A Message of Hope Wrapped in a Question

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The caterpillar transformed into a radiant butterfly is perhaps one of the most, if not the most, famous depictions of transformation. The small creature goes from a slow plodding character to one of life’s delicate and often impossibly beautiful creatures full of grace and poise. Emerging from its chrysalis its body dangerously soft, its wings crumpled and equally soft, the butterfly hangs vertically and unfurling its wings allows gravity to fill the wings with blood. They need to do this quickly for it has little chance of survival without wings to fly. Within a few minutes, the body and wings have hardened and the butterfly is free to beat the air and take flight for the first time. It is a transformation fraught with potential problems such as the necessity to hang vertically, if not the blood won’t move to the wings and they may not form properly, as well as a myriad of things to do before emerging such as assembly their proboscis (long mouth) which is in two parts. Yet this transformation is a necessary change so that the creature can become the fullest it can be, the fullest it was created to be.

Ian Cowley[1] talks with great emotion and depth of the time he attended a service at Westminster Abbey to give thanks for the life of Nelson Mandela. He notes the occasion stirred mixed feelings in him and perhaps others there who lived through the struggles in South Africa. Cowley recalls the time he first voted and the many changes that came after saying “Very few of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in South Africa dreamed that we would ever see the non-racial South Africa that exists today.”[2] His mix of emotions come from recognising the miracle that came across the nation but also the difficulties still present there today; poverty, inequality and great hardship. The miracle of this transformation brought about something needed, something which helped the people to come that little bit closer to recognising who they are created to be – human beings full of grace and mercy, the image bearers of God.

dsc_0041.jpgEaster, as most will know, is the time in the Christian calendar when Jesus death and resurrection is remembered and celebrated. The celebration is that through the mystery of the cross Jesus has defeated sin, defeated death and sits at the side of God as humanities advocate, our aid, our saviour. It is a story of salvation which has captivated the minds and hearts of people across the ages and is one which, if we allow it, draws us in to play our part in the ongoing story of salvation. If we dare to say yes, to play our part in this story, we risk transformation. Yet, the transformation is not easy and can expose us to danger as with the butterfly but as Cowley notes, transformation can be a miracle bringing rich blessing to both the individual and the community. We should not fear the transformation as Jesus gives us his assurance that he will shoulder the burden with us (in fact he’s already done the heavy lifting), and he has sent the Holy Spirit to walk with us and guide us as we follow Jesus. So, we are not alone, we are not defenceless but tended to, nurtured and cared for by a loving God who will wipe away all our tears and who draws us close to him.

When we say yes to God, we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and in doing so we are risking coming face to face with our true self, the one we often hide away under many masks, sometimes even from ourselves. Buried beneath the masks is the real you, the one that bears the image of God, the one who shares the character of a loving, merciful, compassionate and grace-filled God. With the Holy Spirit at work within us to help this image to shine out we will see our character and lives slowly transformed, and even our communities transformed for this is the power of the resurrection – the kingdom of God become reality around us. In the fullness of time, the kingdom of God will be fully established at the return of Jesus; those of us who join in the story of salvation are called to be kingdom ambassadors, to be the beautiful feet who carry the good news into the world.

Among the many messages of hope that come with the Easter story is one which comes in the form of a question, ‘are you willing to be transformed?’

[1] Ian Cowley and Bible Reading Fellowship, The Contemplative Minister: Learning to Lead from the Still Centre, 2015, 145.

[2] Cowley and Bible Reading Fellowship, 146.

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