what was going one between two nations of the world, and a call to greater understanding within the world of that time.
In the years that followed the events of October 1962, we will begin to see a radical openness take shape in the context of an interfaith dialogue. That dialogue continues today, in new and wondrous ways and spiritual practices.
We may hold on to and cherish our core faith, the faith of our fathers and mothers, but we have also learned new ways to pray and interact with people of many different faiths.
Many of us have learned that the Holy Spirit is actively at work within the world and flows through all the faiths of humankind. Reformation in this sense, has taken on a new meaning in the affairs of humankind.
Saint Julian Press
The Missiles of October 1962 - Part 1
A sermon first written by the Rev. Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., PhD, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in late October 1962, edited by Ron Starbuck. Copyright 2014 Saint Julian Press, Inc.
“Your world was a world without hope and without God. But now in union with Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near through the shedding of Christ's blood. For he is himself our peace...for he annulled the law with its rules and regulations, so as to create out of the two a single new humanity in himself, thereby making peace. This was his purpose, to reconcile the two in a single body to God through the cross, on which he killed the enmity (hatred)." (Eph. 2:12-13)
This is our purpose today as Christians and as Protestants. On this Reformation Sunday we must remember that it is not only a day, which commemorates the martyrs whose blood was shed in testimony of their faith; but it is a day of reform within our own lives. We must not only look back to that historical event known as the Protestant Reformation but we must see and become a part of that historical event, that reformation which did not stop with Martin Luther but echoed down through the ages and vibrates with emotion as we hear and sing such words as;
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing;
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
The reformation is not merely a thing of the past or even of the present but it is a thing of the future—and its future, the future of your world and mine will depend upon our acceptation of Christ Jesus our Lord, and our belief that out of Him a single new humanity is formed and this new humanity is everlasting peace and tranquility.
In a time when the world is threatened by total destruction; in a time when the minds of men indifferent to one another because of opposing ideologies and ways of life; in a time when hate is greater than love we need to turn and to re-accept this single new humanity which is our gift of power and our only hope for Life in the midst of death. We need more than ever to set afresh the word Reformation —realizing that the significance of the word stems from its meaning to reform, to start life anew, to seek unity in the midst of disunity a unity needed for both the survival of Christianity and the world at large.
We Americans I fear are still blind to the fact that war is no longer the answer to separation. War has always lost more than it has gained—its wounds are never really healed. Take for example our own nationhood. One hundred years have past and the wounds of the Civil War still drain and smart with - fervor and emotions. The embittered feelings, the hatred evolving out of men of one nation penetrate our very being and cause us to wonder of our purpose as Christians.
So it is in international affairs; but even here the problem becomes of great magnitude and complexity. Nation against nation is a step above people against people. We think different, we believe different, our goal is different. We are unable to communicate because we speak different languages. We see only the sins and indifference of the other nation, and the mistrust, which we have toward one another. This is not to say that our present position is wrong, perhaps it isn’t! I don't know if it is.
I don't think President Kennedy or any given member of our State Department knows the answer — so one must merely feel his way as in the dark, hoping and praying as he moves along inch' by inch, minute by minute. I do not know the answer, do you, really?
I did see the hell of war; and the aftermath of WW II in Germany and France remains as a vivid memory for me—the crying of little children, the war-torn faces of widows and orphans, of old men and old women still has not lost its imprint in more than a decade and a half.
Perhaps it is because I am more mature! At the age of 17, I couldn't wait—I had to see action; now eighteen years later and after four children I'm not so anxious. Now I stop and think and pray. I look at both sides of the coin and war is not the answer.
What is the answer? Peace—Love! This is what existence of the United Nations is proposing. This is what both Russia and the United States claim they want. Of course, we call Russia liar and they call us warmonger and liars in return.
Certainly, there is more to be said than to say that we are right and they are wrong. Oh, we want to say this and we do because it sounds good. But we as a nation are not guiltless and it was due primarily to our stupidity and our longing for a firmer economic foothold in Cuba that the Cuba reformation under Castro came into being.
