I have a Facebook friend who helped to write our seventh Unitarian Universalist principle, the one about the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. And he shared with me a hope he had about this principle, that we would come to understand it as he meant it to mean: more than interconnections of people with nature, but a sense of interconnectedness of everything! – of all existence – everything we can imagine and beyond.
And so as I imagine this interdependent web of everything, it occurs to me that hope, since hope exists, is itself, part of that web. In fact, we can imagine an interdependent web of hope – of hoping and hopefulness…
This morning I brought with me a basket of oak leaves and acorns, and I invite you to pass it around and touch and hold what you find in there. [Pass basket around.] And I’ll tell you why I brought it. First, imagine with me an oak tree, a big, wide tall tree nearly as large as this sanctuary. Each fall, when the time is right, oak trees put out thousands of tiny acorns. And to me, these acorns are like little nuggets of hope for that tree. It puts all those nuggets of hope out there, somehow reaching toward the possibility of future “oakness” in the world.
But the oak tree’s acorn-hopes are interconnected with other hopes: the hopes of squirrels… squirrels who hope for a bumper crop of acorns to fill their bellies. Squirrels who scamper up the trunks of the oak tree and out its branches, and squirrels who scurry around the base of the tree, looking for dropped acorns… squirrels who eat their fill of acorns and then carry what they can to other parts of the woods and bury them safely in the ground, hoping they’ll remember all their hiding places, and hoping that they’ve hidden enough away to get them through the long cold winter. Squirrels, which make nests in the branches of those big oak trees, where, in the spring, we might find baby squirrels.
Now the oak tree, it seems, might hope that some of the squirrels will forget where they hid some of those acorns. The oak tree is hoping for different things. You see, the acorns the squirrels forget will wait, still and quiet through the winter. They will wait… until a time comes in early spring when a certain new feeling comes to them, a sense of urgency. And with a crack of the outer shell, that acorn will put forth little tiny roots, reaching into the moist soil, and it will put out a stem reaching up, towards the warmth above, warmth coming from the sunlight heating the soil above… and that stem will push up out of the soil and into the air. And there will be a tiny baby oak tree, transformed from the acorn it used to be.
And I hope that one day, that baby oak tree will grow into a big, grand oak tree, big enough to fill a sanctuary like ours, big enough to put out thousands of its own acorns. And I hope that one day, you might be walking along and see that tree, and you might notice a squirrel scamper up its trunk, and you might see some acorns scattered on the ground around you and you might think back to today… when you had a hope, a special hope of your own… a hope that you hoped into the world in a thousand kinds of ways, a hope that might wait until the time was right and an urgency made it transform from just a hope into something new… something of your dreams and imagination come true.
So when I go home today, I’m going to message that Facebook friend who helped write our seventh principle, and I’ll tell him that, by sharing his hope with you all, that we helped it to grow just a little bit more today.
Props required: acorns and oak leaves.