Butterflies and Power

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“I’m thinking about getting carried away.”

by Christephor Gilbert
Communications and Development Coordinator

A little over a year ago, on the drive home from work, I stopped a block from my house and, looking up and out the passenger window, noticed a little boy with what appeared to be his parents.  He was overjoyed and so surprised seeing a butterfly in some grass.  He stumbled while he dizzily watched the colorful fluttering, then looked back to the adults in amazement.  They encouraged him to move into the green, to see the diaphanous object.  There was no hesitation on their part—he was free to investigate.

The traffic light turned green and I was off and running again, caught up in the momentum of life on the brink of change.  That was just a few months before my partner and I sold our house, quit our jobs, and moved to Chicago so that I could pursue a calling toward ordained ministry with the ELCA.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the momentum—the surge and the rush!  We are surrounded by it, in the world and in our church, and it has real, embodied implications—like being picked up and carried along by the enormous crowds at Wrigley right after the Cubs won.

When the velocity of life takes ahold of me it is unbelievably exciting.  Hurtling forward—peripheral vision turning to so much blurry light.  In an instant, the future we see on the horizon becomes the now—and then it is gone before the next big thing sneaks up on us.

It feels good—but sometimes I find it is important to acknowledge that I am caught. I try to turn my head or move my arms; I can’t shift my weight back.

In light of what has happened with the recent election in the United States, I’m thinking about that boy with the butterfly. I’m thinking about getting carried away.

And I’m also thinking about stillness.

And power.

And responsibility.

And I’m wondering what it means to be called and chosen by God.

This question makes me think of a well-known line from the movie Spider Man.  Upon the death of his beloved Uncle Ben, Peter Parker remembers something his uncle said to him earlier in the film:  “With great power comes great responsibility.”  In Luke 12:48 Jesus says almost the same thing:  “For everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.”  I talk about being called by God to serve the church.  Our forebears in the nation of Israel were called and chosen by God.

What did that mean?  God is clear that the continuance of the covenant with Israel is based on a commitment to the ancestors, and more importantly because of God’s Love (Deut. 8).  Israel was not the biggest, nor the most powerful—in fact God is quick to point out that they “were the fewest of all peoples” (Deut. 7:7).  So why?  Being chosen has nothing to do with anything they have done—it has to do with what God has done.

God has decided to call us, to liberate us from the death-dealing ways of the law and the finality of death.  And we get this gift because we have faith.

Sometimes you have to let the momentum take you until you see the clearing up ahead—the end of the roller coaster, that small space between two people at the edge of the crowd where you can use a little muscle and make your move.

Released, you step back and watch the sheer force of it all move past.

Now I have the space to wander, child-like, into the arms of the other—into the arms of God—and see a different way that is off the beaten path, floating quietly in the wind.

I realize that I am that boy with the butterfly, mystified with hope, encouraged by the dangerous grace that is the church of today.  With new realizations about what a community of faith can embody, girded with truth and standing beside my siblings, I can imagine doing what is required.

No matter where you stand today or tomorrow you are called by God to be in and with the world.

You have great power.  And great responsibility.

Together, we can be the church for children who like to chase butterflies, and for kids, like all of us, whose hearts are stirred by wonder.


christephorChristephor Gilbert is the 2016 Joel Workin Scholar, and when he isn’t in the library or in front of a computer, you might see him—a blur in your peripheral vision–somewhere on US HWY 30, between Chicago where he is in seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he, his, partner, and three cats now call home.  Wave if you get a chance!

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