I think we would have wanted a reform too if we had been living under the rule and exploitation of Dictator Batista. Yet we supported him as a nation because of economic reasons only. We didn’t, and I still don't think we really are concerned with Cuba as a people and as children of God. That is. I have a feeling that a greater concern is the re-establishment of economic relations.
This in no way is to excuse Russia of her massive infiltration and her continuous threat of communism the world over. It does however point the way to our sins and our means of manipulation in world affairs and international relations. To me the United Nations is the one organization that can bring peace into the world.
Perhaps, you have lost all faith in the possibility even that a meeting of the minds, be it a summit conference or a gathering with the Secretary General of the U.N. can save the world from complete annihilation. Perhaps you agree with a former president when he said, “I don't believe in them, they don't amount to a damn. I have been to two of them and nothing was accomplished."
What is it that we want to accomplish that a hydrogen bomb would accomplish? U Thant in a recent speech before the Security Council made this statement: "What is at stake is not just the interests of the parties directly involved, nor just the interests of all member states, but the very fate of mankind. If today the United Nations should prove itself ineffective, it may have proved itself so for all time."
Here a man of the Buddhist faith outshines supposedly a Christian nation. While affirming his own faith he recognizes that there are hundreds and millions of people who believe otherwise. He says, I understand this, and because of this understanding I believe in peaceful co-existence.
Whether we like it or not, (he continues) I believe that communism is going to stay; I believe capitalism is going to stay; I believe parliamentary democracy is going to stay...I believe the day will come when these different societies.... are going to exist peacefully. I believe in these things.
I too believe in these things. As a Christian I too believe that the world can be one even as He is one. That in the midst of different cultures and different races and different minds a thread of unity will shape the peace, and the world and men shall live in a universe of love and tranquility. "This was his purpose, to reconcile the two in a single body to God through the cross, on which he killed the enmity (Hatred).”
The Reformation - It's Future. I suppose that this bring us then to the heart of the message, the very core if you please. For on this Reformation Sunday we seek unity not only among the minds of nations and the world; but we strive towards unity among the minds of Christian leaders within the circle of the Church of Jesus Christ. We cannot help but recall the diversity, which separates the Church on this day.
It certainly equals, perhaps excels the diversity, which divided the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians in Paul's day. As Protestants we know the difficulty that is ours in coming to some understanding with those teachings and principles of Roman Catholicism. The anti-Catholic feelings, which many of us have or have had in the past, deeply affect this wound of separation. We forget in the given moment that we are Christians and brothers one of another. Our hatred and animosity inflame the whole self and like cancer cells spread in in all direction. We would rather be damned than to sit at a table for the purpose of seeking the very unity, which destroyed not by God, but by man.
How strange it must seem to those who think in that direction that the leaders of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are now seeking unity. This does, not mean that as Protestants we can ever forget the history and cause of our separation; or that it will ever be possible to agree on unity as institutions. For as we look at the problems of diversity such as (1) The Sacraments, (2) The Priesthood of all believers, (3) The freedom of mind and thought—our separation is greater than we well imagine.
But, certainly it is possible to find unity in the light of Christ Jesus our Lord—to live in peaceful co-existence;--striving at all time for the unity of one mind and heart, believing that this unity does’ not come about by man’s doings alone but by the spirit of God working in the lives of his children.
Therefore, it seems to me that if unity is ever to come it must come via three directions. First, it must come via of the Church at Rome. In an opening statement at the second ecumenical council (Second Vatican Council-Opened on October, 11 1962), Pope John XXIII furnished these words, "The Catholic church, therefore, considers it her duty to work actively so that there may be fulfilled the great mystery of that unity, which Jesus Christ invoked with fervent prayer from His Heavenly Father on the eve of His sacrifice.”
The present ecumenical council of the Catholic church, — the results of that council will probably not furnish any momentous change in Christendom; but the very fact that so large a body of Protestants are represented there shows for the first time a genuine concern on the part of a Catholic Pope for unity and peaceful co-existence.
Second, if unity is ever to come it must come also in the direction of Protestantism. Not only must our leaders be concerned with unity but we as members of the Faith must support them and be concerned ourselves with the separation. We must examine every way and means for such oneness. If nothing more we must be willing to talk about our disunity—recognizing our differences and moving out from here.
