Rev. John Gibbons
First Parish in Bedford, Unitarian Universalist
September 13, 2020
The other day in the New York Times (a respectable publication) I read a remarkable story about frogs that eat beetles. Now, it won’t surprise you, when frogs eat these bugs, these beetles…that usually results in the death of the beetle. Get eaten, you die. But there is a kind of beetle called Regimbartia beetles that, after being swallowed…they swim and claw their way all through the frog’s digestive tract until they reach the other end where – lo and behold – they are pooped out! The New York Times – all the news that is fit to print (and fit to preach) – says these pooped-out beetles emerge “soiled but alive!”
I know you want to know more. Shinji Sugiura, a biologist at Kobe University in Kobe, Japan thinks Regimbartia beetles may use their legs to brace themselves and crawl through the frog’s gut, which can stretch several inches — an arduous journey for a four- or five-millimeter-long beetle. When they reach the end of that tunnel, the insects may be able to tickle open the cloacal sphincter, the ring of muscle that drawstrings the frog’s rear end shut, expelling themselves in a flood of (poop).” Cool, huh??? Soiled but alive!
But that’s not all, folks! There’s another kind of bug this one’s called a Bombardier beetle – that, after being swallowed by the frog, emits a kind of boiling anal toxin that causes the frog to throw up…to puke the beetle! Once again, this time from the other end, the beetle emerges soiled but alive!
By the way, if you google, there’s some great video of these pooping and puking beetles…but my esteemed worship associates did not encourage me to share these videos with you today. I say go check ‘em out; they’re fantastic!
Now, you can write the rest of this little parable, can’t you? My friends, we’re the beetles and we’ve done been swallowed up by the frog. Now frogs are nice, I don’t mean to disparage frogs, but we’ve done been swallowed up by this pandemic! Our country, moreover, has been swallowed up, we’re being gobbled up by forces of authoritarianism, white supremacy, racism, disrespect, and hate.
And so…now that we’re in the belly of the frog, we beetles will have to use every ounce of our strength to brace ourselves for an arduous crawl through the frog’s gut that we may tickle the cloacal sphincter and be expelled from this nightmare – soiled but alive.
Alternatively, in the next weeks and months and years we may learn to emit some anal toxins – or some other form of resistance – even something so quotidian as voting – that will force the frog to puke us up – so that again we may emerge soiled but alive!
Puking, by the way, has been in the news lately. Reacting to the United States’ president’s withholding of early evidence of the lethality of the coronavirus, Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C. was quoted last week, saying “As an epidemiologist, I want to vomit.” He’s not alone. Can I get an amen?
You know our late minister emeritus Jack Mendelsohn once preached a great sermon in which he advocated “A Heimlich Maneuver for America.” Our democracy, he said, is choking on the sins of race and class and hate, and our vital airways are obstructed such that far too many of us cannot BREATHE. America needs to be heimliched, Jack said, if we are to breathe free.
And so I say unto you, my fellow Regimbartia and Bombardier beetles, welcome to a new season at First Parish, a season of hope and renewal and arduous crawling in the belly of the beast that we may reach one end or the other, be pooped or puked into renewed life, soiled to be sure but very much alive. As Eric Burdon and the Animals preached so many years ago, “We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do!”
And, as was preached even longer ago in the Book of Romans chapter 12, verse 2…the charge now emblazoned upon us is this: “May we not be conformed to this world, but may we be transformed by the renewing of our minds.”
May it be so! Amen! Blessed be! And, so there!
PÁDRAIG Ó TUAMA: “So let us pick up the stones over which we stumble, friends, and build altars. Let us listen to the sound of breath in our bodies. Let us listen to the sounds of our own voices, of our own names, of our own fears. Let’s claw ourselves out from the graves we’ve dug. Let’s lick the earth from our fingers. Let us look up and out and around. The world is big and wide and wild and wonderful and wicked, and our lives are murky, magnificent, malleable, and full of meaning. Oremus. Let us pray.”
May it be so, amen, inshallah, and blessed be!