THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT
Rev. Bridget Mitchell/Midwest Conference/Pastor St. Matthew’s Chapel AMEC
2 Corinthians 5:10-17
11) Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12) Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. 13) If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14) Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15) He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
16) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians at a vulnerable time in his life. He had learned that the church at Corinth was struggling, and he sought to take action to preserve the unity of that local body of believers. The letter is riddled with personal comments as Paul revealed details about the persecution he had suffered for the sake of Christ as well as about a mysterious thorn in the flesh that kept him reliant on God.
Second Corinthians is a letter that Paul used to encourage and affirm this ambitious church he had founded in Corinth. He wanted them to see his example of courage and self-sacrificing love. They had received his first letter well and according to Titus’s report Paul had much to boast and rejoice about concerning their eagerness to grow.
I watch a lot of National Geographic. I watch because animals teach me something. Ants teach about how different ants have different jobs that contribute to as a whole community. You’ll never find a worker ant performing the duties of a soldier ant. Ants taught me the importance of staying in my lane. Birds taught me that in order to fly it must first be pushed out of the nest. It seems harsh but it’s necessary. The lesson? You must leave the nest or be pushed out.
Then there’s the butterfly. Look at the transformation of a monarch from larva to butterfly, a supreme work of nature, and I like how it simplifies the process of change and struggle that is as wondrous as it is mysterious.
The marvel of metamorphosis was not understood until the twentieth century. Life for the monarch butterfly begins as a tiny egg. In a few days the larva emerges from its soft shell and crawls about eating its way through nearby leaves. The tiny larva grows quickly, reemerging a little changed each time its outer skin sheds. And then one day before its last shedding the toddler monarch attaches to the underside of a branch, encases itself within a protective substance, and waits for the “real” change to begin (Psalm 46:10).
Watching a larva wrap itself in a cocoon is amazing in and of itself. But what happens next in the suspended cocoon is profound. Within its tightly wrapped sheath the worm-like monarch begins to change. Its cells turn off, one-by-one. The larva slowly dissolves from its former worm-like state into an unrecognizable, gooey substance and dies. But, within the goo is the promise of life and change and struggle. Sleeping cells within the goo (present from birth) turn on and begin to build a new creature unlike the former. The change from an earthbound worm to a heaven-bound butterfly is nothing less than the creation of a new creature. Nothing from the old is part of the new. This picture of a monarch during metamorphosis is a loose comparison to the change a believer undergoes in the cocoon of divine grace.
I just want to address briefly what I have observed. From the moment the egg is laid there will be a fight to stay alive. While in its young stage a butterfly larva crawls slowly trying to find shelter and food. Predators are everywhere waiting to swoop in and kill it. The larva fight to stay alive and courageously crawl with the goal of the transformation. It is an arduous journey, a dangerous one, and some make it and others do not. Those make it are just trying to be what God made them to be…….. so the larva keep crawling, keep pressing to the mark of the high calling.
Some of us are just trying to make it. The predators are out there seeking to destroy us. We are fighting principalities in high places. We are fighting for clean water and fresh air. We are fighting corrupt police forces that seem to disproportionately kill the people who look like us. We are fighting redlining and voter suppression. We are fighting…… our churches are fighting too…. We are fighting against a pimped-out gospel that promises riches for a seed…… fighting an entertainment factor in churches that use fog machines, camera ready preachers, and Broadway stage lighting but we are still crawling……. Crawling to have the courage to be who God made us to be….. However, somewhere along the way it is time to stop crawling about in the world is now no longer desirable or well-suited for our new life. We have new desires, new hope, and a future. We learn to give up what belongs to the old to take what is part of the new. (Ephesians 4:21-24).
Let’s go back to the butterfly……Just as the monarch is not a passive player in its transformation, neither are we, and here’s the hard part about living the Gospel. Though we struggle daily to live the life of Christ, the monarch struggles too but in a different way.
According to biologists, the struggle put forth by the monarch in its cocoon is necessary to strengthen the flight muscles. Several years ago, a biologist who thought he could help a struggling butterfly, cut open its cocoon. After observing the butterfly emerge, the scientist discovered he had inadvertently crippled the small creature. The wings of the butterfly were deformed and the butterfly unable to fly. The creature was still a butterfly but now earthbound.
After some research, the biologist learned that during the “struggling phase” the circulatory system carries essential nutrients to the developing wings as they flex (struggle) against the wrapping of the cocoon. Whenever the struggling phase for the butterfly is disrupted (or made easy), the wings develop abnormally or not at all.
Look saints, we are all going to struggle. Struggle is real and it is part of living the Gospel. In fact, Paul reminds everyone to press on (struggle) towards the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The pressing and shaking is necessary, and we must go through in order to get through. It gets tight in that cocoon and we find ourselves, churches, and communities flexing or struggling to get free and finally have the courage to be who God called us to be……. A butterfly able to fly high. A butterfly…….. beautiful and fragile……… made from the goop of nothingness but in that same nothingness sparks of life are created to something new!
1. Born into nothingness.
2. Struggled all His life – Herod’s edict, pharisees, his own people, arguing disciples, charged, beaten, nailed to the cross, bled and died.
3. Cocooned in the tomb for three days to rise again completely transformed.