You see people can live together although their minds think different and their thoughts diverge in opposite directions. We have seen this within the family where one is protestant and one is catholic. Oh yes —you can quickly point out (if you must) those families who have failed under these conditions; but I am speaking now of those families who have learned to live and to love in spite of their differences. I think now of such families within our own church who confront this very problem, but because of love solve it and live in unity.
A year ago the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the Protestantism voice was heard. In her message flow these convictions; "We must together seek the fullness of Christian unity. Our brethren in Christ are given to us, not chosen by us. In some things our convictions do not yet permit us to act together; but...let us everywhere find out the things which we can do together now; and faithfully do them praying and working always for that fuller unity which Christ wills for his Church.”
This brings us then to the fixed direction. If unity is ever to come between Protestants and Catholics it must come via God himself. Only if we allow room in our discussion, our debate, and our arguments for the Holy Spirit to work will Christian Unity be possible. It is not so much that we can bring it to past; as we look at our divergent views it frightens us and we see only chaos and further separation. Hence, the minds of men must be supported by a greater mind —one that knows no separation and longs for his children to live in peace and unity.
In the same way wise nations can be brought together. But it requires a given trust in a world of mistrust, and it requires faith in the midst of doubt. As a Christian I do not believe in war; but I believe that unity is possible only through the exchanges of men's minds where God has an opportunity to work in His mysterious way.
Let us pray.
Sermon delivered at Valley View Methodist Church in Overland Park, Kansas, on October 28, 1962.
The Missiles of October 1962 - Part 2
A sermon written by the Rev. Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., PhD, in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis in lNovember 1962, edited by Ron Starbuck. Copyright 2014 Saint Julian Press, Inc.
In an editorial written for the "American Journal of Ortho- psychiatry" and appearing in the January 1962 issue of that periodical, Dr. Margaret Mead quoted a statement by the World Federation for Mental Health; "For the first time in "human history, men have come face to face with the possibility that mankind might be wiped out.
This fact has radically altered the whole position with regard to peace and war. The choice lies no longer in the bands of groups of individuals, of giving their lives willingly in order that liberty or justice, or freedom from hunger, may prevail, whether for themselves or for others. The dilemma now facing the world is essentially a matter of precipitating, or preventing... a world conflict from which, even though some might conceivably survive, none would live to inherit any possible spiritual. or indeed, material, fruits of 'victory'."
Having just passed another crisis in world affairs which brought us to the brink of war it seems fitting on this Veteran's Day 1962, to look more closely at Man's need and to see that need in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This morning, I would like to have you look with me in three directions, first, to the world and the survival of the human race. Second, to one of the most talked about and emotional topics of our day-Radioactive Fallout and Fallout Shelters, and third to the working hypothesis which I believe will not only solve our present dilemma but once again will set in motion the reconstruction of the human race into something more than mere survival.
First then, let us look to the world and the survival of the human, race, i.e., the existence of the world and the human race. What is it that keeps the world going--keeps it revolving around the sun every 24 hours? What is it that keeps our temperature at a livable degree? Surely we are aware that a small shift in the distance between the earth and the sun could cause the earth either to freeze or burn up.
Likewise, an alteration in the ratio inside the body of salt to water, of oxygen to carbon dioxide, of red blood cells to white could put an end to life. What is it that keeps our world, our race from destroying itself physiologically? The answer, of course, is equilibrium- balance "Life is made possible by the most precarious balancing act s in the universe,” writes Norman Cousins, editor of Saturday Review. In fact, we can say that the universe is made possible by a balancing creative force, which in its original nature was of a perfect nature. New to the “hows" of such a perfect creation man does not know —this still remains a mystery to the human race.
We do know however, that the world is set up in polarity and the only thing that keeps it in tact is a balancing process. Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher spoke wisely when he said, "Tension between opposites governed by a rational principle which holds them in balance is the key to the understanding of the world."
Might I add — that it is not only a key to the understanding of the world, but it is the key to the survival of the world! In like nature, Plato's whole philosophical system is set-up in polarity and as one studies the Neo-platonic thought of form and matter, being and nonbeing —comparing this with Aristotle's two opposing factors: potentiality-actuality —— man-God, he realizes the imminent danger of his own self and his own world which is now threatened by unbalance and unrest.
