Thursday, September 10, 2020


This is the thirty-first in a series of periodic reflections on the "ordinary things" that many people do on a regular basis without much thought. During this pandemic, I am developing a need to "rage, rage" against haste and laziness and replace it with care and attention. My hope is to become personally more intentional about doing ordinary things with care and focused attention, while inspiring others to maybe do the same.


The whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Exodus 16:1

I have never witnessed the actual birth of a child, but from every thing I have heard or seen it is a difficult and messy process. The closest thing I have come to watching the process was the birth of farm animals when I was growing up in the country. Typically, it involved a lot of pain, struggle and noise. Even the hatching of an egg was a life and death struggle for the chick. As I got older, I realized that the process of dying was similar. It often involves a lot of pain, struggle and even noise.  The process of coming to life and leaving life are very similar in that regard. Sometimes, it hard to tell the difference. 

Come to think about it, most change is difficult and messy. It always has been, and I guess it always will be, difficult. My "model" or "pattern," as far as stories go, is the story of the Exodus when the Jewish people were offered the possibility of change - chance to escape slavery and go to their "promised land." The idea of change is usually much more comfortable than the actual change itself. When the People of God set out from Egypt, they were excited and full of hope about the new future that they could see in their minds' eye. 

It did not take long for the pain of change to set in. That pain produced a lot of grumbling, complaining and angry accusations as people began to long for the "good old days" of the past. With selective memory and a desire to escape the pain involved in change, they  wanted to "go back." Moses had to keep prodding them to "keep going forward," to "keep their eye on the prize" and never look back. 

A few years ago, in serious need of reform, our Church faced a similar opportunity for change. Vatican Council II came along and invited us to enter a process of transformation.  I like to compare it to a hatching egg. We woke up one day and noticed that there were fine cracks developing all over the egg. Since then, we have some people running around with tape and ladders insisting that we have to keep it from cracking and "falling part." At the same time, we have some people running around yelling, "stand back, it's hatching, something new is coming out!" I know one thing for sure! The very worst thing you can do when  an egg shell is hatching is to try to tape it back together. You will certainly kill the new life that is coming out of it! All the pain, struggle and noise of the post-Vatican II church is not a sign that we are dying. It's a sign that we are giving birth to new life. 

The same thing is happening in our country. The "times they are a-changin'." The country is in crisis on many fronts. Part of our country is trying to tape it all back together, trying to recover some by-gone days of our 1950s past. Another part of the country, who suffered and were marginalized during those by-gone days, is yelling "stand back and watch it hatch," we are giving birth to a new America.  

The church cannot go back to the stuffy clerical culture of a previous era when the only real players were ordained men. Trying to tape that hatching egg back together is a certain recipe for killing the dynamism that is at the very heart of a living Church. 

The country cannot go back to a racist and sexist culture of a previous era when the only players were old white men. Trying to tape this hatching egg back together simply will not work. The hatching process has begun. Women will be heard. Women will be leaders. Women will be actively involved. Black and brown people will be heard. Black and brown people will be leaders. Black and brown people will be actively involved. 

We are all uncomfortable during these changing times, but what we do with our discomfort is of extreme importance. There is an old Japanese curse that says, "May you live in interesting times!" During these "interesting times" we have a choice. We can (a) join those who are panicking and trying to "go back to Egypt," trying to tape the cracking egg back together and trying to get the "toothpaste back in the tube." We can "(b) join those who are part of coaching the delivery process along as we wait for a "new Church" and a "new America" come to life. 


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