Following the Prince of Peace: Blessings to Butterflies!
Scripture lessons: Psalm 30, Luke 10:1-11
Butterflies have always fascinated me! Growing up in Massachusetts as a boy, I was always fascinated with the transition that a caterpillar made, from crawling to cocoon, to emerging as a new creation, able to fly. As a Christian, I am aware of how the butterfly is symbol of resurrection, a visual reminder of the inner transformation we make from this life to the next. I can remember sitting at the graveside service of a friend, and as we paused to pray, just in that moment a butterfly flew right up to the flowers on the casket and lighted there just for a moment, and we said afterwards it was for us a greeting from our friend from the eternal realm.
This week I participated in the Citrus Valley Hospice program and fundraiser called from "Blessings to Butterflies". There were several hundred people who gathered at the Covina Woman’s club, to hear the story of how hospice helps patients and families by providing care full attention to their needs as the patients make the transition from this life to the next. Two of our members Rev. Whaley and Agnes are two who have been blessed by this hospice in particular, Janet is being blessed because her mother is on Hospice care in Long Beach and we may all know someone who has had the benefit of a hospice team caring for them during the transition from this life to the next.
Because I had the opportunity to work as a hospice chaplain I know firsthand the blessings of the hospice program and staff help bring healing, healing to the patient who may be searching for peace in the midst of the dying process, healing for the family who is grieving and trying to support their loved one, and for the friends who experience a variety of emotions.
In today’s scripture Jesus heals a leper who has approached him for care. The leper begs him to make him clean to heal him. We can understand how desperate this leper must have been, to have leprosy, meant to have an incurable disease, it mean dying a terrible death, it meant losing support and being isolated from the support and love you would need. This leper was crying for help.
We might not have leprosy, but there are diseases that do cause people to feel that same sort of desperation for love and care full attention. Sometimes it is a cancer diagnosis, sometimes it is a HIV positive test result, and sometimes it is mental illness that can cause others to judge you as unworthy or unlovable. Unfortunatly we still tend to stigmatize others and keep our love in check. Instead of opening our hearts and minds and doors to them, we close down, we stay away, we do the opposite of what Jesus does, which is to bring healing to a desperate man.
The truth is that any of us can find ourselves in a time of desperation. Especially right now more than ever there are more people who are vulnerable than ever to being desperate to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, being able to find affordable health care.
Today we remember those who have run the good race, fought the good fight, those who for us are an inspiration, who are saints for us. It is good to remember them, because for us they are our angels who guard over us, who offer us help as
Psalm 30, states: “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the pit. “Our healing has an eternal source. Yes we can receive physical healing by good medicines and proper treatments. But when it comes to our spiritual healing, there is only one source, the God who heals the God who restores, the God who helps us transition from hopelessness to hopefulness.
Butterflies are a symbol of that transition that we make in the most desperate moments of life; butterflies symbolize every day resurrection, of new possibilities yet undiscovered in this life. In Hospice work, the butterfly is a symbol of the work that is done by patients, caregivers, volunteers and staff, the work of transformation in the face of the scariest, anxious moments of dying. The blessings of Hospice come through the care full attention of the staff who attends to the spiritual, physical, and emotion needs of patients, families and friends. Those who work in hospice have a special call to bless the world with their love. In the task of changing linens, taking temperatures, and blood pressure, of creating plans of care, providing equipment they partner with families and their support persons, of providing care for those who wish to stay in their homes. These and so many more tasks are the ways the staff blesses the lives of those going through the transition from this life to the next. And they are not done once the patient dies, the blessing continues as the bereavement staff and volunteers help to heal and transform grief into healing, so that souls might take flight again.
Today we remember those who have blessed us by their care and love. We remember their presence then and now for even though they have made the transition to the eternal realm their love is alive in our hearts and minds and souls. And it may not be butterflies that remind us our presence with us. Three of my neighbors in the condo complex our family lives I have gotten to know because they had family members in the hospice program when I worked there, about 10 years ago. Each of these families tell me a story of how they just knew it was their loved one sending them messages. I believe it is true what Jesus says; we all will be resurrected into new life, given wings, and be healed of all our earthly wounds. And I believe we have some sense of connection of those loved ones we have left behind. And one day we all shall be reunited in heaven. And I hope I will have bright Orange and Black wings just like a Monarch, because I am from Orange Massachusetts after all. And my Union college colors were orange and black!
We live in uncertain times, the future is clouded, and many say the worse is yet to come. It is time decide whether we are going to stay in the cocoon, or if we are going to fly, are we going to try to hide, or let our love show.
Consider what Jesus chooses. He had the decision to make whether he would follow his Father’s plan, or ignore his call to bring healing, bring hope, and bring the good news to the world. It was his choice to suffer on a cross to experience betrayal, to feel abandoned by his most trusted inner circle of disciples. It was his choice to feel the judgment of the very people he came to save. As we follow the prince of peace, we need to remember the whole story, Jesus experienced the full force of hate and prejudice and sickness this world had to give. But because he believed in another world, His Father’s world, he made the decision to emerge from the cocoon that could of kept him safe, to leave his mother’s side, his home, and strived to bring hope to a troubled world.
How about you, does the memory of those who we honor today inspire us to new heights of service? Does the promise of answered prayer give us confidence to spread our wings and offer to the world the best we can give so that others might experience healing and love?
We are called to use our every day tasks to bring healing, through our cooking, through our cards and letters, through our smiles and hugs, through our singing and praying, through our working and playing we are called to be followers of the Prince of Peace. Let us pray…
Lord, Bless me with the ability of a butterfly to endure the changes that will happen to me in my lifetime. Help me to accept these changes with a positive and loving attitude.
Bless me with the beauty of a butterfly to allow me to reflect the colors of my soul, being and individuality, and to look for these things in others.
Bless me with the ability of a butterfly to create and instill the feeling of wonder, passion, and excitement towards all of your living creatures.
Bless me with the butterflies' ability to pollinate your flowers, so that I may cultivate your human garden with love and compassion.
Last, but not least, Lord,
Bless me with the grace of ascension, so that I may ascend into your glorious heaven like a rising butterfly, when my journey here on earth, is complete. Amen - J. Dilts, 3-18-99