Sermons

Green Eggs and Ham (with interruptions)

posted on April 3, 2017

GREEN EGGS AND HAM

By Cindy Spring

This morning’s reflections are based on a sacred text that may have great meaning for many of you. I’ve asked two of our best textual critics to help me with our interpretation this morning – our very own intern minister David Egan and our beloved member-from-birth Don Seaman.

 

The text was written by that well-known theologian, Dr. Seuss. He called it Green Eggs and Ham.

 

Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss

 

DON:              That Sam-I-am! That Sam-I-am!

I do not like that Sam-I-am!                                 STOP

Narrator: Here is an example of pre-judging someone just because he looks different!

DAVE:                        Do you like green eggs and ham?                       STOP

Narrator: …and all that he wants is to nourish this new friend!

DON:              I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

                        I do not like green eggs and ham.                      STOP

Narrator: I wonder — and I’m sure you are all wondering, too — whether our friend has ever actually tried green eggs and ham?

DAVE:                        Would you like them here or there?

DON:              I would not like them here or there.

                        I would not like them anywhere.

                        I do not like green eggs and ham.

                        I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

DAVE:                        Would you like them in a house?             STOP

Narrator: Creating sacred space!

                        Would you like them with a mouse?                  STOP

Narrator: And here he is offering companionship for the adventure!

DON:              I do not like them in a house

                        I do not like them with a mouse.                        STOP

Narrator: Perhaps a fear of the “other” – the stranger – or in this case the stranger-stranger…

                        I do not like them here or there

                        I do not like them anywhere.

                        I do not like green eggs and ham.

                        I do not like them, Sam-I-am

DAVE:                        Would you eat them in a box?                             STOP

Narrator: Perhaps a smaller, more intimate, less overwhelming sacred space…

                        Would you eat them with a fox?             STOP

 Narrator: Or a larger, more human-sized companion…

DON:              Not in a box. Not with a fox.

                        Not in a house. Not with a mouse.

                        I would not eat them here or there.

                        I would not eat them anywhere.

                        I would not eat green eggs and ham.

                        I would not eat them, Sam-I-am.

DAVE:            Would you, could you, in a car?                           STOP

Narrator: …Ah! A metaphor for the journey we are all on!

                        Eat them! Eat them! Here they are!

DON:              I would not, could not, in a car.

                        I would not, could not, near or far.

DAVE:                        You may like them. You will see…                      STOP

 Narrator: What a gentle person is this easy, encouraging, cheerful in spite of all the negative reaction he’s getting — one might also say a “spiritual” person!

                         You may like them in a tree!

DON:              I would not, could not, in a tree.

                        Not in a car! You let me be!                                STOP

Narrator: We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Even the gentlest of companions can sometimes become irritating. Yet even in his frustration he remains poetic in his response as he becomes much more entrenched in his refusal to try …

                        I do not like them in a box

                        I do not like them with a fox

                        I do not like them in a house

                        I do not like them with a mouse

                        I do not like them here or there

                        I do not like them anywhere.

                        I do not like green eggs and ham

                        I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

DAVE:                        Say! In the dark? Here in the dark?

                        Would you, could you in the dark?                      STOP

Narrator:  Ah, the safety of trying something new “in the dark” where no one can see us, or judge us, or make faces at us…

DON:              I would not, could not, in the dark.

                        Not in the dark, not in a tree.

                        I do not like them, Sam, you see.                        STOP

Narrator: Now this sounds like a perfectly reasonable response, but is it truthful? I can’t help but wonder…

DON:              Not in a house. Not in a box.

                        Not with a mouse. Not with a fox.

                        I will not eat them here or there.

                        I will not eat them anywhere!

DAVE:                        You do not like green eggs and ham?                STOP

 Narrator: Aha! A defining moment! Sam-I-am has heard his friend. He has been heard. Sam is practicing reflective listening. So exciting – (and not a moment too soon, I’d say.)

DON:              I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

DAVE:            Would you, could you, with a goat?                   STOP

 Narrator: Now this question surprised me. It seemed they had begun to connect, to “bond,” to walk in each other’s shoes, and then — and this is not unusual even in Unitarian Universalist circles — he had to revert to the original argument. Either he felt he could not possibly be wrong…or he thought that a more domesticated animal might make a difference.

DON:              I would not, could not, with a goat!

DAVE:                        Would you, could you, on a boat?                       STOP

 Narrator: A return to the journey metaphor, this over water — a truly spiritual image…

DON:              I would not, could not, on a boat.

