Kearsarge Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Stone Chapel, Proctor Academy, Andover, NH
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Sermon given by Rev. Dick Dutton on 10/20/13

at Kearsarge Uniterian Universalist Fellowship

There are at least 3 ways of understanding these basic elements of the universe... left brain perspective, right brain perspective and by insight and metaphor.

I (A)        Now you science majors, I need your help... remember your 8th grade Science class:      

       The Sun is made up primarily of 2 elements...        3/4 Sun’s mass is hydrogen -- rest is helium

       The Sun was formed about how many years ago?      4.6 billion years, give or take a couple of million

       Its diameter compared to Earth?  109 times the diameter of Earth.

       The largest star in the solar system... distance from Earth:       93 million miles.

       Passed with flying colors.  Now let’s take on the Moon.  First moon landing          Apollo 8 in 1968

       Manned lunar landings between 1969 and 1972?    6

I (B)         You know that the Moon’s surface is dark, and its reflecting ability just slightly brighter than that of warm asphalt.  The Moon was formed, in scientific terms, by debris left over after giant impact between Earth and a Mars-sized body.

One scientist stated: “Since ancient times, the Moon’s prominence in the sky and the phases of the Moon have made the Moon an important cultural influence; on language, calendars, art, and mythology.

I (C)       Remember the name of the nearest star?  Sun, but Alpha Centauri is next nearest, with slightly less mass.

       Distance to that star?      4.24 light years

       Light Year?      Distance that light travels in a year at 186,000 miles per second

       Milky Way?      100 - 400 billion stars, or local galaxy.

       Your favorite constellation?  Big and Little Dipper, Cassiopeia...

Well, all that left brain, scientific stuff is OK, interesting for Q & A, but not particularly exciting or relevant except for other physicists or those studying Black Holes, and Higgs boson particles.

II (A)      Yet all of us are more familiar with the sun, moon and stars... from a right brain perspective.

Some of us are sunrise people and some of us are sunset people.  We might say, “Did you see that gorgeous crimson sky last Thursday night that flooded the entire western horizon?” or “Did you get up early enough to see the sun break the tree line, reflect on the clouds, and transform the mist and the darkness!”  Wow,look at the sky now!”

II (B)       And when it comes to the moon... Friday night, last night, wow!  And think of all the songs; ‘right brain’ songs: ‘Moon River’, ‘When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain’.  You didn’t think I was that old.

II (C)      And stars... wow, it doesn’t take much to be thrilled with a pitch black sky filled with a million stars that sparkle and occasionally shoot across the sky.  What wonder, what thrills, what incredible, glorious drama!

We are much more right brain boys and girls, aren’t we!

III (A)     But I want this morning to suggest a totally different perspective; another way to look at the heavens.  Not the scientific left brain perspective, not the right brain emotional, romantic, imaginative perspective, but a third way.. a new perspective: that of insight and metaphor!

Scott Peck, the author of ‘The Road Less Traveled’ tells about one speaking engagement where he stayed at the home of an elderly woman artist.  In one of their several long discussions she commented, “Perhaps because I’m an artist, I’ve been thinking lately that God is light.”  Peck says, “I responded a bit pompously, “Light has always been a metaphor for God.”  She said, “I’m not sure you understand.  I think he may really be light.  I can’t be more explicit than that.” 

Ever since that moment,” says Peck, “I have been aware of light in the early morning that touches the tops of the trees; the single rays in the evening surrounding the sunset; no color or beauty without it; it warms my blood cells; it is part of my sleeping and waking, my thinking and being.  Perhaps God is light!

Or, our light may come from another source. 

         Where does your light come from?

         Where does your warmth come from?

         Where does your sense of truth come from?

         Where does your hope come from?

         Where does your lack of fear come from?

         Where does your conscience come from?

         Where does your peace and happiness come from?

         Where does your light come from?

In the New Testament, Jesus dares to say, “I am the light of the world... he that followest me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Whether our beliefs about the man Jesus, his claim to be “the light of the world” gets our attention!  And, many people over the centuries have found the light of his life and teachings, a powerful source for their lives.

III (B)      When it comes to moons, you’ll remember this story:

Robert Fulghum tells of attending a six-week seminar on the island of Crete with a philosopher and spiritual giant.  At the close of the seminar, the last hour before the participants were to leave, Dr. Papandros asked if there were any final questions.

