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I Crossed a Donkey with a Raven

Apr 16 2016

In George Orwell's classic allegory,  "Animal Farm", there is a character named Benjamin. Benjamin is the farm's donkey and the oldest animal in Farmer Jones's barnyard.  When Old Major, an elder boar, presents the idea of an animal uprising to overthrow the abusive human, and throughout the rest of the book when the new leader of Animal Farm - a literal  self serving pig named Napoleon - casts dreams of a future that will be superior to the present in every way, Benjamin responds, "have you ever seen a dead donkey?"  The implication of this cryptic, rhetorical question is that, having been around so long, Benjamin has heard all these promises before, and they never really live up to the propaganda the others - the chickens, sheep, goats and workhorses - are quick to believe.

At 54 years of age, more and more I find myself thinking, " Have you ever seen a dead donkey?"  When politicians promise drastic reforms in their first 100 days in office; when commercials promise a product that will make all others of its kind obsolete; when educational curriculum promise to advance the learning of all students beyond anything we teachers have previously seen; when church growth programs promise to pack our sanctuary in a few short months, Benjamin's question echoes in my mind.  "Have you ever seen a dead donkey?" It feels like I've heard this all before.

there is another character in Orwell's novel who is the antithesis of Benjamin the donkey, yet, ironically,  I find myself equally identifying with him. He is Moses the raven.  Symbolic of the Russian church during the reign of Czar Nicholas, Moses tells the animals about a place called Sugarcandy Mountain.  this place awaits animals after they die, thus putting the oppression of both the humans and the pigs into eternal perspective.  To paraphrase the old African-American spiritual, the raven encourages the barnyard to "keep their eyes on the prize."  

In spite of my often cynical donkey-like attitude, there is a part of me that is confident that God sees the big picture, and it is all turning out for his glory.  there is a part of me that knows that, although any steps forward seem minuscule in the moment, His kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven.  While the church started with an explosion on the day of Pentecost, most of the ensuing progress of the church has been more of a slow simmering.  Step by step, here a little there a little, until we look back over the centuries and see the progress that has been made.

It is, then, with the  pragmatic DNA of a donkey that God keeps my feet firmly on the ground, yet with the spiritual DNA of a raven that he allows my heart to fly. 

Amen.

 

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