Most mornings, I walk on a rail trail near my home where nature has been allowed to grow in abundance. Friday, I came across this female swallowtail butterfly. Swallowtails are moving most of their lives. Even resting, they are either pumping their wings or have them folded upward. Rarely are they spread like this one.
She was still alive, but mortally wounded. Her wings lay flat because the muscle she needed to close them was badly damaged. I almost left her for some hungry bird, then went back and coaxed her onto my fingers without brushing off those beautiful scales and put her near the kudzu before going on. I couldn’t do anything more. Sigh.
Two days later, I was in the pulpit preaching about the life we are called to as Christians. It’s about all of us living together and learning how to do that harmoniously even though we are different people. Yesterday, I learned that a family that had joined my previous congregation had left it. The wife had shared with me her deep disenchantment with a leader of that congregation who had made significant decisions without consulting the committee she was part of. She had looked forward to serving the congregation on that committee only to be told the committee didn’t need to meet after all.
We live in an imperfect world where lots of things happen that shouldn’t. Butterflies get mortally wounded, perhaps by a car. People hurt and stifle us. It hurts even more when it happens in church because that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. No, but a Christian congregation is a place where we begin to practice the life we really want to have. We hear about forgiveness, but we also get to practice it because we will need to practice it. All of us there have communally confessed our sins, received absolution, and now we have to live it and give it. Nobody said it was easy, least of all Jesus because the world isn’t yet what it should be. That just means we have to keep trying.