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View from the Orange Crate

by Mary Domb Mikkelson
Connecting Voices Editor and member at United Church of Christ of La Mesa

     You may remember the commercial.  A speaker stepped from an orange grove, climbed upon an orange crate and proclaimed his or her beliefs about life, love and, of course, OJ.  There was a certain “so there” quality to it, a refreshing one.

     For reasons I didn’t discern at the time, Florida’s Natural orange juice came to mind recently as I traversed the halls of Mission Hills UCC on my way to an appointment.  Leaning against a wall in an upstairs corridor, seemingly abandoned, was a familiar painting – the young Jesus (his features more Botticellian than Semitic) “going about his father’s business” in the temple, confounding the priests and doctors with his questions and knowledge.   The faces of the learned men tell the story well:  one listening intently; one eager to debate; one amazed; one furrowed with doubt and one, seeing the ancient order threatened, perturbed, his expression shouting “young whippersnapper!”  The artist, Heinrich Hofmann, captured their emotions well, from awe to incipient anger, resistance to acquiescence, even welcome.  One small step for a boy, a giant leap for humankind.  Hmm…if a little child can lead them, dare we dream with Isaiah that the wolf will live with the lamb and the leopard lie down with the goat?  Or, extrapolating, that the church can house its ever-growing diversity in harmony?  Can share that house without splitting it?  Can change without losing its identity, its specialness?

     Ooops…I feel an orange crate underfoot!

     Change.  It’s happening and happening quickly, battering us, our church and our world with its intensity and meandering course.  New ways, new directions, new hopes and dreams.  A wonderful – and occasionally  terrifying – problem to have.

     The trick, as I see it, lies in opening ourselves to where our still-speaking God is leading us, in acknowledging that we must be faithful to God, no matter what, even if serving God means pulling back from our individual wants and needs in order to dedicate our lives to God, celebrate community and be energized to continue God’s work in the world.  One “helpful hint” I’ve heard is to keep the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego always in mind, drawing on its message when faced (as we are almost constantly) with choosing between the golden idols of life and the God who walks with us “in the midst of the fire.”

     Hmm…”Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.”  Remember the song?  Whether you think of Louis Armstrong’s recording in the 50s or Brook Benton’s #19 on the charts version in the 60s, it’s foot-tappin’ music with a message.  It’s “ol Nebudchanezzer” “heaping on coal and red-hot brimstone,” making it “seven times hotter than it oughtta be.”   It’s “those children” refusing to bow down and who, delivered by God, whose angel cooled the flames, “got so happy, they went struttin’ right through the fire”…and “got to talkin’ bout the power of the gospel (or the goodness of the Lord).”

     Yeah, there’s a message there.  So…

     Can we do it?

     Neither “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego” nor change is all dancing in the aisles, however.  Which leaves me wondering which golden idols loom ahead for us, what problems await us as, in its ever-growing diversity, UCC ventures into possibly uncharted territory and a “new” church emerges.   My concern isn’t – at least I don’t think it is – fear of the unknown or of losing something cherished.  Anaїs Nin spoke to that when she said, “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through.  Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.  This is a kind of death.”

     So what is it?

     Perhaps it is that we could discover the truth of the American proverb, “It doesn’t work to leap a twenty-foot chasm in two ten-foot jumps,” might learn that timidity, whether inherent, political or situational, can paralyze, could smash our dreams and us on the rocks at the bottom of the gulch.

     Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”  I vote with him and with our President, who said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.”

     Go, UCC!


One Response to “View from the Orange Crate”
  1. Liz Thomson says:

    What a wonderful article. We ARE the change we seek.

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