A couple people asked whether my sermon on March 14th (“Here Comes the Sun”) would be available in print. It is, and you can get it at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vBmUNlYl-qeLlZZ8Yv7fEuRPap7xfslror8wYt0O8vc/edit But for those who especially wanted the section on watching eggs hatch, I decided to let that be my message for today’s Parson to Person column. Here it is:
Have you ever watched an egg hatch? I remember seeing it, long ago. If you’ve ever watched such a thing, you’ll know it takes quite a while, but it looks fairly simple. I mean, you see the egg wiggle a little, you hear some muffled pecking or scratching sounds inside, then maybe a tiny crack appears, eventually a slightly bigger crack, maybe even a tiny hole.
But it usually takes hours–though it may look simple from the outside. (You know, like this little creature inside is sort of leisurely opening up its shell.)
Well, it’s not quite like that from the baby bird’s perspective. From the baby bird’s perspective it’s a grueling experience. Here it’s been inside its own little world, protected by its shell, and digesting the liquid food around it. Sweet life. But at some point the food is gone, and the chick is getting hungry, and it’s also feeling cramped and squeezed by this hard wall around it.
So what can it do? It’s being squeezed to death and starved to death, and it’s becoming desperate. It’s so distraught that it begins pecking away at the world around it, until it gets some breathing room. In desperation, it eats at the shell surrounding it and starts squeezing through the cracks. And it may look cute from the outside, but it’s not that way from inside. And it takes hours. The chick pecks and pecks, because it doesn’t know what else to do, and it gets worn out and has to stop. But then it tries again and gets worn out again, and even hungrier this time, but it’s just too tired and has to quit for a while.
Then it tries again. It’s sort of like knocking your head against a wall, and it doesn’t seem to do any good, but you don’t know what else to do, so you keep doing it, then you lay back exhausted, then you do it again.
And you keep doing it until you either break free from that shell… or you kill yourself trying. Or, as the British author C. S. Lewis once put it: “You cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched…or go bad.”
That’s what an Eastre experience really is: It’s not just modifying your life–but breaking out of the mold you’ve been living in. (It’s not so much a change as it is a transformation.)
Your world implodes and you break free and fall into a new world–the world outside your shell. And that’s scary. And a part of you wishes you could just go back into the world you knew–but even now you realize that you couldn’t stay in that world. It was smothering you. You were desperate. You had to get out. Out of that… stifling relationship… that stifling job or career…that stifling role you had taken on that you just could not keep playing… or that stifling religion or world view that was so comforting at one time, that you just knew was too restrictive for who you’ve become.
I don’t know what your particular egg shell was (or is–maybe you feel you’re still in one)–but I do know, from talking to many of you, that most of you have had that experience of breaking out of the world you knew. And it was no more graceful than a baby chick pecking through its shell– even though it might have looked graceful to people on the outside!
I even think our country may be going through an experience like that, right now. We seem to be squeezed behind a desperate shell that no longer works as a world view–but, my gosh, pecking away at it is so exhausting. And we don’t know how long it’ll take, and what the future holds. We can’t see the world on the other side, or even know if it’s better.
All we know is that we’ve got to keep pecking away, pecking away, and we’re feeling squeezed and cramped, and it’s not pleasant, and it might not be for a while.
But we’re in this egg together and we need to keep on pecking away, because one day–don’t know when it’ll be, don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime–but one day people will look back at this time and be happy that we did not give up the struggle, that we did not forsake our values and our vision. And whether we won or lost, future generations will look back and say: There lived a valiant people who fought for what they believed in, and they didn’t all live to see the fruits of the seeds they planted, but they planted anyway, because they knew it was important to do.
There lived a people who, as the ancients said, charged like a charging storm, and snorted in rampaging winds, their feet continually restless, their eyes weeping the tears of injustice, their lips breathing out the music of freedom.* There lived a people.
There lived a people who didn’t see all their dreams come true, but knew it was important to dream anyway. There lived a people who were met with obstacles at every turn but did not shy away from them. A people who were told their views didn’t count and their cause would fail, so it’d be smarter to shut up. And they said NO.
There lived a people.
And I’m looking at them now. I’m looking at them, and I so want them to know that it’s important that they are here, engaging hands and hearts to end oppression… because, whether they succeed at all they try–or not–it’s important that they tried.
I’m looking at them, and I know that they’ll crack open the egg… or die trying. (end of sermon)
peace and unrest,
* The “ancients” this passage refers to would be the Sumerians during the rule of King Sargon, from 2300 B.C.E. This passage, called “Hymn to Inanna,” was written by Enheduanna, the first named author in history (and a woman!), who composed this prayer over 4,000 years ago: “You, Inanna, Foremost in heaven and earth. Lady riding a beast, Lady of all the great rites, Who can understand all that is yours? O winged Lady, like a bird you scavenge the land. Like a charging storm you charge. Like a roaring storm you roar. You thunder in thunder, You snort in rampaging winds. Your feet are continually restless. Carrying your harp of sighs, You breathe out the music of mourning… You are as lofty as Heaven–let it be known! You are as wide as the earth–let it be known! Praise to my Lady enfolded in beauty. Praise to Inanna.”