“ICE CREAM MUD” story by Ray Gray
It was a hot, hot summer day. Under the apple tree stood Horse, Donkey and Goose.
Horse said, “Oh my, it is hot, I need something to cool me.”
“Hee-haw, hee-haw,” said Donkey. “I have an idea. How about some ice cream?”
“Yes, yes, yes, “said Goose, “that is a fine idea, but where will we get the ice cream?”
“Hee-haw, hee-haw,” said Donkey. “I will go to Cow who lives in the barn. She has ice cream and she is willing to share with all.”
So, they all agreed that Donkey should go to the barn to ask Cow for some of her ice cream.
Now as I said, it was a hot, hot summer day. As Donkey made his way down the road to the barn, the heat rose in waves above the ground. Donkey thought how good the ice cream would taste on this hot, hot summer day.
When Donkey arrived at the barn, he said to Cow, “Hee-haw, hee-haw, I would like a bucket of vanilla ice cream, a bucket of chocolate ice cream, and a bucket of strawberry ice cream.”
Cow scooped down into the cool, creamy vanilla ice cream and carefully filled one bucket. Then she dipped down into the rich, dark chocolate ice cream and filled a second bucket. Finally, she filled a third bucket with the pink ice cream full of juicy, red strawberries.
Donkey thanked Cow for the ice cream, then balancing the buckets on a stick, he started back to his friends under the apple tree.
The sun was high in the clear sky and it really was a hot, hot summer day. As Donkey made his way back to the apple tree, he thought how good the cold ice cream would taste. Suddenly he stopped and called out, “Hee-haw, hee-haw, this ice cream is going to start melting on this hot, hot summer day. Maybe I’d better lick a little of the melted ice cream off the top to keep it all from spoiling.”
Who can say whether Donkey thought he was doing the right thing, or whether he just wanted to eat all of the ice cream? First, he opened the cool, creamy vanilla and his big, red tongue skimmed a layer of melted ice cream from the top.
Then he opened the rich, dark chocolate and saw that it was melted too, so he licked deeper into the ice cream.
Finally, he opened the pink ice cream with juicy, red strawberries and this time his big, fat tongue went very deep into the bucket.
Donkey raised his head from the bucket of strawberry ice cream, licked his whiskers with his red tongue and looked back to the vanilla ice cream. He saw that it had started to melt again, so he went back and started a second round of licking more ice cream from each bucket.
And by the time he started a third round, he could not stop: Around and around he went from vanilla to chocolate to strawberry, vanilla to chocolate to strawberry, vanilla to chocolate to strawberry!
“Hee-haw, hee-haw, “said Donkey as he looked down and saw that almost all of the ice cream was gone, “I’ve eaten nearly all of the ice cream. Oh, my friends are going to be angry. What can I do?”
Donkey looked about for some way to hide the truth. There at the side of the road he saw a little stream of water. The bank of the stream was ooey, gooey, brown mud. Donkey smiled as he thought of a way to trick his friends. He carried the three buckets over to the stream.
Then Donkey scooped out the little bit of vanilla ice cream from the bottom of the bucket, filled the bucket with mud, and put the vanilla ice cream back on top. He scooped out the chocolate ice cream, filled the bucket with mud and put the chocolate ice cream back on top; and last, he scooped out the strawberry ice cream, filled the bucket with mud and put the strawberry ice cream back on top.
“Hee-haw, hee-haw,” said Donkey, “when my friends find the mud, I will say it must have been Cow who put the mud in the ice cream. She probably ran short of ice cream on this hot, hot summer day.” So, Donkey balanced the buckets on his stick again and continued on his way.
Back at the apple tree, it was still a very, very, hot, hot summer day. Horse closed his eyes and said, “Oh Goose, where is that Donkey? I need some ice cream to cool me.” “Horse, Horse,” cried Goose as she looked down the road, “I can see him. Hurry, Horse! Our ice cream is coming!”
Down the road they went to meet Donkey…” Clump, clump, clump,” sounded Horse’s hooves, and …” Flap, flap, flap, “sounded Goose’s wings.
