As Chicken Little was one day strolling about in a garden, she ran under a rose-bush and a leaf fell on her tail.
A Fox was standing by, who wanted to make a good hearty meal, accosted her in a most friendly manner. “Oh, Chicken Little,” said he, “you are shamefully abused. That weight which fell upon your tail was a grievous oppression. You ought to stir up your friends, and make a fuss about it.” Chicken Little was awfully alarmed and excited, and away she ran to Hen Pen.
“Oh, Hen Pen!” said she, “the sky is falling! for the soaring larks have unfastened it!”
The phrase, “The sky is falling!” features prominently in the story that follows, and has passed into the English language as a common way of suggesting an hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent.
A lot of people these days have a sense of “grievous oppression” and do sincerely believe that the sky is in fact falling. I wish to protest! The sky is NOT falling and here is why:
YOUR MOTHER WAS RIGHT!
When we were born most of us were cradled in our mother’s arms and became a source of incredible delight! Indeed, mommy looked into our eyes and thought to herself, and may even have exclaimed aloud, “What a beautiful baby!” Then, likely another thought: “You are going to grow up and make a big difference—why, you could do something so remarkable as to bless the whole world!”
When our mothers thought and said such things, they were echoing the plan of the Creator and Redeemer God for human beings. God made us in his image to reflect his likeness and partner with him in caring for the world. By caring I mean both “taking care of things,” but also helping bring the whole of creation to its full potential. That’s the exalted role the Creator intended for those he made to bear his image.
Of course, things got messed up along the way. The image of God and the plan of God suffered from our own unwise and rebellious responses to the One who made us. So extreme was human foolishness and defiance that even God suffered—voluntarily of course because he is, after all, God. Still, God put it all on the line, embracing the worst that our foolish defiance mustered up for him. God put up, and then did away, with all such foolishness. We were at cross-purposes with God and God accepted the “cross” and bore it all the way to our freedom and future. So, even the worst of our foolishness and defiance somehow gets enfolded into the plan which God insists is still “GO!”
Thus, your mother was right! What a beautiful person you are! What potential you have! Since this Jesus makes his image shine within you and enlivens the gifts and passions he gives you, you and other followers may become part of a movement that brings what is good, right, true and beautiful to this—God’s world! That is who you are and what you may do—LIVE into such huge plans as your mom first envisioned for you.
I am aware, of course, that some may have no memory or good memory of mom or parents more generally—still, what makes such dreams of moms and dads everywhere powerfully possible is they mirror God’s thoughts and plans for you.
Because your mother was right about you, echoing the purposes of the God who is love-like-Jesus, the Sky is NOT falling!
“THEY ARE WRONG”
By “they” I refer to the doom and gloom mongers in church and society who characterize YOU, or likely mis-characterize you, at least in part by painting with a broad brush and profiling you as though you were all the same or are destined to stay the same forever and ever amen. To get at this, let me engage in a bit of a rant, a brief venting session
I’m so weary of their dark and dismal assessments of the students of our generation. I’m more than weary, truth to tell. I’ve heard and read all about how more than 80 percent of you who were part of church will abandon the church once you leave home for college or university; you don’t believe in absolutes or aren’t convinced of biblical authority over the way you live your lives; you feel entitled, don’t know how to work hard, have short attention spans, and want pretty much everything right now!
I’ve seen panic in the eyes of the fearful ancients. Worse, I’ve seen disdain and scorn on many church faces as they look at body ink, piercings and other “exotic accessories” common today. Yes, disdain and scorn — as if to say, self-evidently, “There ya go.” It’s as if simply pointing a finger makes some point that we should all find compellingly convincing and depressing. Well, all I can do is call on a current expression, “Seriously?”
OK, thanks! I needed that.
Now, in the face of all of it, I want to say, “Bravo, students!” Certainly, you have your issues, but don’t we all? I choose to face whatever truth there is in these assessments as a kind of “means of grace” for those of us who are more ancient than you. If these things are true, or to whatever extent they may be true, there are reasons — some of which the ancient ones don’t want to hear.
For example, if you leave a church once you have freedom to do so, there may be something wrong with the church and with the ancient ones who are being church in such a non-interesting and unattractive way. What should the ancient ones learn? (I nurse the hope that you will tell us, and we will listen.)
For another example, if you do not buy the notion that anything is so important that it is “forever, for real,” and if you find it difficult to embrace the old folks’ rights and wrongs, maybe it’s because you haven’t seen enough of us sufficiently “all in,” or haven’t heard us explain what we claim to know in ways comprehensible and compelling. (Perhaps we should wonder whether we really believe.)
