Homily from service on April 17, 2022 – Easter Day
Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
*Not so long ago, and not so far away there was a land of acorns nestled at the foot of a grand oak tree. Acorn land was very modern. The acorn citizens were all tech-savvy and westernized…they lived busy and purposeful lives… always interested in maximizing their acorn potential…discovering ways to be their best selves. As you can imagine…being not so different from our world…there were a lot of self-help books and podcasts, AcornTube videos, and Instagram accounts dedicated to: shell-improvement…getting the most out of your cap…how to make yourself less attractive to squirrels…ways to overcome your original wound from falling out of the tree…The really well-off acorns had spas for oiling and polishing their shells and various acornopathic therapies that purportedly enhanced longevity and well-being.
One day an acorn appeared…seemingly dropped out of the sky by a passing bird…who looked like the others, but talked in a very different way. This acorn began saying radical things…challenging things…”Blessed are you with cracked shells”… “Blessed are you who have been trodden into the ground.” This acorn said even more disturbing things…delusional things, it seemed to some…Pointing up to the giant oak this curious acorn would proclaim…”we…are…that! Follow me, I will show you how to become that.” Well, that seemed—pardon the pun—nuts to most of the acorns, who just went back to busying themselves, polishing their shells and adorning their caps…but some were intrigued. They gathered around and asked…”how is it possible to become that?” “Well,” said the one…”first you have to go down there”—pointing at the ground—“and your shell becomes soft, and cracks open and then you begin to grow…” ”Nope. Sounds hard,” they said. “Sounds crazy,” they cried…”if we did that, we wouldn’t be acorns anymore.”
Friends, we are not acorns…and this is not all of what we are. This is not all that we can be…not all of what we were made—or meant—to be. And Easter is our annual reminder of that. Our annual call to wake up, and remember that we are more than the shells we cling so tightly to.
The ancient church taught that the meaning of the Incarnation was this: “That in Christ, God became human, so that humans might become divine.”** Which in acorn land would be like saying, the tree became an acorn so that the acorns would remember that they were actually supposed to be trees, and not just fancy, super polished, shiny nuts.
We wouldn’t be acorns anymore. If we did what you asked…If we followed you…to Jerusalem…to the cross…if we follow where you lead, Jesus…we won’t be acorns anymore…, and that’s true…Following Jesus, means that we won’t be ourselves…or rather…that we will have to let go of, whatever it is we imagine ourselves to be…We will have to crack open and let go of that shell that we cling so tightly to….our shiny, polished images…our hard, protective exteriors…
Letting go of those things that keep us from becoming…a tree planted by water…with deep roots…boughs outstretched…wide enough for birds to nest in, and with leaves for the healing of nations
Letting go of those things that prevent us from being cracked open, and transformed, to grow more and more into the body of Christ, standing firm in the knowledge and the love of God…arms are spread out in compassion for all…bringing healing to the nations.
We are that. We are the body of Christ.
And I know that we live in a world where that is really, really hard to see most days. We live in a world that always seems to look a lot more like Good Friday that it does like Easter. We live in a world that looks like the “Mirror, Mirror”, version of Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom. Where there is too much weeping and distress…too many people laboring in vain and bearing children for calamity. And everyday is distressing…and makes us want to just hunker down and make sure our own protective coverings are strong enough to withstand the daily onslaught.
But we are not acorns. And Easter arrives every year to remind us…to cajole us…to shock us…into fresh awareness that we are called to more than this. Easter arrives to startle us with the truth that inside our acorn shells is a reality larger and more grace-filled and more loving than we can actually imagine. And that we are inevitably being drawn towards it…We are destined to become part of it. And we can begin to live into it, even now.
We are not acorns. We are the body of Christ in the world. We. Are. That.
*I adapted this “acornology” from Beatrice Chestnut’s work: The Complete Enneagram p. 80-80, where I first encountered it. Chestnut discovered it in The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault 2003 work The Wisdom Way of Knowing, p 64-65. In that book, Bourgeault cites Maurice Nicoll as the original author, and notes that it was popularized by Jacob Needleman.
**Known as divinization, apotheosis, theopoesis, or theosis.