Wednesday, January 17, 2007

exploding eggs in essex county

It wasn’t pretty.

There I was, on Friday night, toward the end of the first session of the Prayer Week services with the Essex county cluster of churches. So far, it seemed to me, things had gone reasonably well, all things considered. I hadn’t had as much time to prepare as I would have liked, and was a bit more wordy and rambling than I wanted to be, and had included less singing than I had hoped… but the initial activities had gone well, the people were engaged, and we were setting the stage for our weekend of reflection and prayer around the theme I had been given – “Walls: Divine and Dividing” – based on Ephesians 2:11-22.

That morning, after the barn chores and before packing up and leaving for the weekend, I had performed some experiments with the morning’s eggs out by the manure pile. I had heard that eggshells, if squeezed a certain way, were so strong that that they literally could not be broken. “The miracle of eggshells” was a central image (along with membranes, skin, and other “boundary” images like “walls”) that I was planning to use throughout the weekend as we reflected and prayed about the dynamics of identity and vocation, of building up and tearing down, of resilience and fragility, of formation and brokenness and new life…

In other words, about the church… drawing on musings from urban planning, ecology, architecture, agriculture… and the grand sweep of Biblical narrative from Gen 1 to Ephesians… and, of course, my daily barn chores… and a few tunes…

There’s good reason why the session was getting a bit long.

And then we got to the part where I demonstrated the amazing strength of eggshells by picking one up and squeezing it, hard, as I had practiced that morning.

It held. Amazing. Appreciative twitters from the gathered assembly.

Going for more dramatic effect, I invited a volunteer – a big strong one – to come forward and give it a try. As he strode to the front and took the egg in his hand, evidently confident that I knew what I was doing and ready to apply all of his considerable musculature, I had my first premonition that this may not have been such a good idea.

“Wait!” I said, and shifted the egg lengthwise in his hand… “Ok, now give it a try…”

And he did. And the egg held. Amazing. More appreciative twitters.

Unable to resist, I asked: “Are you sure you’re really squeezing it…?”

And as he nodded, he gave an extra effort, and the egg exploded.

I’ll spare you the details.

Let’s just say none of us had ever seen anything like it... It threw me off in a pretty big way, and the insightful climactic conclusion toward which I was building pretty much escaped me… The melody of the song I’d written the day before to conclude the session evaporated as well, so I had to improvise one on the spot to go with the words and the chords that, mercifully, I had not forgotten…

I got down from the platform and took my seat, certain that I’d “blown it”… in more ways than one… and that the weekend was off to a pretty miserable start… and a funny thing happened.

Ed led us in a time of prayer. Paul led us in a closing hymn. I felt like sneaking away… but almost instantly I was surrounded by nearly a dozen people, all smiles and laughter and encouraging words… and eager to show me the proper technique for squeezing eggs without breaking them. It turns out that the crowd was full of experts, and that it can in fact be done. There were plenty of good humoured and effective demonstrations while damp cloths were cheerfully brought out to clean up the mess at the front of the sanctuary.

For the rest of the evening people kept walking up to me, huge smiles on their faces, telling me this was a night they’d never forget. That they couldn’t wait for the next night’s service. Even that this evening’s session, and the exploding egg, spoke to them, and to what was going on in their lives and community, in ways that I couldn’t have realized or intended…

And one person did tell me that my talk was a bit long…

An egg, you know, needs its shell to become what it is. And, for the egg to be true to its vocation, it must be broken.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home