Sermon February 24, 2013

Feb 24, 2013



A Fable


The field was grazed and over-grazed. Time passed. The generations of livestock accumulated swiftly. New calves every year. New mothers every two. But the farmers came in generations, too. They rose, enjoyed a long noon and afternoon and fell, also.

The field that was grazed and over-grazed, grew back and was over-grown.

The sumac at the edge of the field, just inside the pasture fence, was first to flourish. It bolted before anything, even the cherry birch. Its staghorns stood proud and heavy with future pride.

The sumac thought he was eternal, grandfather of a dynasty of sumacs. First to rise, first to seed, first to flame scarlet at the end of August. The world as it should be. He never noticed the oak sapling, a row or two back, or even the maple, carried by keys, carried by breeze. And pines? A dime a dozen, common as clay.

And the over-running of the pasture,  the sumacs’ terrible death by shading, strangled and starved, was common as pines, native as maple,  unremarked as oak.

Moral: Tragedy is growth that we can’t see.




Well I told you last week that there is a crack in everything God makes. And the crack is to let the opposite in and the consequence in and what completes the thing in and the crack is to let change in.

Tragedy is growth that we can’t see.


We grow and it comes as a shock to us.

Our growth usually comes with pains.

A full frontal catastrophe complete with labor, blood and afterbirth.

Like what?

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Americans have steadily armed ourselves, here at home. We have roughly a gun per person. Equal to the next 2 countries combined. Yemen and Switzerland!?

Those “blood-thirsty” Afghanis? We have 20 TIMES as many.

We could have set aside our machine guns here at home any time  —  the society is safer, on the whole  —  but we won’t.

Tragedy is growth we can’t see.

What I’m saying is: it takes the tragedy to move us.

We couldn’t see the, malignant growth ( the number of massacres it took to make us say Enough! Or Too Much! How many times must the cannonballs fly?)

And we couldn’t see the  healthy growth (the NRA members and maybe some politicians ripening until they are ready to confront and debate the NRA leadership.)


Let’s put aside the national and political and make it local and personal. I want to talk about tragedy and growth and willful blindness (and pretend that he just doesn’t see)

I know you have had all these things, but I’d better speak for myself.

I was first married 42 years ago. It ended after 16 years.

Of course, it didn’t end all at once.

Both gradually and all of a sudden it was over.


The devil is in the details and so is the gossip. But the essence of why is: growth.

The growth that couldn’t happen if we remained true to our image of what our marriage was and who each of us was —-  who we had pledged to be and vowed to remain  —  as 20-year-olds.

Looking back I saw tiny hairline cracks in the marriage that I was too busy to address and they grew into chasms.

Now I see tiny hairline cracks in the shell of the marriage caused by growth within, growth that we were afraid to see or name or know.

The was growth stronger than denial or fear or the bonds.

Because the union, not the partners; the simple marriage, not the complex relationship had been what I understood.

Moral: Tragedy is growth that we can’t see.

Moral: it is never to late to see and tend and thank god for the growth   — and to keep on growing.

Problem: We love.  We hold tight.


Emerson says, “We cannot let our angels go. We do not see that they only go out that archangels may come in.”

There is no shame to replacing a value with a greater value, a truth with a greater truth.


If I need to always understand, I will be always angry.

If I need to feel at home in this world, I will always be alone in the world.

Because the past  was itself change, the present is change, and the future won’t arrive until things change.


Human lot is suffering; the cause is desire.

Another way of saying that: suffering comes from change we can’t make.

And yet, everything does change

Everything IS  change/

The solid is only electron and empty space/


Prolonged resistance to change just leads to exile from God, thirst for the living waters, starvation surrounded by the fruits of the garden itself.

Tragedy is growth that we can’t see

The world is growing; it’s spring somewhere, always.

Our souls are growing/

Our stories are growing/

Our store of experience and wisdom is growing.

We could, too

If only we trusted the soul.

See the growth.

Survive the growth.

Be a castaway, a tornado survivor, find the good among the wreckage.


We don’t trust what we have.

The potter must trust the clay and the fire and not try to do too much

The piano player, the guitarist, needs to trust the instrument, the fingers, the song   — and not try to invent music.

The poet needs to write one poem at a time.


If only we trusted change

If only we trusted we have what we need, we are who we need, to face the future.


And with what do we face the future?

The same ignorant obstinate courage we blundered forth with when we were young and tender and foolish and first married or first parents or first farming or embarrassingly this or callowly, shallowly, that  —

We always fear our kids won’t be able to survive what we did

We also fear that WE  won’t be able to endure what we already have.

We must face the future with the same optimism based on no evidence, but rather faith;

The same faith based on natural animal spirits, not reason,

/ I don’t know, I just feel good!/

The same glorious sloppy vital human mess we always were.


Welcome to the future.

It arrived sometime while you were listening to a sermon.

One Response

  1. Penny Schultz
    Penny Schultz February 24, 2013 at 9:28 PM | | Reply

    Thank you Stephen!!! (Penny)

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