The bar has been set high for this standards for this talk by Char, Jodie, Kevin and Ann.
I am going to share with you the story of Twinkle Loon, with some back ground of the time in which I lived when I became aware of the story. Then I will share with you the answer to the question Kathy posed to me, “What speaks to you about this story,” and I will close with a question I see as relevant to the time we are living in.
The story Twinkle Loon reflects the time in which it was written. The story was written by Florence Schulz and illustrated by Robert E. Barry. The two collaborated over several children’s stories from early 1960s, including No and Yes, And Jesus was Born, I Am Andrew, and Tim. Twinkle Loon was published by the United Church Press in 1961 for the United Church of Christ, and again in 1969. The story’s main human character is a boy, (girls would not have had such adventures in the 60s) his name is Peter Brown, which is very Anglo. But this is part of the time in which the story was written. In the author’s notes Florence bases her explanation of the story and the child’s reactions with pronouns of his, he, and him.
In this time there were television shows based on adventures in space. Do the names of these shows bring up memories for you?
It’s About Time
Lost in Space
The Outer Limits
And my favorites of the time, My Favorite Martin, and The Jetsons. With this social reference it seemed totally plausible that a visitor from, well, not earth, would come here, and not cause great commotion or concern, and interact with Peter Brown.
Charlene selected the pictures for the bulletin from the book as she thought it reflected one of the main characters, Peter Brown learning and teaching. Being a good neighbor.
The story starts with Peter Brown playing in his yard, when he sees a flying saucer land. It is about the size of his mother’s tea cup. Out jumps Twinkle Loon. Twinkle Loon speaks in rhyme, and in English. How convenient for Peter.
My eyes are bright as sparkling stars,
My head is like the moon.
My mouth is just a rosy cloud,
My name is Twinkle Loon.
I come from outer space you see.
To me you look quite queer,
But I would like to understand
The way things happen here.
The story continues with Peter explaining the complex process of growing up on earth. The reason for wanting to grow up Peter explains is, so you can do more things. Like feeding lions, or skin diving, or painting signs, or twirling a baton like a drum major. Or driving fire engines, or staying up late, or hammering nails straight when you build a boat. Twinkle Loon does not have the social reference for what this all means and asks Peter to explain everything.
Twinkle Loon returns the next day to go with Peter to Sunday School to learn more about this growing up concept. Peter introduces his parents to Twinkle Loon who are not at all concerned about this being interacting with their child. Peter explains the different age appropriate places he and his parents go at church. In Sunday School Twinkle Loon learns more about growing up. And he learns the concept of friend.
Peter explains to Twinkle Loon;
“I’m your friend. Don’t you see? I answer all-of your questions, don’t I? And I talk with you. I brought you to church school, with me.”
The story ends with Twinkle Loon asking for a commitment from Peter, “Will you tell me some more tomorrow?”
When Kathy asked me, what spoke to me about this story, my mind raced to back in time to when I was asked what I liked about stain glass. The answer was I like the clear color and how light interacts with color. The answer was not satisfactory for the person who asked. They wanted to know what about light coming through color did I like. I still cannot answer that. I just like it. I like the simple and the complex. I like piecing together puzzles, the simple pieces forming a complex picture. I like trying to make quilts. The simple pieces of material building a blanket that will be used and a small part of a person’s complex life.
To Kathy’s question I answered the simplicity of the message of Twinkle Loon. It is Christianity 101. It is the simple side of the simple complex dichotomy I see in Christianity. The simple side of Christianity is this, love your neighbor. Then it gets complex.
Examples of the simple and the complex follow.
How did Jesus come to this world? Was he conceived through the Holy Spirit? Or was it the physics we know about? The simple answer is that his life is a gift to us all. The rest is, as a catholic friend explained to me, a mystery of the faith.
Jesus healed and cured. What a loving thing to do. And loving is simple. But it gets complex if you think about it. How did he do that? He gave to each that which they sought. But how did he know what they sought and how did he cure? It gets complex.
Jesus was crucified. He died. The symbolism of betrayal, trial and crucifixion is complex. The fact that we see his death as an action for our salvation is complex. The resurrection and all that has happened since to create the Christian church is so complex. But it is all based on God’s love for us which is rich and simple.
Now I am going to diverge a bit further from Twinkle Loon. There is a tool called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. The tool is used for evaluating theological thought. The creator of the tool was John Wesley of the Wesleyan Methodists and he used it to explain his conversion to Christianity. The four parts of the quadrilateral are scripture, experience, tradition and reason. I am moving forward in this little talk with these four in mind. When you listen to Kathy’s sermons you will hear her use scripture, or experience, or tradition and / or reason to explain her thoughts.
And as I share with you my thoughts I hope you hear radicalism. Radicalism defined as getting the root of a thing. Like the radical or radicand in math, the base of a squared number.
In reading a book Our Endangered Values, by former president Jimmy Carter, he refers to Reinhold Niebuhr. This sent me down a rabbit hole that I am glad I went down. If you are wondering who Rev. Niebuhr is, you may recognize a prayer he wrote.
Father give us the courage of change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know one from the other.
A version of this prayer is known as the Serenity Prayer.
Here I have used reason for siting former President Carter and Reinhold Niebuhr.
Rev. Niebuhr has connections to the UCC. His father was a German Evangelical pastor, in the American branch of the Prussian Church Union in Germany which is now part of the United Church of Christ. I hope you heard tradition in siting Rev. Niebuhr.
From a brief biography on Niebuhr I read online, in his book, Moral Man and Immoral Society the position he lays out is Christ-centered principles of the Great Commandment and the doctrine of original sin. Niebuhr presents pride as a sin and self-centeredness as the root of evil. Niebuhr thought, and here I quote directly from that article, “The sin of pride was apparent not just in criminals, but more dangerously in people who felt good about their deeds.”
Doing deeds and feeling good about them is simple and so complex. As a former minister we had would say, “I do not give political sermons.” This is not a political talk. It is me reflecting on Christian tradition, scripture, my experiences, and reason. Won’t it be lovely, if our leaders made decisions focused not on how these decisions make us greater, bigger, more powerful, but based in the power of love, and acceptance? Won’t if be lovely, if decisions were made with an eye on the Great Commandment, thinking how do we want our children to be treated? Wouldn’t it be lovely if decisions and policies were made for how it will impact the lesser of us? Won’t it be lovely if the social environment focused not on how the decisions make us better, and how good we are, but on how we do good?
I have shared with you a thumb nail of the story of Twinkle Loon. The story itself is hardly more than a finger on a hand.
I have shared with you my answer to Kathy’s question, how does the story of Twinkle Loon speak to me.
Now I am moving towards the question I told you I would ask.
Recently I heard a piece on channel 2, and I am paraphrasing here:
We understand what we are taught.
We love what we understand.
We serve what we love.
Faith formation teachers and Twinkle Loon started me on the trek of understanding the Christian Faith. It is a faith I try to serve, because I love it. It is simple and complex.
From an editorial piece by David Brooks of the New York Times, writing about a great theologian. I quote, “Here is the radicalism that infused the show: that the child is closer to God than the adult; that the sick are closer than the healthy; that the poor are closer than the rich and the marginalized closer than the celebrated.”
In conclusion to my ramblings, here is the question I told you I would ask.
Peter Brown was asking Twinkle Loon the question by his actions and deeds. The theologian in the editorial price by David Brooks, the same question at the beginning of each of his shows. The question that all f of us could ask of others, and wouldn’t we be more Christ-centered for doing so? It is simple and complex.
Won’t you be my neighbor?