I want to briefly remind you of an old fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson.
If you remember, this tale starts with a mother duck waiting for her brood to hatch. Each duckling hatches, and the mother ironically chides them to remember the world is much larger and more diverse than they can imagine in their little home.
When the last egg hatches and is a misfit, an ugly duckling, he is an outcast. He endures suffering and abuse at the hands of the other ducks and animals on the farm. Being different is not acceptable. A spiteful duck warns: “He is so big and ugly he must be turned out. I wish his mother could improve him a little.”
The mother tries to make sense of the difference: “He has remained too long in the egg,”she says, “and therefore his figure is not properly formed.” But it is no consolation to the rest of the animals, and the ugly duckling is bitten, and pushed, and made fun of because he is not the same.
He goes through abuse after abuse, and finally leaves his family seeking solace and peace. Time after time the duckling does not fit into what is “normal.” He can’t lay eggs. He can’t behave like a cat. He can’t become a hen. He can’t do anything that the other animals seem to be able to do naturally, despite their attempts to change him into what they believe he should be.
In final despair, he is ready to die. He sees some royal looking birds in the distance. He plans to fly to them, expecting them to spurn him the way he has been spurned all of his life.
He gets to them, and they rush towards him, these beautiful and majestic swans. “Kill me,” cries the ugly duckling. But as he hangs his head down in despair ready to be killed, he catches his own reflection. He is all grown up-- a beautiful and majestic-- dare we say fabulous?- swan, staring back at him. And children come to the pond and throw bread for him to eat, and cry out, “the new swan is the most beautiful of all!” And the old swans bow their heads before him. And the not-so-little-anymore bird says to himself, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”
My friends, there are no ugly ducklings. In my tradition, the Christian tradition, it is in the waters of baptism that we claim the fabulousness that was endowed into each of us in our creation, and affirm the fabulousness that is endowed in everyone else too. As the ugly duckling’s mother said, “The world is a very big place.” There is room for all kinds of people.
There are no ugly ducklings. And let me tell you, we have some fabulous swans. And we are here, and we must never forget, that we are here to raise our wings and fly to anybody who doesn’t know yet just how fabulous they are. So let’s keep showing up where those who are outcast and tortured and picked on and told that they don’t belong and who have started to believe it themselves are. It is our job to make sure they know that they are loved and wanted and fit in just as they are, and that they are welcome, no matter what their gender identities, sexual orientations, or how else they don’t fit into somebody else’s ideas and expectations-- because they- we- are beautiful. Thanks be to God.