"Eulogy of an owl"

Scriptural texts

A.  Resurrection passages: Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:9-20; Luke 23:35-48;

John 20:1-29

B.  Healing miracles of Jesus: John 5:19, 9:1-12; Luke 5:12-26, 6:6-11

            Depending on the occasion for this sermon, your introduction and your lead into the opening story may vary.  For example, for a funeral: "My eulogy today for (the deceased) will begin with a story, titled 'Eulogy of an Owl.'"

If used at Easter, one might start by saying “I wonder if anyone thought about what would have been appropriate to engrave on a tombstone for Jesus.  I wonder if anyone has thought about a eulogy for Him.  Maybe the best eulogy we can find for Jesus is the entire New Testament, which reveals His wisdom, His generosity and sensitivity, His strengths, and His accomplishments.  This Easter morning I would like to begin by reading an interesting eulogy that relates to today's celebration.  It is titled "Eulogy of an Owl" and is taken from [the book] Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story”. 

      His name was Walter Elias, a city boy by birth, the son of a building contractor.  Before Walter was five, his parents moved from Chicago to a farm near Marceline, Missouri.  And it was there on the farm that Walter would have his first encounter with death.  Walter was only seven that particular lazy summer afternoon, not much different from other afternoons.  Dad was tending to farm chores; Mother was in the house.

            It was the perfect day for a young fellow to go exploring.

            Now just beyond a grove of graceful willows lay an apple orchard.  There Walter could make believe to his heart's content that he was lost, which he never was, or that he had captured a wild animal, which he never had.  But today was different.  Directly in front of him, about thirty feet away, perched in the low-drooping branch of an apple tree and apparently sound asleep--was an owl.

            The boy froze.  He remembered his father telling him that owls rested during the day so they could hunt by night.  What a wonderful pet that funny little bird would make.  If only Walter could approach it without awakening it and snatch it from the tree.

            With each step, the lad winced to hear dry leaves and twigs crackle beneath his feet.  The owl did not stir.  Closer...closer...and at last young Walter was standing under the limb just within range of his quarry.  Slowly he reached up with one hand and grabbed  the bird by its legs.  He had captured it!  But the owl, waking suddenly, came alive like no other animal Walter had ever seen.  In a flurry of beating wings, wild eyes and frightened cries, it struggled against the boy's grasp.  Walter, stunned, held on.

Now it's difficult to imagine how what happened next, happened.  Perhaps the response was sparked by gouging talons or by fear itself.  But at some point the terrified boy, still clinging to the terrified bird, flung it to the ground and stomped it to death.

            When it was over, a disbelieving Walter gazed down at the broken heap of bronze feathers and blood.  And he cried.  Walter ran from the orchard but later returned to bury the owl, the little pet he would never know.  Each shovelful of earth from the shallow grave was moistened with tears of deep regret.  And for months thereafter, the owl visited Walter's dreams.

            Ashamed, he would tell no one of the incident until many years later.  By then, the world forgave him.  For that sad and lonely summer's day in the early spring of Walter Elias' life brought with it an awakening of the meaning of life.  Walter never, ever again, killed a living creature.  Although all the boyhood promises could not bring that one little owl back to life, through its death a whole world of animals came into being.

            For it was then that a grieving seven-year-old boy, attempting to atone for a thoughtless misdeed, first sought to possess the animals of the forest while allowing them to run free—by drawing them.

            Now the boy, too, is gone, but his drawings live on in the incomparable, undying art of Walter Elias ... Disney.  Walt Disney.

            And now you know the rest of the story.

   I'm sure that all of you recognize the name Paul Harvey, a radio commentator from Chicago who uncovers a lot of fascinating background information on famous people and uses captivating words and phrases to tell us "the rest of the story."  I'm sure you all recognize the name Walt Disney.  You probably all have a favorite movie of Walt Disney's and probably a favorite Walt Disney character.  Mine happens to be Peter Pan.  I dream a lot about flying.  Flying with my arms outstretched, not in front of me, like Superman, but to the sides, like Peter Pan.  I think I fantasize about being eternally youthful and always taking care of those who are in need.  I have to be careful though, especially lately, because of that new book The Peter Pan Syndrome.  But I do enjoy Walt Disney and his work.  As Paul Harvey wrote, "All the boyhood promises could not bring that one little owl back to life, through its death a whole world of animals came into being."  From a tragic event in the early days of Walt Disney came life, and Walt Disney left a legacy of fantasy, laughter and joy."