                        I will not, will not, with a goat!

                        Not in the dark, not in a tree!

                        Not in a car! You let me be!

                        I do not like them in a box.

                        I do not like them with a fox.

                        I will not eat them in a house.

                        I will not eat them with a mouse.

                        I do not like them here or there.

                        I do not like them anywhere!

                        I do not like green eggs and ham!

                        I do not like them, Sam-I am!

DAVE:            You do not like them. So you say.                       STOP

 Narrator: Hmm, once again it appears that Sam-I-am has heard what his friend is saying. Will he hang in there?

                         Try them! Try them! And you may!

                        Try them and you may, I say.

DON:              Sam! If you will let me be

                        I will try them. You will see.                                 STOP

Narrator: Ah! Look what happened! – a change of heart, or  is he just plain worn down?

But the courage! The grace!

[DON tries the food]

                        Say! I like green eggs and ham!                          STOP

Narrator: Revelation!

                         I do! I like them, Sam-I-am!

                        And I would eat them on a boat,

                        And I would eat them with a goat.

                        And I will eat them in a tree.

                        They are so good, so good you see!                   STOP

 Narrator: And as so often happens when we are willing to take a little risk, we have a new evangelist!

                        So I will eat them in a box.

                        And I will eat them with a fox.

                        And I will eat them in a house.

                        And I will eat them with a mouse.

                        And I will eat them here and there.

                        Say! I will eat them anywhere!                           STOP

 Narrator: Have you ever noticed that, when you try something new, and it works for you, you can surprise yourself?

                         I do so like green eggs and ham!

                        Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-am!                       STOP

 Narrator: And so our story ends with gratitude – because someone gently persisted, and someone else had the courage to step out of his comfort zone, and a new delight was discovered.
+  +  +

On this day – not quite April Fools’ Day – it’s good for us to laugh and have a little fun. And as always, it’s good for us to ponder life’s little quirks.

This story, Green Eggs and Ham – so simple, and so much fun for children (and the adults who get to read it to the children) – raises important questions about the relationship between beliefs and experience.

It raises the question of the role that experience plays in the formation of our beliefs. This is the philosophical area known as the theory of knowledge, or epistemology. Although the book – which is after all a children’s book – raises the issue in reference to trying new foods, the idea can be applied to just about anything.

Of course, we don’t always have to have an experience of a thing to form a belief – I can read about slavery and know by my own reasoning that I wouldn’t want to be a slave – I wouldn’t have to experience it before I formed an opinion.

But in the story the guy refuses the eggs and ham because he doesn’t like the person who’s offering them. Reason can’t help us decide if we like a food we’ve never tried, nor – and I think this is more important – can we justify forming an opinion about other people until we have experienced them ­– talked with them, broken bread with them, walked the proverbial mile in their shoes.

Forming a belief before we have all the information needed to form a reasoned belief is kind of built into the human condition. In the state of nature in which we evolved, we had to come to snap judgments about things to survive. The unfamiliar was considered threatening until it was proven not to be threatening.

As civilization unfolded, people tended to hang out with people like themselves. Only fairly recently has it become imperative that we learn to understand people very different from ourselves, in order to avoid world-wide chaos.

Here in our church – in our congregation – we trust that people are enough like us not to present a threat to us. This helps us form connections and become bonded to one another. But we run the risk of being a closed system that won’t let in people who look or act differently. Like our friend when he first notices Sam-I-Am, we form an opinion. That Sam-I-am! That Sam-I-am! I do not like that Sam-I-am!

Here experience was necessary in forming belief; our guy had to taste the food in order to establish his belief.

What a great thing he was able to admit he had been wrong, and to thank Sam-I-am for encouraging him to try something new – something that will no doubt enrich his life. (Or at least expand his tastes.)

And what a great role model Sam-I-Am is for us, who give up too easily sometimes when trying to persuade a friend that they would like our congregation, if only they would try us. Gentle, kind, loving persistence is what it takes.

So many things receive a “no” from us when we’d learn and grow if only we said, “yes.” Can we spare a weeknight evening for a covenant group or an adult class? Can we give up a Saturday morning to help distribute food at Fair Foods? Can we invite our friends to join us here one Sunday? Can we dig deeper to strengthen the financial position of the congregation?

But more important – can we say “yes” to others when we are tempted to say “no”? Can we open our hearts when fear would have us close them? Can we metaphorically approach life with the attitude summarized in those immortal words:

I do so like green eggs and ham!

            Thank you, thank you, Sam-I-am!

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