Gospel According to Dr. Seuss: One Fish, Two Fish – God Loves All Creatures
Pastor Leta Arndt Behrens
Sermon Scripture: JOHN 17:20-25
20I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.
When I was an elementary and preschool teacher, one of the BEST parts was getting to ready with children. And Dr. Suess was among the best books to read. Even now the most loved book of my nephew is My Many Colored Days and we always snuggle up to read this story whenever he is at my house. This author, Theodore Suess Geisel, spent his life with a passion for literacy, for writing engaging stories for all kinds of readers in order to teach words and sound and poetry and to teach about observing the world and living in community. Even though he loved children and writing and creating for them he never had children of his own. He is quoted as saying, “You have them, I will entertain them”
Dr Suess was not only passionate about literacy, he also in the 1960s began to tackle issues of justice in his stories, believing that entering the world of children would also relate to parents and other adults and broaden minds in a post world war 2 era. He addressed civil rights in 1961 with The Sneetches, Environmental Protection in the book The Lorax was written in 1971 and 1984 brought The Butter Battle book with perspective on the nuclear arms race. One Fish Two Fish was written in 1960, as was To Kill a Mockingbird, addressing some of the same issues of the time and became a part of the beginner reader series. It has gone far beyond learning to read as it is a book that has been quoted by a supreme court judge as well as made into the name of a dating website- but he didn’t see that coming….
There is a spiritual element here as well as we are invited in our readings from John and Genesis to do the same type of imagination and observation and connect God’s word and love to the world around us. In our Gospel story, Jesus is with his disciples just hours before he will be arrested and taken to be crucified. It is one of their last times together and this reading today is part of a long prayer, a goodbye prayer and a blessing from him to his disciples there and all who would come after. The theme of this prayer is a strong one. He prays that we all may be one–one with God and one with another. This is a prayer of unity, a prayer about our relationship with God and God’s relationship with us as people and as a church community.
This word unity sometimes get mixed up with the word uniformity. And there is a big difference. Sometimes we get confused and think if we are going to be ONE then we have to be just ALIKE. But this is not the prayer or the word from God. Being in unity means being together in the spirit of God in and being together through our uniqueness and our diversity. This is not new, it’s right in line with the very story of creation. God created fish and birds and mammals and plants and fruit and trees and stars and moon. God created not one thing, God created a diversity of things and yet created them all from one source and all tied to being wrapped up in the love and grace of the Holy Spirit.
This is a beautiful and good place to start, at the beginning with creation. I believe God would say From here to there and there to here — good and beautiful things are everywhere. And we can so often see that so well in the natural world around us. Summer in Colorado and summer in the United states is often such a great time to be in awe of creation. We just had a family trip–12 days of camping and traveling by car in a big loop that took us to mesa verde, the grand canyon, southern utah’s national parks, yellowstone and the grand tetons. So much diversity! In weather in animals in canyons and mountains. We got to be in awe of, as my teens put it, the really big hole of the Grand Canyon and a few days later watch in awe–from a safe distance inside the car– as a mama bear and two cubs rambled through the forest. This is observation and imagination at it’s finest when we can pause and take it in. And there it was beautiful but so is here–walking the neighborhood, watching the birds in the backyard, seeing the clouds change form and size across the sky. It’s all diverse and it’s all beautiful and it’s all created good.
So here we are today, millions of years after that first creation and it is still the same. We live in diversity of creation and diversity of mind. We live created as brothers and sisters and moms and dads and big people and small people and brown, black, white and all shades of color and gender identity and interests and talents and careers and gifts and thoughts and feelings all created from there to here and here to there all the people in between. And as Christians we are created in diversity as well. I used to get stuck thinking that Jesus must be sad at all the denominations and splits and church battles–and yes there is sadness in times when we cannot work together or when we are embroiled in demonizing the ‘other’ But there is more because God created in diversity and Jesus prayed and blessed it so even in our brokenness there is possibility and hope. The diversity means all kinds of people in all kinds of places in their lives have the chance to hear, know, and experience God’s love and that even when we are in deep disagreement we can be reminded that we are created together, not to be uniform and think exactly alike, but to be unified in living in the reality of being children of God, created first in love.
And in that love God also tackles the big issues. The issues that because we are not uniform in our experiences or ages or backgrounds or perspectives cause us to be tempted to take the narrow view of our own field of vision instead of stepping back to see the grander picture. And this is where fear can get us– fear gets us to sad and devastating places like the mass shooting in El Paso, fear can drive us to places that are not a part of our call…. fear of the unknown and fear of being seen as the ‘other’, fear of not being understood or relevant and fear of all the changes that happen so fast in life. But fear is not the source, we are not created in fear. Being one with God is the source and promise of Jesus prayer and the promise of hope for humanity.
And this is the beautiful hope of God’s promise for creation and for us all. There is hope in diversity because it grows us and leads us to new things even when we are afraid. There is hope in diversity because it promises we are unique and also not alone. There is hope in diversity because it calls us to serve one another in love. There is hope in diversity because it reminds us of God and that we are all finally one.
In Christ, to be unified is to remember to observe first and imagine God present here in love. To be unified is to engage in deep discussions with kindness, with respect, with a spirit of knowing that you and me are first created in unity and then in the spirit of love here to learn from and teach one another. To be unified is to stand in awe not just of the beauty of the natural world but in awe of one another–our gifts, our talents, our fears, our pain, our joys, our celebrations, our successes, our failures–God loves them all,
From there to here and here to there, God’s love is everywhere.