When they came to Donkey, neither one of them greeted him. They just grabbed a bucket and hurried back to the shade of the apple tree.
Horse was first to discover what was in the bucket. He dipped down into what he thought was cool, creamy vanilla ice cream. “Ah, ah, ah, blaaah!” cried out Horse as he spit out the ice cream mud. Then Goose dipped down into what she thought was rich, dark chocolate ice cream. “Nah, nah, nah, naaah!” cried out Goose as she spit out the ice cream mud.
Angrily Goose called to Donkey who was slowly walking up the road toward the apple tree. “You did this Donkey; you put mud in our ice cream!”
“Hee-haw, hee-haw,” said Donkey with his head down. “It wasn’t me, it must have been Cow. She probably ran short of ice cream on this hot, hot summer day.”
Donkey raised his head to see if his friends believed his lie.
“You, You, YOU, Donkey!” cried Goose, “You put the mud in the buckets. You ate our ice cream. I can see it all over your whiskers— vanilla, chocolate and strawberry! You will be punished for this!”
“No, Goose,” said Horse calmly, “I don’t think we need to punish Donkey. Look at his belly; see how full of ice cream it is. And look at his face; see how bad he feels about telling a lie to his friends. I don’t think he will ever be tempted to eat so much ice cream again; but more importantly, he will never be tempted to tell another lie like this one about ice cream mud!”
9-27-20 “Magic Eyes” –The Rev. Susan Scott, Guest Preacher
In the Ice Cream Mud story, it is the friends donkey has wronged who extend him forgiveness — forgiveness not only for eating all the ice cream they’d hoped to enjoy, but also, forgiveness for the lie he’s told about cow putting mud in the ice cream. Like the scribes and Pharisees in the story of the woman caught in adultery, Goose is ready to condemn and punish the wrongdoer.
Horse, on the other hand, suggests they forgive donkey — now, horse is not extending cheap grace . . . he notices evidence of donkey’s remorse, and finds in donkey’s distended belly, proof that donkey is experiencing the uncomfortable results of his ice cream gluttony . . . and then further evidence of remorse in the downcast expression on donkey’s face after he tells the lie.
Through the forgiveness extended to donkey, all the parties to this ice cream mud deception, are restored to right relationship with one another. Not only does horse offer forgiveness, but horse expresses confidence in donkey’s capacity to change his behavior as a result of this incident. Horse declares: “I don’t think donkey will ever be tempted to eat so much ice cream again, nor tell another lie like this one about ice cream mud.”
How’s that for positive forecasting!? Horse seems to recognize that donkey is more than the worst thing he’s ever done.
Someone has said that life is a school for forgiveness. Perhaps this is why almost two-thirds of Jesus’ teaching is directly or indirectly about forgiveness. As inquisitive, life-long students in this school of forgiveness, what questions do you have about forgiveness? If we just considered those questions I would have enough sermon material for a month of Sundays!
But the question I bring to today’s sermon is this: How does offering and receiving forgiveness prove freeing, healing and restorative, not only to the one who has done the wrong, but to the ones who’ve been wronged?
The story read for us out of John’s gospel (John 8:1- 11) is a partial response to that question. By the laws of Jesus’ day, it was permissible for citizens of a community to stone to death any woman known to be having an adulterous relationship.
Like goose, who condemns and threatens punishment for donkey, the righteous religious leaders, armed with stones, surround the accused woman. They are poised to condemn and exact punishment.
By singling out this woman for stoning, her accusers bolster their own merit — their own sense of moral superiority in the eyes of one another and God. But Jesus . . . Jesus takes the wind out of their self- righteous sails, with just a few words: “Let those of you without sin, cast the first stone.”
Jesus’ response opens the eyes of the religious leaders to what they share in common with the woman. He invites accuser and accused back into community with one another — back to a right way of seeing and relating to one another.