Certainly, we have felt this danger in the past two weeks. We have been threatened as never before with total destruction! Yet, I suppose the most startling thing in this whole episode —this whole possible possibility of final destruction lies in the fact that it comes not as natural means where in the unbalancing of the universe is fulfilled by the earth passing to near or too far away from the sun; but the fact that man himself now has the power to destroy life and the world at large.
The very God, who created the world in such an intrinsic way so that all things were in balance, now sees (as we see) his world threatened by those who think they can unbalance his nature and still live! No longer are we living in an age when we can give our lives in war for the survival of others, for even if they should survive they would have no spiritual or material fruits of victory. As Margaret Mead reiterated in her editorial, our choice is now one of precipitating or preventing a world conflict. Our choice is no longer between war and peace, but war or peace-either we learn to live together or we die together. This is our balance - this is our only hope!
Second, we need to turn our attention to one of the most talked about and emotional problems of our day-Radioactive Fallout and Fallout shelters. On November 1, 1961 Alton Blakeslee, Associated Press Science Writer, wrote an article entitled "Emotional Factors Are Extremely High in the Radioactive Fallout Problem." He began his article with these words; "The scariest word of the day is fallout.... The odds are almost nothing that present amounts of fallout will - hurt you as an individual. Yet it is equally true that some people somewhere will be damaged or will die too soon, possibly ultimately thousands of people-from fallout already loosed by bomb tests… Bombs striking cities and missiles bases would suck up millions of tons of dirt, making it highly radioactive, carrying it perhaps 20 miles high. In an hour, it would start falling down, carpeting great areas with radioactivity…
The next day he followed this article by saying, "The greatest toll from Russia's monster 50 megaton H-bomb could be among tomorrow's children. Its radioactive fallout might doom hundreds or even thousands of the world's children——over several future generations—to early death or physical or mental defects from hereditary damage. Almost all geneticists assume that any increase in radiation could cause genetic damage to some people...A National Academy of Sciences committee has estimated 2 billion children will be born in the world during the next 30 years, and that some 4 million of them would possess tangible genetic effects from natural or spontaneous causes. Different authorities estimate 2 to 10 per cent of such genetic defects might be due to natural background radiation. So, even a slight increase in radioactivity produced by bomb tests could increase this rate of genetic mutations."
Of course, he ends his series of articles by saying, "A consensus of the experts; Bomb testing represents a definite but small hazard to human posterity." Yet, might we ask, as Christians is there any such thing as a small right or a small wrong to human posterity? It is a Christian truth (is it not?) that we are all brothers one of another -- we are responsible to the whole human race, not just part of it. When one of us sin we are a part of that sin, and we must accept the other person to the point of suffering with him because of his sin.
Then too, there are more to nuclear explosions than most of us want to think about. Norman Cousins, who has already been mentioned as the editor of Saturday Review, wrote a book entitled "In Place of Folly". It is a book dealing with the dangers of nuclear power in a world of international anarchy; yet as the publisher claims it is a message of hope so long as "we do not crave the destruction of being the last generation of men on earth.”
According to the author this is what happened at Hiroshima. The explosion produced a firestorm. The air swept in from all sides upon the target area, whipping up the flames. As the heat rose, a vast canopy of smoke spread up and out. --The result was a swirl of air, drawing in fresh air to excite and feed the fire. Even at the edge of the firestorm, winds of 40 miles an hour carried the blaze. The large number of frame houses added to the intensity of the fire. It is not necessary to speculate (he continues) on the effects of a hundred-megaton bomb.
Consider the power of a 10-megaton H- bomb...Brick and concrete buildings more than a few hundred feet from the center of the Hiroshima atomic explosion were not destroyed. In a 10-megaton explosion, however, all brick structures would collapse within an area of more than 300 sq. miles. Private underground shelters would experience 'Fall- in'; that is, a building and all the objects inside it would fall into the shelter…Scorching winds from a 10-megaton bomb would deliver serious injury to people even on the outer fringes of a 2,000 square-mile area.
