Once upon a time, beneath the summer sun and at the edge of a dusty road, there lived a milkweed. Every day, it grew bigger and bigger. And every day, its pods grew heavier and heavier. Until one day, the pods burst open.
Dozens of sleepy, little seeds were scattered into the summer air. The seeds floated through the sky like goose down.
Carried by the gentle breeze, many of the sleepy little seeds awoke to find themselves far above the earth. One feathery seed flew up even higher than all the rest. From his vantage point, the old barn appeared like a box of matches down below him. And the cows were like ants.
This high-flying seed came to consciousness as a creature of the air. As far as he was concerned, the breeze was his home. White and delicate as lace, the soaring seed drifted towards the ground, simply to investigate the strange and solid world below.
To its horror, the seed saw others of its kind plucked from the sky and held prisoner by the unyielding earth. A few fluffy seeds were held captive in viscid discs of manure. Still others were trapped inside the dead air of a culvert. Their lifeless forms were horrible to see.
Eager to escape such a fate himself, the little seed caught hold of the next breeze and rode its coat tails towards the top of the sky. "Dreadful," the little seed moaned to itself. "Absolutely dreadful!"
"What's the matter?" inquired a rough voice.
The seed looked up to see a sleek, black raven riding on the breeze just above him. The tender young seed answered with a shudder, "I just saw others, like myself, scattered across the ground..."
"Haw!" laughed the raven. "Seeds are like that, you know."
The seed was shocked by the raven's lack of compassion. "It was carnage!" the seed protested. "It was ruin and carnage!"
"Hey," soothed the raven, "don't ruffle your feathers about it. Maybe you'll like it in the ground. Maybe it will be nice down there -- all cozy in the soil. I mean, you seeds have been doing this sort of thing for millions of years. No big deal, right?"
"Now wait a minute," answered the seed. "What do you mean, 'you seeds?' What do you mean by that? I am not a seed. A seed is like a rock that gets stuck in the ground. Look at me. I'm nothing like a rock. I'm more like a feather."
"You're a seed," said the raven.
"I'm not a seed," said the seed.
"Then what are you?" asked the raven.
"Well," said the seed, "I'm... I'm a molecule of oxygen."
"Haw!" laughed the raven. "Oh brother, that's rich. You can't be a molecule." explained the raven, "because molecules are very, very small. They are so small, that no one has ever seen them. I can see you. Therefore, ipso facto, you ain't no molecule."
"You're thinking of atoms," retorted the seed. "Atoms are very, very small. Molecules, on the other hand, are much bigger. And I'm a molecule."
"Haw!" laughed the raven, then she flew off.
* * *
Shortly after the raven left, the sky grew dark and cold. For the seed, nightfall was more terrible than anything else. The darkness erased the line between earth and sky, leaving the seed adrift in a sea of nothingness. Now, there was no difference between up and down, forward and back. In that darkness, there was nothing to hold on to. There was no anchor.
Afraid and alone, the seed drifted through the night sky. When at last he fell asleep, the seed dreamt of unfolding leaves and roots that held him firm to the soil.
When morning came at last, the seed awoke to find himself still aloft. He trembled with relief.
* * *
"Good morning!" called the raven. "It's my old buddy, the oxygen molecule."
The seed shook his head. "No," he replied. "You were right. I'm no oxygen molecule. I think... I must be a cloud."
"Haw!" laughed the raven. "You can't be a cloud."
"Why not?" asked the seed.
"Because clouds are full of rain and snow and lightning. If you're a cloud, then let's see some precipitation."
"I'm a very dry cloud," answered the seed. "Besides, this is the wrong elevation for snow."
"Well then," squawked the raven, "I have another test. I can fly through clouds. I can fly right through them."
"Don't you dare," said the seed.
"Haw!" laughed the raven. And she flew off again.
The feathery seed tried to enjoy drifting along on the breeze, but he was haunted by the memory of night. All day long, the seed watched the sun move towards the western horizon, knowing that night was inevitable.
Just before sundown, the raven drifted by once more and called, "Good evening, friend! What are you tonight?"
The seed almost answered, "lonely," but he did not. Instead, the seed answered, "I think I must be a bug."
"Haw!" laughed the raven. "Wrong again."
"But how can you be so sure?" asked the seed.
"Because bugs are delicious," answered the raven happily. "And you don't look yummy at all!"
"Perhaps I'm just very well camouflaged," retorted the seed. "Maybe I look this way to fool predators like you."
"Maybe," agreed the raven. "But I think you're fooling yourself." So saying, the raven flew away for a third time.
* * *
Shortly after the raven left, the sky grew dark and cold. The darkness erased the line between earth and sky, leaving the seed adrift in a sea of nothingness. Now, there was no difference between up and down, forward and back. In that darkness, there was nothing to hold on to. There was no anchor.
Afraid and alone, the seed drifted away through the night sky. When at last he fell asleep, the seed dreamt of unfolding leaves and roots that held him firm to the soil.
* * *
In the morning, the seed awoke to find himself beneath the leafy canopy of a great oak tree. It was a shock to have something other than sky above him, but he was still 10 or 15 feet off the ground, and so his first wave of panic was followed by sense of relief.
"Another few minutes, and I might have been snared," the seed said to himself. Eager to regain the open sky, the seed grabbed on to the passing breeze -- but he did not move. Something was holding him back...
"Oh no!" wailed the seed. He had drifted into a spider's web. Although the ground was still far below him, the seed was suspended in mid-air.
"Haw!" laughed the raven. "The spider has more eyes than I do. She saw through your clever disguise." With a flurry of ebon wings, the raven landed on a nearby branch.
"Help me!" pleaded the seed. "Please, do something! I'd rather be anywhere than here."
The raven leapt through the spider's web, knocking it to the ground. The seed fell with the web and landed in a soft bed of composted leaves. The seed was still attached to the web, however, so it could not leap away into the sky. It was trapped against the earth.
"Haw!" laughed the raven. And she flew off.
* * *
"I've been waiting for you," said the earth.
When night fell, the fragrant soil held the seed in her gentle hands. Although the darkness erased the line between earth and sky, the seed was no longer adrift. Now, there was an up. There was a down. There was something to hold on to. There was an anchor.
At last, the seed could become what it was meant to become. It could become what it had been given in dreams. Leaves unfolded and roots found purchase in the soil.
Most people are afraid of becoming what we are not.
We fear God, not because we think God is cruel, but because we know that every encounter with God changes who we are. Every time we connect with God, who we are is put to death so that something new can take root.
As we go into open worship today, I invite you to look at those areas of your life where you struggle to stay aloft. What would it mean to take root? What new life lays dormant in you, waiting for your surrender to emerge?