The month of March is upon us, which means longer days as we turn the clocks ahead, warmer temperatures (I hope!), and the coming of Holy Week and Easter Sunday. As we move toward the holiest and most significant of our Christian feasts and ponder again Jesus’ resurrection, I want to share a story that I told last year in a sermon.
It goes like this: Once upon a time, in a not-so-faraway land, there was a kingdom of acorns, nestled under the shade of a grand, old oak tree. Since the citizens of this kingdom were modern, fully-Westernized acorns, they went about their business on the ground with purposeful energy; they even engaged in many self-help courses.
There were seminars called “Getting All You Can Out of Your Shell.” There were recovery groups for acorns who had been bruised in their original fall from the tree. There were spas for oiling and polishing their shells, and various therapies to enhance longevity and well-being.
But then, one day, in the midst of this kingdom a stranger suddenly appeared—he was a knotty little acorn, dropped “out of the blue” by a passing bird. He had lost his cap (unlike the other acorns) and was covered with dirt, which made an immediate negative impression on his fellow acorns.
Crouched beneath the oak tree, the stranger stammered out a wild tale. Pointing upward at the huge oak tree above, he proclaimed, “We…are…that!” Delusional thinking, the other acorns concluded. His drop from the sky must have addled his brain. How could a tiny acorn possibly be an oak tree?! That’s absurd!
But one of the acorns continued to engage the stranger in conversation. “So tell us, how would we become that tree?” he asked. “Well,” the newcomer said, pointing downward, “it has something to do with going into the ground and cracking open the shell.” “Insane,” they responded. “Totally morbid! Why, then we wouldn’t be acorns anymore!” And the leaders of the kingdom quickly got rid of the stranger and his wild ideas of acorns becoming great oak trees.
The point of the fable is clear: Something had been lost in the imaginary kingdom of acorns—their true purpose in life. We know, of course, that an acorn is only a seed; its nature and destiny is to become an oak tree. But an acorn can’t sprout on the tree; it must fall into the ground, and its shell must be cracked open.
As we conclude our Lenten journey this month and walk again with Jesus to the cross, I believe that we too are in a holy process of being broken open to new life and new opportunity. Our Easter faith calls us to a dying and a rebirth, like the acorn that must be buried before it can live out its true destiny.
All around us—right here in our neighborhood and across the country—are people and communities in dire need of good news. Our true purpose as the church is not to remain inside, polishing our shells, but to break open our lives and share the good news with the world. Just as God came in human form to live among us and we willing to die, so too are we sent out as seeds to be planted.
The acorn story is from "Acornology" by Cynthia Bourgeault