For a final example, if you feel entitled and struggle to see the sense of waiting for things you’ve worked hard to achieve, maybe you are selfish and lacking in the self-control that comes with maturity and that the Holy Spirit grows within us. Then again, maybe we ancient ones have indulged instead of truly loved you and have not taken the time to walk with you, mentor you, and offer you opportunities to learn, fail, and learn again. I mean, it could be all your fault. That is possible. But I think it right to practice the Golden Rule here and not assume it is.
In all of these ways, the apparent rap against you might really (at least in part) boomerang back on us, the ancient ones. It could even help us negotiate the changes necessary to be church in a way that you will not want to leave, that will stand for things you’d die and live for, and that would welcome your vigorous contributions to the mission of Jesus. Indeed, I have recently seen some of your number on the ground in the Middle East, responding to the crises of refugees in ways that show the world God’s better way—these young friends are not afraid to commit, to sacrifice, and to defer gratification; they are all-in and it makes a difference that they are!
So, I say again, “Bravo, Graduates now and in coming years!”
“They” are wrong in their view of you generally, and when right about you it is often no more so than they’d be right if they’d say the same things about themselves, the ancient ones! There is far more to celebrate than not, way more than enough to give me confidence that the sky is NOT, in fact, falling.
THE FUTURE OF THE SKY AND WORLD IS BRIGHT.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and in the end the same God will have pulled off an epic recreation that can only be described as new heavens and earth. The same as now, though not the same; the same though massively reclaimed, restored, renewed—yes, re-created.
And how will God have done it? Through a people who generation by generation continue to carry on, that is, through a people historic yet also newly stepping into the arena of action and mission. How will God have done it? Yes, through young people, lots of them, through students and graduates.
That, in fact, is what has happened up to the present moment. On the strength of courageous and committed young people moving to the edges of the known world—the good news of Jesus has spread nearly everywhere! It wasn’t ancients who did this, who went. It was the young.
And if Dr. Robert Woodberry of National University of Singapore is correct, the opening of the world to the influence of Jesus has, in fact, transformed the world in all sorts of good and wonderful ways, not least, Woodberry has demonstrated, by encouraging the flourishing of people and creating openness to stable social and political governance. Jesus’ person, teachings, and accomplishments as it has been caught from young missionary people enthralled and compelled by Jesus himself has brought human flourishing.
And, anyway, when did old people ever start a revolution, of any kind? There may be instances, but you can bet the ones who implemented it, defended it, tweaked it to optimal function were not the old folks.
When did the ancient ones specialize in dreaming dreams and receiving visions. Some have, but they have been the exceptions to prove the rule. It was the prophet’s word to God’s people that the day was coming when God’s Spirit would breathe into a human community such that both young and old see visions and dream dreams. Both together have been required from that point on.
We should not be surprised then to recall, or to realize for the first time, that the original Jesus’ movement was, in fact, a young people’s movement. Especially when seen in His cultural context, Jesus was very young, and most of His first followers would have been considered mere youths by the ancients who were leading God’s people at the time. Jesus formed his original community out of them and then entrusted His mission to them! The ancient ones of today might want to follow their Leader on this one.
My middle daughter is the age at which Jesus sacrificed himself to change the world, and as a result the world has changed. My youngest daughter is around the age Jesus began his public ministry. His first followers belonged to the same age-demographic as today’s university students and graduates. In the two millennia since, many have felt what seemed like a grievous oppression as though the sky were falling. And here we are today in a world full of “grievous oppressions!” That we are suggests hope for a future that is bright!
A year ago we were in the Bole International Airport of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia headed for the gate for our flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. We fly often in and out of this airport, but it had been a year since we were last there, and they were remodeling the airport. So it wasn’t clear how we were to proceed. We headed in what we thought was the right direction, but stopped to ask someone a question. A nice young Jewish man heard my question, acknowledged how confusing the arrangement of the gate area was. Then he said, “I was here last month and I know the way. Here it is.” A very fine young man.
I have since thought that much of my life has been just like that: headed toward some unbelievable places—unbelievably good and at times bad, in the midst of a huge renovation project where it can be confusing to find your way. And a very helpful young man, Jewish he was, has been kind enough to show the way.
It is as though over the sky, and the world it encircles, there hangs a sign that tells us: “under re-construction.” The future is bright, the project will be completed. And as I look into the eyes of many of our young people, I remember the redemption of the world hung in the balance as a young adult accomplished his mission! Now I realize that the working out of this redemption similarly hangs in the balance again as young adults accomplish their mission!
No offense, Chicken Little, but the sky is NOT falling.
**(From a rendition, “Remarkable Story of Chicken Little: An Occurrence of Everyday Life,” in the [New York] Gazette of the Union and The Golden Rule (December 9, 1848)