One of the things my wife enjoys doing each summer is planting a butterfly garden. And not just any butterfly garden but one that specifically attracts monarchs, where they can lay eggs, eat leaves as young caterpillars, and then find the sweet nectar of certain flowers once they emerge from their chrysalis state and spread their wings to fly. It has gotten to the point where she has trained me how to know the difference between a male and female monarch, how to spot an egg on a milkweed plant, and to know when they are about to transform from a caterpillar into a butterfly. So, you can imagine my excitement the other day when I spotted five large caterpillars and new monarchs fluttering around the garden. It was then my wife reminded me these are the super monarchs; the ones preparing for the long journey to Mexico.
It amazes me how God has made these tiny beautiful creatures to not only know how and when to make this journey of thousands of miles, but that they have the internal GPS and strength to make such a trip. Truly God has prepared them for the journey of a lifetime.
Jesus prepared his disciples for the journey as well, when they were sent out to the nearby villages and towns to proclaim the good news, heal the sick, cleanse lepers, and announce that the kingdom of God has come near.
However, they were told not to take a wallet full of money, a change of clothes, several pairs of shoes, or even a walking stick, which was common in the day. In fact, Jesus told them they were being sent out as sheep amongst wolves. It was going to be a tough journey filled with lots of uncertainties. Yet, there was one thing they could count on and had prepared them for such a journey, and it was that the Spirit of God would be with them and in them.
We enter this fall season like none other than we have ever imagined. Our churches cannot open to full capacity, our Sunday School, choirs, and youth groups cannot have the usual kick off celebrations, and who knows what Thanksgiving or Advent and Christmas will look like this year. Add to the mix the political upheaval, racism, violence, and the uncertainty of this pandemic in the months ahead, and it is easy to fall into a pessimistic outlook.
Yet, how dare we, who claim to be disciples of the risen Christ, allow ourselves to perpetuate such a pity party. This journey has not been easy these last months and probably will not be much easier for some time in the future. But we are prepared for such a journey! As Jesus breathed the life of the Holy Spirit on those first disciples, so we too are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Together, we have the gifts, talents, spiritual strength, resolve, and fortitude to bring the good news at such a time as this in our world. It is not a question of when we have a vaccine, or when racism will end, or when things will return to normal. Rather, it is a question of when we will believe that God’s Spirit has filled us for this journey. That is why the apostle Paul could say, “I can do all things…” because even in a jail cell he knew God’s Spirit had prepared him for the journey.
If God could prepare a monarch about to take off on a journey of unknowns in the backyard, then certainly our God has prepared us to be the people and the church for such a time. It is not about how we feel, but do we believe the Holy Spirit is in us for this journey.