One of the marvels of life is the transformation of the fuzzy worm-like caterpillar into a delicate and beautiful butterfly.
The process begins as the caterpillar spins a cocoon, encasing itself away from the world. Through this process of metamorphosis, all that is the caterpillar dissolves. Then all the cells reform into a new being. The caterpillar, the creature limited to the ground, dies. The butterfly, the beauty able to fly with the breeze, is born.
This is transformation.
St. Paul teaches that when we follow Jesus as our Lord, our lives are transformed. In his Second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes, “So if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new.” Paul is saying that once we belong to Christ, life is different. We are raised to new life in Christ. We belong to Christ. We share his life. Consequently the old life has died. Therefore our minds, now formed by the life of Christ, must be different. Our priorities must be different. Our actions must be different.
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As different was a caterpillar is from a butterfly.
But this is often not easy for us. This problem, however, is not new. Throughout the scriptures we hear stories of people refusing to put away the old and to allow God’s life to become their priority. In the Gospel of Luke we read the story of a man who comes to Jesus asking him to settle an argument between the man and his brother over property. Jesus responds by refusing to take sides and then tells a story about a man whose crops produce abundantly, so abundantly that he didn’t have a barn large enough to store all his bounty. So the man decided to build larger barns so that he would have such abundance saved up, that he could retire. He could “relax, eat, drink, be merry.”
But then the voice of God spoke to the man:
“You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” This man had chosen to place his trust – his faith - in his possessions, not in his relationship with God. By doing so he was worshiping another god – his things.
We also are tempted to put other things in the place of God. But in Baptism, we die to those old ways of living. We turn from all the forces and desires that threaten to separate us from God. We turn to Jesus Christ, accepting him as our Lord and Savior, placing our whole trust in his grace and love. And then we promise to follow and obey him. In Baptism we die to everything that separates us from God: evil, malice, anger, greed, slander. We are then reborn. We are raised to faith, love, honesty, generosity.
This life is not easy. It’s often contrary to the world around us. This life requires decision, commitment, trust in God. This life means making a conscious decision to turn from the ways of the past and to follow the ways of Jesus. But we do not do it alone. God’s Holy Spirit is given to us in Baptism, making it possible to live transformed lives, lives that bring honor and glory to our Lord.
I remember a time of turning in my life. Over 20 years ago I was living in Charlotte, working as an accountant. I was starting to discern a call to ordained ministry. But to be honest it scared me. I was in a field that was fairly rewarding financially. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up that security. And I knew seminary would be expensive. So I simply kept going to Church and putting off making a decision. Then one day at Church, I heard the story of the man who built bigger barns. Suddenly, I realized that I was that rich man. I was piling up things, looking to them for security, not trusting God to provide. That night I became serious about discerning God’s call in my life.
When we trust God, our lives are transformed. We are able to be faithful witnesses so that others will see Christ through our lives. We are able to love so that through our lives God’s love is revealed. We are able to share the abundance that we have received in our lives so that God’s work is done in his world. This is what it means to be a new creation.
This is what it means to fly like a butterfly.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fort Mill: firstname.lastname@example.org.