Holding Precious – 2 Samuel 6

Once upon a time there was an exceedingly wise chief, so wise that he was known for miles around. One day a group of kids, being bored and up to mischief, decided to test the chief’s wisdom. So they went out into the forest and they found a small little bird; a bird that could fit into their hand. And they went to the chief and said, “Chief, in my hand is a bird, I want to know because you’re the wisest person in the village, I want to know whether the bird is dead or alive.” If the Chief would say that it is alive, before opening the hand they would crush it, and open it – the bird would be dead. And if the Chief said the bird is dead, they would release it and it would fly. Either way, they were going to catch him. “Chief, in my hand is a bird, is the bird dead or alive?” And the Chief looked for a long time at the boys and at the bird, and said, “You know what? I don’t know if that bird is dead or alive – what I know is the bird is in your hands. And whether it lives or dies is up to you.”

Parenting is not unlike holding a bird… a vulnerable bird
in our hands. And it’s important that we learn how to hold these birds
that we not crush their wings or their spirits
but that we also not drop them!

Before my daughter Winnie started Junior High I decided that
as a mother of the new millennium
I should finally get around to reading the “best books”
of the last millineum
and I forced myself to sit down with the now-classic “Reviving Ophelia”
by Mary Pipher.
Pipher is a clinical psychologist and has an endless well of true
and harrowing
tales to share about adolesent girl’s trauma
and parental ineffectiveness.

Let me just say that
if there is a good time to read Pipher’s chilling analysis of adolesence for girls in America
when your own daughter is entering adolesence is NOT the right time.
Reading as a parent with a preteen, I was desperately trying to find the chapter with the right path.
Not too strict, not too lenient, not too emotional, not too detached.
I will readily admit that I became distraught long before I reached the end and never finished the book.
Impressed by Pipher’s wisdom and insight,
I was also overwhelmed with the challenge of goldilock’s parenting.
The pressure to get it “just right” was crushing…
and the consequences for not getting it right are not fairytales,
the consequences are real life nightmares.

No bible story captures this pressure more vividly than the fabled story
of the Ark of the Covenant’s parade towards Jerusalem.
Yes, the one made famous for our generation by Indiana Jones! It’s the fancy box that was reputed to hold the tablets that Moses brought down from the mountain.
As the legendary Ark of the Covenant
makes its storied way to town, we run into several goldilock’s chapters. The poor waifs stuck holding the thing have to hold it just right, not too close, not too far away. Poor Uzzah at one point sees the precious box falling and reaches out to save it. But as his hand touches the fabled box, he drops dead on the spot. Too close.
There is a right way,
and a wrong way,
to carry the Ark.
And poor Uzzah’s touch was the wrong way.

As we’ve moved out of the dreaming phases
and into the implementation of our Shared Ministry structure
the anxiety level (for all of us) has increased.
Underlying the tension is the unspoken:
what if it isn’t just right?
what if it’s too loose? or not loose enough?
what if it’s too hierarchical? or not enough?
what if we’ve made mistakes?

Let me be the first to say publicly that there are mistakes.
In some of the narrative that I’ve typed I know there are typos.
But I’m certain there are also structural pieces
that will not work as envisioned.
Although you should know that every questioned that has been already identified
has been thoroughly evaluated! No comment has been ignored.
Even into this week revisions were being made and will continue.
Still, we know that these documents
and even this vision
isn’t “just right”.
It’s good. I think it’s even very good.
But it isn’t’ perfect.

Is that enough?

If our goal is to carry the Ark of the Covenant maybe not.
But if our goal is to hatch an egg,
our to build a community,
I think we have to ask a different question.
What I love about Seuss’ Horton
[note: Horton Hatches the Egg was read earlier}
is that he reminds us that
if our goal is to build relationships
with god, with each other, with our children
the question isn’t about whether we get it “just right”.
The primary question is whether we are “faithful”.
“An elephant’s faithful – 100%!”
Not about getting it right, it’s about being faithful.

I don’t mean to suggest it’s time for an egg toss.
Horton recognizes that Maize’s egg is precious and fragile
much as an adolescent soul, the ark of the covenant,
and the (yes) the structure of a congregation.

Horton wasn’t unaware or careless
and he took great care to be gentle with the egg entrusted to him.
One of our all time favorite images is of Horton
propping up that tree branch before he climbs on to sit on the egg.

But when the chips were down
and the hunters rifle was pointed at Horton’s heart
Horton didn’t stay on the egg because he was just right on the egg!
He faced down the hunters not because it was a good fit (it wasn’t!)
but because it was the faithful
the loving
the compassionate thing to do.

Our Shared Ministry
(and our parenting too for that matter)
isn’t “just right”.
It’s not, it never will be, perfect.
But that’s not the important question.
God never ever asks us to be perfect
and I think we’re wrong when we expect perfection of ourselves
or others.
What matters is whether or not we are faithful.
Are we compassionate?
Are we loving?

Well, the baby bird is in our hands now.
It’s fragile and quite imperfect.
But it looks a little like you and a little like me,
Horton’s ears and Maize’s wings,
a little bit dreamy and a little bit practical,
some theology, some business.
It’s our baby elephant-bird and it’s in our hands.
Amen.

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