The Star Thrower And The Christian Faith
Loren Eisely, one of the most significant nature writers of our time, has a perfectly beautiful little essay called, “The Star Thrower.” There Eiseley tells of walking along a beach early one morning just after a severe storm. The beach had become a battlefield, and death was everywhere. Little hermit crabs, fumbling for a new home, were tossed naked ashore where waiting gulls cut them to pieces. The bodies of jelly fish were being boiled into nothingness by the rising sun. Multitudes of starfish, washed up by the waves, were suffocating because their breathing pores were being stuffed with sand. Life and death were engaged in war—and life seemed to be on the losing end.
Then it was that Eiseley encountered a man looking for starfish who were still alive. You can readily spot them because they make their legs stiff in order to push themselves above the stifling sand. And when this man would find them still alive, he would pick them up and throw them, gently but firmly, out beyond the breakers, to where the undercurrent could carry them out to sea again. So there he stood, throwing stars, one after another. Eiseley asked him why he was doing it. He said, “So that they may live.” And Eiseley said, “Then you don’t collect them?” “No,”the man answered, “and I’m throwing them so that no one else can collect them. You see, the only thing I collect is life.” And he kept on throwing those stars. He was giving himself to life and to the service of life. And I suggest to you today that people like “the star thrower”—people who truly care about life and are willing to save it—are the only hope for the world.
Now something needs to be said here at the outset: Different people understand life in different ways.
For example, some think of life as something to be clutched at, held onto at all costs. The aging movie star, Marlene Dietrich, is well into her seventies. And I suppose that if the lights are right and if you put cheesecloth over the lens of the camera to screen away the wrinkles, then you could probably say that she looks young. In any case, there is no doubt that she tries to look young. She was asked recently what she feared most, and she replied instantly, “Death.” She is clinging to life, clinging to the illusion of youth. She fears the end of life. Some people are like that.
Then there are some, like the man in Jesus’ parable, who sees life as a frantic search for security. In one of the “Peanuts”, cartoon stories, Linus is tightly clutching his security blanket. Snoopy suddenly snaps up a corner of the blanket and starts to run. Linus hangs on and is dragged over rocks and stones, hills and dales. Finally Snoopy gives up and drops the blanket. Linus, now all beat up and bruised but still clutching the blanket says, “The struggle for security never ceases.” The man in the parable kept tearing down his old barns and building bigger and better barns, trying to gain for himself a sense of security in life. Some people are like that—whether they reach for security in work or in family or in personal fortune—that become their sole reasons for living.
And there are others who see life as something from which to get everything they can get while they can get it. Anatole France said his life was “one long lust.” And if you look at his life it was an ugly one, indeed. These are the people who forget that life is like mathematics—some things add to you and some things take away from you. They ignore such realities and plunge themselves in an orgy of activity and love to call that life.
But I contend that all of these people are missing what life really is. For life is really Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself testifies to that fact: “I,” He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “I,” He says, “I am the resurrection and the life…” “I,” He says, “I am the bread of life and anyone who eats of this bread shall live forever…” “I,” He says, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.”
Jesus, you see, defines life.
Philosophers have spent a lot of time trying to define life. They’ve written great tomes in which they develop their arguments. And we can be grateful for that. Yet sometimes as I wade through those tomes, I find myself beginning to agree with Jesse Lair who said that “too much philosophy rots the mind.” Why? Well, because those individuals give themselves to paragraph after paragraph meant to explain life, but it’s not convincing. And it’s not convincing because they rarely have exemplified within themselves the kind of life that they write about. You see, we are looking for someone who in his own person, someone who by the way he lives says what life is. And this is exactly what Jesus does.
I remember visiting the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. We were led to the underground caverns by a man with a flashlight. Suddenly, he extinguished the light. Utter darkness. It was as if we had no eyes. All we could hear was the beating of our own hearts and the murmur of subterranean waters. Then just as suddenly, he turned on the bright overhead lights. The whole cavern was ablaze with color. Great stalactites and stalagmites met to form limestone pillars that lifted vaulted ceilings. And the ceilings were covered with tapestries of stone in red and gold and purple and blue. It was all there to be revealed. For millions of years God has been fashioning it, but no one saw it till there was light.
Jesus is that kind of light in life. It’s darkness until we see Him. But when we see Him, then we see all the colors, all the potential, all the possibilities that are there. Something inside of us responds to that. I can’t define that something, but you know what I am talking about. Whether we are Christians or not, when we look at Jesus something down inside of us reaches out to Him and says, “This is life as life ought to be lived.” I think that’s what Paul Tillich was driving at in the third volume of his Systematic Theology where he said, “God is present in those things that move us down inside to reach up to Christ, knowing that He is the quintessence of what life is to be.” So, if you want to know what life really is, look at Jesus.
