I thank Donald Haynes and John Meunier for this wonderful little story which tells us so much about church life today. Apparently (although I can’t find a reliable source to confirm this) it originally comes from a sermon by the famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard:
Once upon a time there was a village called Ducktown. The entire population was made up of barnyard ducks. They built little duck houses and slept in feather beds of duck down, and gobbled up duck food and quacked in duck talk. On Sundays the females put on little hats and sashes, the males put on little neckties and the duck families waddled down to Duck Church, quacking all the way.
One week they called a new duck preacher, and were very excited to hear his first sermon. He told them that God had endowed all ducks with three great gifts—webbed feet for swimming, beaks for gobbling food and wings for flying.
However, they had lost the talent to use their wings. If they looked into the sky, the preacher said, they could see flocks of wild ducks flying in perfect “V” formations. But they were content to eat, quack and waddle around Ducktown, and couldn’t even swim much.
“I am here to tell you that you can fly,” he said. “Your wings can still lift your bodies into the air and you can soar like the wild ducks. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to leave the church this morning and take a short flight over the village?”
He was so persuasive that suddenly there was a loud “Quaaack” from the back of the church, and one of the young adult ducks was in the air, circling over the congregation. Some of the other ducks were so excited that they joined in the fun, and soon you could hardly see for all the flying feathers. Their lives would be changed forever. They would no longer be confined to the ground; now they could claim their God-given endowment as masters of the skies.
Then it happened. One loud duck waddled down to the front and quacked out a protest: “Stop this nonsense! We are domesticated, not wild. We are civilized ducks. We have houses with beds, yards with gates, a village with streets and a church with walls. Flying is what our ancestors did, but we don’t fly.”
One by one the ducks flew back down to their perches, feeling a bit foolish for what they had done and holding up their heads with quiet dignity. The chastised new preacher pronounced the benediction and they all waddled home, never to fly again.
Are we just waddling like “civilized” ducks, or are we flying like free as God made us?