Saturday, June 07, 2014
Pentecost: Let the Spirit fly
Between 2009 and 2010 people of Christ Church participated in a series of small group discussions. The purpose of these discussions was to understand who Christ Church was at that point in its history and begin to articulate some ideas for the future. This process was called the Charette Group. Out of it came our mission statement and our core values, which you should have received with your worship bulletin this morning. The process was then put on hold until the new Rector was in place and the work could be continued.
So, in 2012, during the annual Vestry Retreat, the Vestry and I took up this work and began to develop it further. Along with our consultant, Jim Gettel, the we discerned that Christ Church is a “Community-Centered” Church. By this we mean that our church building is used consistently by church members and various social, civic, international and community groups and organizations. Without the use of our building these organizations might not have a local and international presence. These include Chapel Day Preschool, American Association of University Women; League of Women Voters; Creating Hope International (an organization that educates and helps employ women in Afghanistan); AA; Boy and Girl Scouts, Dance, stretching, and marital arts classes; voice lessons; many recital for local music instructors; professional music concerts; and occasional local businesses who come here for meeting space.
In addition to those who come into our building and find a home; the people of Christ Church go out into the local Dearborn, Detroit, and SE Michigan area and work with those in need. Christ Church also has an international presence through refugee resettlement, wells in Africa, and the SCHOOL project in Liberia. We truly are a Community-Centered Church working to build community on many levels throughout our lives and the world around us.
Recognizing that our community garden is one of the most visible ways that we manifest our Community-Centered identity, the Vestry began to review our ministries using an organic garden model - what is a seed, what is being planted, what is being nurtured, what needs tending too, what needs to lie fallow for a season or two?
Rising up, in a most natural way, has been the development of our land from the community garden to the labyrinth, the memorial garden and the pet memorial garden, and soon, a butterfly garden. These have all arisen from the inspiration of many parishioners who are responding to the Holy Spirit moving within them. All of this work since the foundation of this church, and most recently the Charrette group and the work of the Vestry, has been an ongoing revelation of the Holy Spirit calling us to live into our identity. We are Christ Church.
Take a moment to appreciate how amazing this is.
Let me tell more of why I think this is a sign of the Holy Spirit calling us to live into our identity.
A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with a friend of mine in Chicago. She and I were talking about church life and I shared with her some of the impact of the Lenten
Prayer Room curriculum that compared the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly with the formation of children and adults as Christians. She shared with me a story she heard on “Radiolab” about what happens during the chrysalis stage, the time when the caterpillar has formed a shell over its body until a butterfly emerges.
I don’t know if you have ever really thought about what happens during the chrysalis stage. I guess I always thought it was something like hibernation - except during this hibernation the caterpillar grows wings. It turns out that the process is much more startling.
If one were to cut open a chrysalis one would not find a caterpillar growing wings. Instead one would find nothing but a gooey mess. It’s shocking, actually. The caterpillar completes dissolves and there remains no distinguishing features of either the caterpillar or the butterfly. Then some how this gooey mess reforms itself and a butterfly is released from the shell.
Scientists who have studied butterflies have wondered how this gooey mess becomes a butterfly. There is no firm answer to this and other questions. For example, are the caterpillar and butterfly two separate beings? Or does the butterfly retain some of its memory of being a caterpillar?
To figure this out scientist subjected caterpillars to a strong, offensive odor which made the caterpillar move away from the scent. After the caterpillar had metamorphosed into a butterfly they subjected the butterfly to the same scent, and the butterfly moved away from the scent. Despite all this disintegration into a gooey mess there remained some kind of conscious memory from caterpillar to butterfly.
In addition, if one were to slice open a caterpillar, before it formed the chrysalis, one would see that the inside lining of the caterpillar skin contains the beginning structure of the butterfly, its wings and skeleton. So when the caterpillar constructs the shell and disintegrates into goo, some aspect of the butterfly it will become is embedded within the walls and goo of the chrysallis.
The caterpillar contains everything it is and ever will be inside of itself just waiting for it to be revealed. Spiritual mystics of all faith traditions have alluded to this very idea for human beings as well. We contain within us all we will ever be, given to us by our creator, and it is revealed in and through our lives. As Christians we understand this as a process, a gift, of the Holy Spirit.
Our reading this morning from the Acts of the Apostles describes a similar startling experience of the Holy Spirit being revealed in and through people. Sudden, with a rush of wind, the disciple are speaking in languages not their own, and they are understanding one another. Initially the disciples are stunned. But before long they move out of their fear, embrace the gifts of the sprit, trust in God, and follow the Holy Spirit. Two thousand years later Christians are still doing this - moving out of fear, trusting God, following the Spirit.
Especially when we live in anxious times, we cannot allow fear to stop us in the process or we will be like a caterpillar dissolved into a messy goo that never re-forms into a butterfly.
Jesus did not let fear or worry stop him. He followed where God was calling him through his life, into his death, and ultimately the resurrection. The disciples did not let fear and worry stop them. They followed God and the Holy Spirit and a church was born. Subsequently lives have been transformed by God’s love for over two thousand years.
We too are setting aside our worries and fears and spreading our wings and flying in faith, following where God is calling us, even though at times we have no clear idea what the outcome will be. And amazing things are happening! Our ministries are blooming. The church building and property are buzzing with activity. We have much to be thankful for!
Soon we will go outside and bless our garden, which has been a true labor of love this spring as we expanded its size and built a fabulous fence to protect the crop.
On this day of Pentecost, let us give thanks to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the birth of the church which is celebrated on this day, and for all the blessings of this life.