Yes, Jesus heightens their awareness of one of the universal bonds that connects us all — our individual tendency to go astray . . . to behave in ways that alienate us from God and from one another . . . and having wandered into wrong-doing . . . of our need to be restored to community and to a right way of seeing ourselves in relation to others.
What are we most in need of when we’ve done wrong or been wronged by another? I would suggest that few of us can move ahead with dignity without an honest exposure of the truth, and a willingness to be accountable. You cannot heal what hasn’t been acknowledged. To move toward acknowledgement by both parties, we can confront someone who’s wronged us, matter-of-factly — speaking the truth of what has happened without condemnation or threat of punishment, in hopes of having that truth heard.
Jesus models this for us. After the woman’s accusers have dispersed, Jesus continues to interact with the woman. He assures her that just as the others did not condemn her, neither does he. But in saying to her: “Go and sin no more.” he confronts her matter factly with her accountability. He invites her participation in her own restoration by expressing confidence in her ability to change her behavior. Like horse’s treatment of donkey, Jesus’ treatment of the woman is emblematic of the truth that “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
In a certain South African tribal culture there is a word that refers to a human quality that includes human virtues such as compassion and empathy . . . that word is Ubuntu. Ubuntu means “humanity towards others” — behaving in ways that acknowledge the universal bond that connects us all. It is not rugged individualism, or self-righteous congratulation, but rather an acknowledgement of our mutual interdependence — Ubuntu leads the individual to say: “I am, because we are.”
One way Ubuntu is practiced, is if a tribal member has done something wrong — something that breaks the bond of community with others. That person is taken to the center of the village and is surrounded by community members. Instead of issuing condemnation and exacting punishment, they speak to the wrong-doer of all the good that person has done in the life of their family and community. They invite the wrong-doer to see themselves with new eyes — what some have called “magic eyes.” This practice also grants those who have been wronged, with new vision, with magic eyes through which to see the one who has harmed them and the wider community. So, in this tradition, sin and failure are seen as an opportunity for the transformation of the person harmed, the person causing harm, and the entire community.
Ubuntu is based on an underlying conviction that each person is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done . . . that a person’s wrong-doing is a disguised cry for help — a sign that the person has lost their way. The community unites to encourage the person to reconnect with their true nature and be restored to community. Instead of using shame and punishment to change behavior, Ubuntu mobilizes the power of unity and affirmation to restore the one who has wronged themselves and others in the community.
|Are you in need of “magic eyes”? Are you at a moment in your life when you need to offer forgiveness to someone, or are you, yourself presently in need of asking for and receiving another’s forgiveness? Whether it is our own personal or family story, or our national and global history . . . the reluctance to offer and receive forgiveness can reap bitter fruits that begin with taking sides and nursing grudges, and in some cases, end in cut offs in relationships or even violence. What can happen when we forgive or accept another’s forgiveness? Well, then we are no longer locked in the past. We let go of our hope for a different past so we can tell the truth about and eventually accept what has actually happened. This frees up energy for healing and for behaving better in the present and the future. It may take time and considerable anguish of spirit to come to the place where we can truly ‘forgive” someone. In my own life I have sometimes spent years in the process of coming to forgive some one who I feel has wronged me. We may move to a place of total forgiveness in stages, while appealing to God . . . “I forgive insofar as I am able, help Thou my remaining un-forgiveness.” In the case of real offense to another, forgiveness is not an act to be taken lightly, nor should it be spoken of as commonplace or casual. In the case of repeated abusive behavior, sometimes we can best move toward forgiveness by changing the nature of our relationship with the person who has wronged us. However forgiveness comes to pass, it is a blessed gift and a sacred trust. It has enormous power to heal and mend. When forgiveness is both sought and given, the act blesses two people, the forgiver and the forgiven, and enriches them both. Forgiveness, sought and granted reminds us that God makes a way for us not only through our capacity to live virtuously, but also by way of second chances — by way of the grace that God and others have extended to us. Yes, forgiveness is a gift of God, it has the power to transform . . . the power to grant us a new way of seeing ourselves and one another . . . with magic eyes.|