Welcome To The Religion Network!
I'm Lisa Bowman, editor of The Religion Network, a multi-faith Web site. This site provides inspirational quotes through an
exploration of a new spiritual theme every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Religion network is offered with the
conviction that inspiration can be found in all spiritual faiths, and furthermore, that finding the commonalities
among the world's religions is more healing than pointing up their differences.
Religion as an institution is a precious gift, blessing individuals and uplifting communities. However you choose to
worship, I hope this site enhances your journey. If you'd like to know my story, click on biography.
ON TODAY'S SITE:
Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher
Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher, President Emeritus of Hardin-Simmons College (1991-2001),
is an author and Baptist minister. I had the great pleasure of spending a little time
with him well, too long ago, now. But two years ago, First Baptist Church in Richmond,
Virginia, flew him in from Abilene, Texas for a number of Sundays so he would preach
from their pulpit.
I read a transcript of an Advent sermon he gave there and decided to
share it with you. I (regretfully) shortened it, but his literate logic and warm sensibility
are a joyous combination. He takes the vastness of space and lassoes it into the heart;
takes the perceived "there" of heaven and brings it "here" with the birth of Jesus.
It all hinges on the implications of a particular star...
You can read the entire transcript of Dr. Fletcher's sermon, or hear it live
in his great Texas drawl at: First Baptist Church, Richmond, VA
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"Holy Night" (1520-1525) Albrecht Altdorfer source: art.com
The Implications of the Star
Excerpts from a sermon by Dr. Jesse Fletcher
First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia
The Third Sunday of Advent, December 16, 2007
I'm going to be taking our text from the second chapter
of Matthew; parts of a well-known story:
“Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,
there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem saying ‘Where is he who is born
king of the Jews for we have seen his star in the east and come to worship him?’”
Reading on down to the 9th verse, “When they heard the king, they departed and,
lo, the star they saw in the east went before them until it came and stood over
where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced
with exceeding great joy.”
Then a passage from the Psalms, a familiar one, but one that continues to render
a kind of awe in me this time of year, the third verse of the 8th Psalm.
“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars,
what is man but thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visited him?”
And then, the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, verse 1. “In the beginning was the word,
the word was with God, the word was God, the same was in the beginning with God,
all things were made by him and without him, was not anything made that was made.”
... This week, I focused on the holy land, and especially the route between
Baghdad and Bethlehem and tried
to imagine the voyage of the Magi.
"Adoration of the Magi" Bernardino Luini
...The Magi were men who studied the stars. They were probably at that point more
like astrologers trying to figure out what influenced the stars and constellations
and what time of the year you were born had to do with who you turned
out to be and how you made your decisions, et cetera.
... These Magi had seen something in the heavens that really intrigued them,
and they made their journey. And ever since then, their successors, real life
scientists and believers and unbelievers alike, have speculated about
what might have been the phenomenon that engaged them so.
One of the more esoteric notions has been the super nova. A super nova is what
happens when an old star gets to a point where it collapses in on itself and then
explodes with a huge light. Well, in the heavens about us and the distant heavens
about us, you could be looking at a spot and it's just as black as anything and then
the next night you look there and it's brighter than any of our planets -
a super nova's happened. You may remember the last one we had,
one we had real good records about, in 1641.
"Adoration of the Shepherds" Jean Fouquet source: art.com
... The favored answer now is the conjunction of our largest planet and
another sun: Jupiter in conjunction with a true star Regulus, many times
larger than our sun. When they get in conjunction, they evidently
put on a real show. Both names mean "king," by the way,
in the ancient naming process.
... The fact of the matter is, I need to confess. I think it was a miracle.
I think it was a unique event, and I think it happened for that purpose,
to fit those circumstances, to light up that moment, and I don't believe
it has to be any of these other things. I believe it can be just the way God
acted because, as we read in John 1:1, he made it anyway. Why couldn't
it be one of his moments of creation to mark that glorious morning?
"Adoration of the Shepherds" Johann Achen source: art.com
... Now, one of the things I've asked myself also is what difference would
their perception of the heavens make if they had our perception of the
heavens, given what we now know?
For them it was a canopy woven across the sky at night. The constellation
and the stars moved, the planets changed their places, the moon was here
and wasn't here... They were careful to observe this, but it was a panoramic play
across the sky over the center of the world, the center of the universe, earth itself.
... Then you realize that we are one of billions of suns in a galaxy.
We call it the Milky Way... We're on the edge and can look away from it
and the more darkened space from time to time, but we're part of that galaxy.
... It's overwhelming and at times you can get that feeling of being lost in space.
And it's one of the reasons that the story of the star of Bethlehem has become
so special to me. Because contrary to being lost in space, it says we've been
found in space. That we have become a part of what God has been about all
these years. He's pulled us into the very orbit of his being and his love.
The Magi present the baby Jesus with gifts source: art.com
... The reason I read John 1:1 to you was to me it was a symbol of the king of kings,
the Lord of Lords. This star represented the creation, if you will, of which he
was author. He was part of it, he was there, and he brought the
"there" to "now." And that's where it starts for me.
That's where I begin to get a sense of comfort. That's where the wonder and
awe of space, which can also leave you with a sense of cold lostness in space,
begin to change into the God of space and the God of all time who comes
in Christ to say, “Here's where it is. Right here.” And all of the rest
of this is just part of the perception of it.
And I began to see the idea that God in Christ, God Emmanuel, if you
will, brings us into a sense, not of space time, but of God's moments. You
know, we tend to almost look at the stars sometimes as a spaceship that
brought Jesus here from a distant place, or we think of heaven as
getting further and further away...
Well, the fact of the matter is, increasingly we're wondering if it isn't all just
right here, already. Maybe the reason Gabriel can appear like that to Zacharias
and to Mary; maybe the reason Jesus could be here in the room and suddenly
be gone. Maybe the reason Paul could talk about how we see through a glass
darkly is because there's a sense that God is revealing that he's here.
Here's where God
is revealing himself to us in Jesus Christ.
And that gives me a warm feeling. For instance, that makes eternal life
much closer more immediate and more possible. I know the physicists are
playing in string theory and alternate and parallel universes. They're playing
with a whole notion of other realities being here limited by only our sight and
understanding, but for me, it gets to be a simple, spiritual truth. God is
with us. And we are with him. And in Christ, we are reconciled to
him. It began with that baby. It began in that moment...
The Last Word:
That babe, that simple scene in that manger. Try to
get a hold of the idea of God incarnate. God becoming
one of us to let us know he's here, he cares about us,
we can be with him. We're not just flashes of light.
This is the beginning, and there's a beyond - thanks
to what we learned on that beautiful morning.
Dr. Jesse Fletcher
President Emeritus, Hardin-Simmons University
Totally Random Bonus Quote:
God delights to respond to daring prayer. He encourages us to ask as freely
for the impossible as for the possible, since to Him all difficulties
are the same size - less than Himself.
Dr. John Oswald Sanders (1902-1992)
A general director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship and author