I Never Heard a Duck Scream by Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton

Lamentations 8:19-26

The GRR staff spent a couple of days in retreat in late August. We ventured over to Hot Springs and stayed in an Airbnb on Lake Hamilton. It was a wonderful and quiet space. It was the type of space one would retreat to with family and friends, or when wanting to listen to God, through the wonder of creation in water. On Wednesday night, we were sitting on the patio by the water. We were getting ready to play scrabble, while waiting for Jarrett Banks to come from the grocery store. Then suddenly, we began to hear a screeching sound. At first, we thought it was the rooster across the way. That rooster crowed from sun up until sundown during our stay. I wanted to name the rooster a retired rooster since, when we began our day, he would begin his daily ritual. However, it was not the rooster. Whatever it was that screamed, it got our attention, and for about two minutes, we heard screaming coming from the other side of the lake. At once, I saw the creature in distress as the sound hurled across the lake. Off the reflection of the night sky and water, I saw the duck moving towards the other end of the lake, still screaming at the top of its lungs.

Something happened to the duck to cause her distress (using my point of privilege, I choose to make her a female duck) – was another creature biting it? She was definitely in pain. Something unwelcome happened to that creature that caused her to cry out. And her only relief was to take to the sky. I took to Siri and asked, “What causes ducks to scream?”  Siri took me to a list of answers:  they may be lonely, in pain, fearful, hungry, mourning, need attention, or want to be left alone. This sounds like human beings, right?

We want relief and peace, to be in the company of family and friends, to know that all is good in us and around us. When life comes along to interrupt our joy, our routine, it makes us want to scream! When transitions happen, when the unwelcome visitor of death darkens our door, when we are bitten by hatred and carelessness, when church members don’t come back to church, when conflict happens, and we can’t get along, sometimes we want to scream!

My pastor, Rev. Dr.  Frank Thomas, once told us that when we get to the center of who we are, we are the same. Once we peel back the labels of race, ethnicity, gender, and the other isms that separate us, we feel the same. We experience life through a myriad of emotions. A White mother with a son struggling with drugs, experiences the same pain as a Black mother with a son struggling with drugs. A father who cannot provide for and/or protect his family, feels the same way. Hunger is hunger. The lack of water (even through racist economic exploits and a lack of leadership by our political leaders) is a lack of water. Everyone has a right to clean water regardless of where they live, where they shop, or how they show up in life!

Our belief gives us a choice to trust in the God of Lamentations. This hope in the one who gives us relief should always be on our minds. We are to recall with our mind God’s great love, and because of this love, we are not consumed. Yes, we will go down through some things, but God will bring us up on eagle’s wings. Faith overcomes grief, loneliness, fear, and mourning. “God’s compassions never fail; they are new every morning, Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto us.” So when we are overwhelmed by life, when we are fearful, hungry, angry and in mourning, and need attention, we can be like our retreat duck and take to the sky, move across the darkness beneath us, look up and hold on to the faithfulness of our God. “Every day is a day of thanksgiving, God’s been so good to me, every day, God is blessing me.”

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