In the early years after Hiroshima, before the advent of both the hydrogen bomb and ballistic missile, the defense of cities was tied to evacuation procedures. Today, any mass evacuation is ruled out. Evacuation depends on adequate warning time; this no longer exists. A nuclear-tipped missile can now cross a large ocean in fifteen minutes or less. This then is why I mentioned Fallout shelters along with Radioactive Fallout. While I realize that fallout shelters may save some lives), I have a real fear within me that they are much less defensive than we are led to believe.
All information flowing from the experts in the field of science point to the need of better and more protective fallout shelters. Yet, on television I recently heard that the Defensive Dept. of Greater Kansas City was concerned because people were not building more shelters; therefore, they were cutting the requirement in half, i.e., to the type and thickness of the shelter.
As I heard this, I thought to myself what is their motive? Is it really a concern for the survival of the human race?
Man's need – More Than Survival. This I submit to you this morning as we explore together our third point or direction! It seems to me that the working hypothesis, which will solve our present dilemma and set in motion the reconstruction of the human race, must start within the individual.
It must start within your life and mine. In a recent article by Dr. Paul Tillich, which I discovered in Tidings, a church paper of the Mt. Lebanon Methodist Church in Pittsburg, Pa., a note of relevancy was present. The article itself entitled "What is the meaning of life?" It was based upon those fundamental questions of: Where do we come from, where do we go? What shall we do, what should we become in the short stretch between birth and death? In other words, man lives in an age where he is concerned with his existence and he asks such questions about that existence!
In fact, in Tillich's theology he insists that man must ask the question before he can receive the answer.
Just as little children confront their parents with questions of their existence so we as children of God confront Him with questions of our existence. The difficult, says Tillich, is that such questions are not answered or even asked if the "dimension of depth" is lost. And this is precisely what is wrong—man has lost the courage to ask such questions with an infinite seriousness—as former generations did—and he has lost the courage to receive answers to these questions, wherever they may come from.
In our Scripture Lesson this morning the period of Israel's history was in the post-exilic era. In her former days before her exile into Babylon she too had failed to ask the questions now under the rule of another people —with lost of freedom she has time to think.
By the waters of Babylon
she sat down and wept;
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of
And she remembered Jerusalem—it was her highest joy! And truly the words coming from the 14th chapter of Hosea depict the response of God to his chosen people in this post-exilic period——the period fallowing' "the destruction of the nation Israel,
I will heal their faithlessness;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from
I will be as the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom as the lily,
he shall strike root as the poplar,
his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
They shall return and dwell
beneath my shadow,
they shall flourish as a garden;
They shall blossom as the vine,
their fragrance shall be like the
wine of Lebanon.
It is time that we realize that survival is not enough. Physically we may live from day to day; but unless we take upon ourselves the courage to be and ask questions about our own existence, about our purpose and responsibility in the world --and then unless we have the courage to receive the answer, even though it hurt --unless we do this, we do not live, we do not have the kind of Life found in Christ Jesus our Lord. If we this morning, accept seriously our Christian faith we will go forth asking the question and through faith in Him whom we have come to worship we will find the answer. We will know that we our nothing until this "something" called God is a part of our very being. As the author of our closing hymn wrote in the last verse:
My will is not my own
Till Thou has made it Thine
If it would reach a monarch's throne
It must its crown resign.
It only stands unbent
Amid the clashing strife,
When on thy bosom it has leant
And found in Thee its life.
Sermon delivered at Valley View Methodist Church in Overland Park, Kansas, on November 11, 1962.
Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., PhD
In My Fathers's House Are Many Mansions (John 14:2) will be a new book to be published by Saint Julian Press in 2017. It will be a collection of essays and sermons written by Robert P. Starbuck, M.Div., PhD, in his fifty plus years as a Christian clergy, and over forty years as a practicing psychotherapist. We'll begin at the beginning and work our way through my father's life. The book's title is of course an allusion to and a metaphor for the diversity found in a literary and artistic dialogue that promotes world peace, cultural conversations, and an interfaith awareness, appreciation, and acceptance. Although, mostly Christian in vocabulary, the messages offered here are ones of universal acceptance across all humankind.