Fulghum spoke up.  “What is the meaning of life?”  Some snickered and moved restlessly, eager to leave for home.  Dr. Papandros looked at Fulghum to see if he was serious with his question.  Then he took out his wallet and pulled out a small mirror about the size of a quarter.  He held it for a moment for everyone to see; then he turned it until he caught a ray of sunlight and reflected it on Fulghum’s face.

As everyone stared transfixed, Dr. Papandros said “This is the meaning of life... reflecting light into the darkest of places!”

He says we men and women are essentially persons or moons!  Reflecting light into dark places, we don’t have to be the light!

Now, a little aside here about kerosene lamps.  Anybody here ever seriously use akerosene lamp?  Not just for atmosphere in a cabin, but in place of electricity?

After you light the lamp with a match, what is rule number one?  Trim the wick, because if it flares up too high, you smoke the chimney and the lamp gives off very little light.

Well, the too obvious metaphor as in life “We have to adjust our own wick, our light, and keep our chimneys clean!”

In that same passage from the New Testament where Jesus says “I am the light of the world”... he adds, “And you also, are the light of the world... so let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven.”

Amazing, we are moons again... ‘see your good works and glorify God!’  Reflect, reflect!  But keeping your chimneys clean... it’s really a matter of integrity and discipline, isn’t it!

III (C)     Finally, everybody gets to be a star!  We are incredibly significant, and unique.   But think of the star also as this incredible universal metaphor.  Despite all their differences, both the Israeli and most Islamic nations’ flags have stars... throughout our brief history, the United States of America has featured an expanding number of stars, and it is a pretty normal custom to wish upon a star!

Stars representing nation-states; stars offering a source for our wishes..  stars big time in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions… and brilliant stars shining down from the arc of the heavens.  But as an empowering metaphor in the human experience?  Let Maya Angelou tell us about the characterization of a star:

“When I was 3 years old, and my brother Bailey was about 5, we were sent by train from California to live with my uncle and grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas.  My Uncle Willie ran the only Black-owned country store in town.  Uncle Willie stuttered badly; he was severely crippled and he hobbled around the store on a cane, and he needed me to help, and my brother.  So when I was about 4, Uncle Willie started us to read and write, and to learn our times tables.  In order to get me to do my times tables, he would take me behind my neck, grab me by tightened collar, and stand me in front of the old pot-bellied stove, and he would say, “S-S-S-Sister, d-d-d-do your s-s-s-sixes.”  I did my sixes and sevenses; even now, after an evening of copious libation, I can be awakened at midnight and asked, “Will you do your elevenses?”  And I will do my elevenses with ease.

Uncle Willie was respected and loved within the Black community and by most whites, but occasionally when we heard the rednecks and the racists were on a rampage, we would lift Uncle Willie into the big potato bin, and cover him with potatoes and then lock the store and run home.

Several years ago, my Uncle Willie died and I went to Little Rock on my way to Stamps.  A friend brought a tall, good-looking Black man over to the hotel to meet me and he said, “I don’t want to shake your hand, I want to hug you.  Because of your Uncle Willie, I am who I am today.  In the 20’s when I was the only child of a blind mother, your Uncle gave me a job in his store; he made me love to learn... and he taught me my times tables.”  I asked him how he did that, and he said: “He used to grab me by my tightened collar and stand me in front of the old pot-bellied stove...”

He said “You probably want to know who I am.”  “Yes sir.”  “I am Mr. Bussey.  I am the first Black mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas.”

Then he said, “Now when you get down to Stamps, I want yo to look up this lawyer.  He’s a good ole‘ boy; he will look after you properly.”  I went down expecting a middle-aged Black man; but a young white man leaped to his feet.  “Ms. Angelou, I’m just delighted to meet you.  Mr. Bussey called me today.  Mr. Bussey is the most powerful Black man in the state of Arkansas, but more important, he’s a noble man.  Because of Mr. Bussey I am who I am today.  When I was a little boy, Mr. Bussey got hold of me, and made me love to learn, and taught me my times tables”...  I didn’t ask how... and now I’m in the state legislature.

Maya Angelou concluded her story by saying, “I look back at Uncle Willie, crippled, black, poor, uneducated... yet his life paid for my life and many others... he let his light shine into dark places.”  And he was a genuine star!



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