But Jesus not only defines life. He directs it.
I think here of Jesus in the Upper Room. You remember how none of the disciples wanted to wash the other disciples’ feet. There occurs a verse which is surely one of the most splendid verses in all of Scripture: “Jesus, knowing that He had come from God and was going to God, girded Himself with a towel and washed their feet.” Jesus, knowing full well where He had come from and where He was going—knowing that He was a child of God and that ultimately He would return to God—knowing this, He girded Himself with a towel and gave Himself to loving, sacrificial service.
That’s a note that needs to be sounded again and again in our time. Life comes from God—all of it—and life will return to God—all of it—and therefore we must stand for life. God calls us to be stewards of all of life. Let me be personal and specific at this point. I think this is why I am so distressed about the whole concept of abortion on demand in our world. For if we are called, you and I, to be the stewards of all of life does that not include the unborn right to life as well as the rights of our ethnic minority, and the handicapped, and the disadvantaged, and the mentally ill? Does that not mean not only preserving the future from nuclear holocaust but preserving the unborn to inherit that future? I say to you on the power of the word of Jesus Christ, yes it does. I know there are those who would argue that the Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is legal. That’s true. But the Supreme Court can make mistakes. Need I remind you that in 1857 in the Dred Scott Decision, the Supreme Court declared that slaves were the personal property of the slave owners. And a lot of people died before that errant ruling was reversed. There are those who would argue that a woman’s body is her own. That’s not what the Bible says. You can read it for yourself in I Corinthians 6, “Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit” given to us by God. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. God Himself is dwelling in you and in me. They are not our bodies, they are His. I’ve prayed and I’ve studied the matter long and hard and I will continue to do so. But I’ve become convinced as a servant of Jesus Christ that adoption, not abortion, is the answer. For Christ calls us, directs us, to give life, to encourage life, to protect life, to preserve life, to save life—not just some of it, but all of it. We cannot be selective in how we interpret that. Jesus directs us to serve and preserve life.
We know by heart John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We ought also to know by heart I John 3:16: “Jesus laid down His life for us that we may lay down our lives for our brothers.” Jesus directs life—He directs it into loving, sacrificial service.
But Jesus not only defines and directs life, He also drives it.
He gives us a picture of what life ought to be in His own life. Next He gives us a purpose for our living. Then He gives us the power to live that way.
When Michaelangelo first went to Raphael’s studio—at the time, Raphael was just starting out as a young artist—Michaelangelo looked at one of Raphael’s drawings. It was crowded and cramped. So this master artist of the ages picked up a piece of chalk and wrote across the drawing a single word: “Amplius”—which means, “amplify it, magnify it, make it bigger.” And I think that is what Jesus does in the experience of all who follow after Him. He keeps writing across our lives, “Amplius—make it bigger, breater, brander!” Whatever it is that you are doing in the service of Christ in your life, make it bigger, make it greater.
You see, this Christ of ours is a Christ who stirs us up. He will not let us take Him for granted. He is constantly challenging us to greater discipleship in His name. And, my friends, that’s a challenge we need to meet. For Christ is on the march in our world and He is calling us to enlist. He is in command and He will win. If there are thousands upon thousands of young people today who are setting aside the value systems of their parents and moving into a discipleship which is radical and exciting, it is because Jesus Christ is claiming their hearts. If there is a new fire of the Spirit sweeping across Africa and Korea and South America which may prove to be grander than Europe’s Reformation 400 years ago it is because Jesus is pushing aside the vestiges of a stagnant faith and igniting whole countries and continents. If 5/6ths of the world’s population is growing tired of being hungry and tired of being sick and tired of being subordinated because of the color of their skin, it’s because Jesus is orchestrating the world’s people so that His Kingdom and His justice shall come. And He demands from us now nothing less that our complete allegiance, our total commitment. He calls us to be “star throwers” in His name—to be people who care about life and who are willing to work with Him to serve it and to save it, whatever the cost.
The confident critic said to the English bishop, “You must admit, my lord, that Christianity has not worked out—it has failed to accomplish what it promises.” To which there came the reply, “But, my friend, it has never really been tried.” Well, don’t you think we ought to begin to try it, to really try it, you and I?
Therefore, choose Jesus—
Therefore, choose life.