Monday, May 25, 2015

Puppy Can Fly!

Have you ever hosted a Butterfly house? Have you ever hosted a Butterfly house?  Like an ant farm, you begin with purchasing a kit which includes a card which you fill  out and put it in the mail. I suspect this now can begin online. Anyways, a week or so later you get a shipment of caterpillars.  You set up the box that came with your kit, or now a mesh cylinder.  Inside that box, you place a dish of water and a branch with leaves.  Then caterpillars do what they are made to do.  They eat and eat and then they cocoon.

What you might not know is that the caterpillars do not so much build a cocoon as they split open their caterpillar skin and the cocoon material emerges from within and then hardens.  If I was a caterpillar and knew what was happening, I would be terrified, perplexed, stomach groaning, weakness taking over my will.  What in your life, in our world is like this, a complete shedding of an old skin?  And in the middle of all this radical change my caterpillar self cannot even imagine the drama that comes next.  Because while in the cocoon you grow wings.  WINGS!  Send forth your Spirit, and renew the face of the Earth.

Every year monarch butterflies migrate from Mexico to Canada and then back.  This is not of journey of individual butterflies on a round trip vacation.  The butterflies that emerge and feed in Mexico, these journey north, where they feed and mate and lay eggs and and the new and older butterflies fly on.  This generational relay happens repeatedly as they travel north.  Each time the refreshed flock repeats the pattern: fly, feed, make many many new butterflies who will continue the journey.  This is much like the progress of the early church in Acts.  Go, plant, send.  Yet as in Acts, the landscape the new generation flies through is not the same as for those who came before.

Austin is not Toronto.  The world we dwell in is quite different than  the one we began in.  Much like us, much like the church as it travels through time and place.  The landscapes and forms we once knew,  are not what we are flying through now.  We are a daydream of previous generations, but they could barely imagine our setting.  Each new generation is called to explore new ways to know and share Christ’s love.  Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the Earth.

As you may know, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the author of the book of Acts are believed to be the same person, or at least from the same community.  Yet they these are substantially different texts.
Luke’s gospel is all about what is going on now in light of the past.  Acts is all about what is emerging to prepare for the journey that lies ahead. Luke is like friends gathered around a campfire with mugs of warm drink.  Acts is like an ecstatic historical-ish lecture fueled by multiple espressos.  Luke is like a loving and grown up german shepherd.  Acts is rather like a puppy.  A constantly moving and exploring, full of love and excitement, fuzzy creature who is making muddy footprints on the white rug kind of puppy.  You want your church solid and unchanging and having neither risk nor passion?  Then do not follow the model of Acts.

It is worth noting that in our Acts passage today the Spirit of God is not a wind or fire but rather compared to wind or fire. In the ancient world, as well as today, fire is a common metaphor for experiences of inspiration.  Think of Wesley with his heart burning or Isaiah tongue touched with coals. This fire-iness draws us into that moment of power draws us into living with God, his creation and his mission for us in fresh and inspired ways.

Maybe you are a butterfly and maybe you recall those legs but when you try to shake them,  they simply are no longer there.  They were good legs, they helped you become the creature you are today. If you try to walk on those legs, nothing happens.  They are not there.  Now imagine you are a butterfly, and you are laying on the bottom of that box on your belly, searching for legs you no longer have, all the while you already have wings.  It is an absurd image, yet most of us do this frequently.  The methods and modes that served 20th century churches, and people and societies, many of these are simply no longer with us, or no longer serve Christ’s mission.  We can choose to react to changes by trying to remain still in the whirlwind, looking for our caterpillar legs.  Or we can FLY!  Which we are created to do.   Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth.

I once had a butterfly house. The caterpillars became cocoons, and from the cocoons burst butterflies. It noght.  They did what they were created to do in ways we could never have dreamed of.
was a terribly awfully windy spring. We didn’t want to set them free.  We had images of those precious friends being ripped to shreds.  We held off.  We offered more branches and more water.  But we knew.  We knew they would die if they stayed in the same old box.  Butterflies cannot live as caterpillars did.  So we gathered our courage.  We took that box outside. We found a protected garden full of lush azaleas.  And we opened the box. Those butterflies lept out, they flew straight up into the whirlwind.  All of our imaginings of doom were for nothing.  Those butterflies knew how to fly and where to go, because they are made that way.

So too the Spirit leads us with the insight of a butterfly that knows it must change, and somehow, knows how and where to fly.  We are no longer caterpillars or disciples confused in an upper room.  That skin, that self, it was more than a life cycle ago.  We who are grown dogs will never be the puppy we remember, but we must find in ourselves that puppy like love and passion.  And we who are monarchs will never be a caterpillar again. Yet all around us are new generations of caterpillars and puppies who we are called to nurture now, here in this place and time and looking toward the undreamed of good things that are emerging. The Spirit of God is alive and well and leading us from one generation and into the next. A butterfly who lives as a caterpillar will not survive. The Spirit of God has made us to fly.  Come Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the Earth.

Spokane, Washington