Sermon 11.18.18 The Darkling Beetle


The BIG Event, Stewardship Sunday

Scripture Lessons:  Isaiah 25:  6-9 and Matthew 6:25-33

The Namib Desert is a vast expanse of, well, dry sand, in south western Africa.  This long narrow coastal desert stretches about 1200 miles from Angola through Namibia and into South Africa.  The name, Namib, comes from the Nama word which means “vast place” and indeed the Namib Desert is a vast place covering over 31,000 square miles.  That’s about half the size of the state of Florida.  The Namib Desert is one of the oldest on the planet.  It may be between 55 and 80 million years old!  The landscape includes sand seas with dunes rising up to 1000 feet, gravel plains, and scattered mountain outcroppings.  In some places, the average yearly precipitation is 2 millimeters per year!  The temperature ranges from 140 degrees F to freezing.  Not surprisingly, there is very little human habitation or activity in this desert, though there is mining of diamonds and tungsten. 

Despite the harsh conditions, there is prolific life in the Namib Desert.  It is home to some 3,500 plant species half of which are endemic.  That means they can be found only in this region of the Earth.  One of these plants is the Welwishcia mirabilis.  It has only two long, narrow leaves and it can live for over 1,000 years!

There are also a variety of animal species that live in the Namib Desert including birds, shrews, moles and snakes as well as zebra and even elephants.  There are also lots of beetles and bugs including the amazing darkling beetle.

This beetle is endemic to the Namib Desert.  That means it cannot be found living anywhere else on Earth.  It’s a little beetle about the size of a thumb nail.  And it gets up every morning and climbs up a sand dune which may be up to 1000 feet high.  That’s like twice the height of Mount Everest to a human being.  Then, when this beetle gets to the top of the dune, does it lay down and rest?  No!  It stands still, facing the wind, and does a head stand.  In this position, here’s what happens scientifically – the bumpy elytrons with a pattern of hydrophilic bumps and hydrophobic troughs cause humidity from the morning fog to condense into droplets and roll down the beetle’s back into its mouth.  OK.  That means that the beetle does this head stand and moisture from the fog forms drops on its body which has special bumps and grooves to channel the water down the body right into the beetle’s mouth.  What a design!  In this way, the beetle takes in up to 40% of its body weight in water.  That’s like an adult drinking about 30 liters of water!  (Calculated for a 160 pound adult.)  So, the beetle doesn’t rest at the top of the dune but it sure has a big drink of water!  Then it heads down the dune to conduct the rest of the days activities!  This seemingly crazy water capture procedure keeps the beetle alive even in the harshest conditions.  

Well, I’m going to suggest that coming to church for us is something like heading up the dune for the darkling beetle.  We get up on Sunday morning and get dressed, eat something, drink something, and then we head to church.  Here we find what we need to live.  We find community.  We find love.  We find spiritual sustenance.  We find teachings and values that promise life.  We find a concept of reality to not only sustain us but to help us flourish.  All that we need to live is offered here.  We just have to show up and take it in like the beetle heading up the dune.  Sometimes it may seem like a taxing trek up that dune but the beetle is not disappointed.  It does its headstand and gathers the water it needs to make it through another day.  Some Sundays, it seems like hard work to get to church.  How are we going to fit it in with all that we have to get done?  Maybe we feel weak.  Maybe there are other reasons the effort seems like a stumbling block.  Maybe it’s not as bad as climbing a mountain twice the height of Everest, but it could be as taxing as doing a head stand!  But we make the effort and we get here, and we find just what we need to make it through the day, or through the challenge we are facing, or through the difficult circumstance that has us stressed.  Here, at church, we find that what we need comes pouring in.  We just have to show up.  And then we leave to proceed with the rest of life, prepared, supported, and fortified, even for the harshest conditions.  

So as you make your pledge this morning, offering time, talent, and treasure, think of all that we are receiving from the church and all that the church is offering.  It’s all here.  Everything we need to live with meaning, purpose, joy, and delight.  Let us share the harvest that is being so generously given to us.  Amen.  

Information on the darkling beetle and the Namib Desert is from:

Planet Earth, “Deserts”

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.

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