Our province is planning a gradual back to work process, outlined later this week by the Premier. But at the same time, no large gatherings will be permitted for some time yet. We’ll see how all of this unfolds. At the beginning of the Pandemic medical emergency declared in BC—now, seven weeks ago—we had hopes that we’d possibly be together as a church family by Pentecost at the latest, which is now only 4 weeks away. I don’t think we’ll be together as a gathered church community by then, but I won’t speculate further about gatherings because I don’t know.
As you may recall—I hope you recall—we are to be making butterflies at home for the great celebration when we DO get back together—we’ll send out those instructions again soon if you’ve misplaced them or haven’t accessed them—the instructions are on our Facebook page and on the website. The butterfly is an apt symbol for reconnecting as a church community together; it is a powerful symbol of Easter and the Resurrection. Butterflies symbolize transformation, new life and the promise of hope to come, not to mention grace, beauty and wonder.
I read a blog by the head of Convergence US—the group that is working with us in our development of long-term strategies and directions—Cameron Trimble is her name; she wrote of the butterfly and that process of transformation. She wrote:
“The amazing part of the transformation from the caterpillar to the butterfly is that you have this middle space, the cocooning season, where your body literally becomes mush. You disintegrate. You lose shape. You lose everything that defined you as a caterpillar. You become goo. In meaningful ways, you die to what you were.
But here is the miracle: inside that deathly mush are imaginal cells. These cells hold the vision of a future within them. When all seems lost and nothing that was known can be known as it was, the imaginal cells give us the vision for moving forward. They know that with the right conditions and a little time, a butterfly waits to be born.”
If I recall my cell biology courses, the cells pre- and post-cocoon all have the same DNA; they just take different forms depending on the time of year. Butterflies are remarkable creatures; not only is the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly via imaginal cells incredible, the fact that they can migrate thousands of miles is also incredible. These tiny, delicate creatures are tough and strong.
A lot has been written and preached about Psalm 23; it is a poetic and imagery-laden psalm—relatively short—that has inspired people for thousands of years. It inspires hope and a sense of God’s presence; it inspires the promise of accompaniment through dark and challenging times. It inspires a sense of abundance, not scarcity, the sense that God’s gift of life is present to us and that we CAN be transformed.
Maybe Psalm 23 is a little like an imaginal cell. The words take on a life of their own, get into our hearts and minds, perhaps into our very DNA, and something new emerges, something wonderful, something beautiful, something magnificent, guided by the Spirit.
Maybe this time of COVID-19 is a time of letting the imaginal cells of our species rise to the fore, leading us into the next phase of our life as a human species. We are certainly at an important juncture in our collective life as human beings. What will be become as we come out of this pandemic? Who will be? Will we be defined by what we have and how much power we can accumulate? Will we go back to guzzling gas and polluting the air and adding Green House Gas emissions to the atmosphere again? What will we do?
Nature is experiencing a real resurgence these days as we are isolating ourselves. Apparently, the Himalayas are in great view these days because of the clarity of the air. There have been dolphins seen swimming in the canals of Venice. Sea Turtles are nesting again in Spain in abundance. Big cities have clear skies above them from the lack of smog. The cup is overflowing for much of the natural world as we humans decide what we’ll be in the next little while.
I hope we’re thinking about what will emerge from this—I know I have been. And many of the people that I read and look to for direction, are inviting us to be full of care in how we move through this transformative phase into something new. What I liked about the psalm version we read a few moments—from The Inclusive Bible—is that it is active. I find the King James Version and its subsequent renderings, while poetic, a bit passive. Maybe it’s just that the version from this morning is new to our ears.
Maybe it’s that we take the familiar versions for granted, and maybe that’s partly why the version we heard today feels fresh. Maybe there’s a lesson for us in this. We can’t take for granted how we will emerge from our isolation; we need to have our say in how we want to be as human beings together in this world. We want a fairer, more just world where the separation between the hyper-wealthy and the poorest among us is not so wide. There needs to be greater accountability regarding multi-nationals and the power they wield. There needs to be greater cooperation among nations, perhaps a re-imagining beyond nation states to seeing that we are responsible for each other even on the other side of the globe. What kind of butterfly will we become? One, I hope that sees its place alongside other great species in the great and wondrous place that we call earth.
Rumi reminds us, “Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.” That’s helpful for us to remember as we transform into something new. So, I end this meditation with another poem called Daydream by A.S.J. Tessimond:
One day people will touch and talk perhaps easily,
And loving be natural as breathing and warm as sunlight,
And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,
Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,
Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,
And work will be simple and swift as a seagull flying,
And play will be casual and quiet as a seagull settling,
And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder or care or notice,
And people will smile without reason, even in winter, even in the rain.
 Cameron Trimble, “Piloting Faith: A Word for the Day,” April 28th, 2020, “Imaginal Cells.” Go to https://convergenceus.org/.