Spring has arrived. White-flowered trees line the streets of downtown Naperville, the fountains are once again flowing after hibernating for the winter, the flowering trees behind my garage are fragrant and pink, and the world around us is cloaked in deep and cheery shades of green - the color of April rain and May sunshine. And, of course, the butterflies are still fluttering around the rafters of our sanctuary.
Mary Oliver’s poem “One or Two Things” begins with these stanzas:
Don’t bother me.
The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes
for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.
These are words of Easter. They reflect for us the wonder of new life and resurrection, the greenness of spring and the promise of longer, brighter days. We begin May in this Easter midset, thinking in terms of butterflies, lilies, and empty tombs.
But the winds of Easter are shifting.
The resurrection story that began with Mary in the garden is now a story that has spread to the whole of the disciples and beyond. The resurrection story has been morphing into a story about the community of the resurrection. This is a community that serves (Jesus says "feed my lambs; tend my sheep"). This is a community that follows the good shepherd (Jesus says "my sheep hear my voice; I give them eternal life"). This is a community that loves deeply and even sacrificially (Jesus says "just as I have loved you, so you should love one another"). This is a community of peace (Jesus says, "my peace I give to you; do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid").
To mark the end of the Easter season, we celebrate Ascension. This is the day when the community of the resurrection is let loose in the world. Jesus blesses, encourages, and commissions his disciples to spread the good news of the resurrection throughout the world, continuing to build their community of faith around the principles of service, servant leadership, deep love, and peace. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promises the disciples the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
This is the same Holy Spirit that shows up full-force at Pentecost. Pentecost is the day when the community of the resurrection gets a new - official - name: "The Church." Fire, wind, the image of the dove descending: these were for the infant church signs of the promised Holy Spirit, and they are for us signs that this same Holy Spirit is moving in us, inspiring us to live not only as people of the resurrection, but as people bound to one another by faith.
As we prepare for the end of the Easter season, we trade in our butterflies for doves in order to claim again the good news that the Spirit is here among us, alive and moving. The life of faith means leaving the mouth of the tomb in order to live God’s love in the world. And so, as the promise of spring moves toward the richness of summer, we remember that we are people of both butterfly and dove, gathered into community by the good news of the resurrection and sent out into the world by the rush of the Spirit.
Let the words of the hymn “Like the murmur of the dove’s song" (ELW 403) be for us both our prayer and commission as we watch Easter transition into Pentecost, and as we watch the resurrection give birth to the Spirit-filled life of the church:
“To the members of Christ’s body,
to the branches of the vine,
to the church in faith assembled,
to our midst as gift and sign:
Come, Holy Spirit, come.”