Monarch at the Hershey Gardens Butterfly House

In life and in death, we belong to God. To me it feels like a long winter of losing many church friends. Compounded by isolation and restrictions from the pandemic, it has been a sad and difficult challenge to say goodbye to church leaders and friends. It has been a long season of grieving things and people we lost. And on recent Sundays, our memorial white rose, which honors a loss, seems a constant reminder.

Even in death, we belong to God. This comforting line begins one of our newer confessions of faith. As we approach Holy Week with the promise of Easter around the corner, I am reminded of God’s constant care and promise of abundant life. I am comforted that no matter what, I belong to God.

Several years ago, one of our members was suddenly overwhelmed by an infection. After years of being an active presence at church, she was quickly unresponsive with little that could be done. It was hard to believe as I visited, prayed, and saw her slowly slip away. I was sad and discouraged for myself and all of us. One afternoon I needed a break and visited the Hershey Gardens and spent time in the butterfly room. I had been there before and delighted in the colorful creatures who landed on my sleeve and flickered around like dancing rainbows. But I didn’t stop to notice them. Instead I headed right to the cocoon display. There hanging silently in rows were small, brown, wrinkled sacks. looking completely lifeless. One at the end of the row began to twitch slightly. I watched and another began to crack and a little wet substance appeared. I was mesmerized. A new creation was underway.

This image gave me a new appreciation for what was taking place in the hospital room. This tired, worn body appeared lifeless to me, but something was taking place. Mysteriously, I knew that as this frail life ended; soon a new life, totally different, would be emerging.

No wonder the butterfly became an ancient symbol of the resurrection. A beautiful new life awaits each of us. Because in life and in death we belong to a Creator God who redeems each of us and breathes into us a new wondrous existence, there’s a resurrection around the corner for each of us.

At a recent funeral, in a cemetery atop a beautiful mountain view, I shared the words of a favorite hymn. Although it’s new to our hymnal, we’ve sung it often. Here are a few verses:

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
in our doubt, there is believing; in our life, eternity;
in our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

And so we wait, believe and trust.

Hymn of Promise by Natalie Sleeth, 1986, is #250 in our Glory to God Hymnal.

A Brief Statement of Faith was written in 1991 and is part of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Its first line is a reminder of an older creed (The Heidelberg Catechism, 1563) that begins with the question: What is my only hope in life and in death? The answer: I am not my own, but belong — body and soul in life and in death —to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.