Acorns to Oaks

Ever been transfigured?

Or, let me rephrase that, ever fancied being transfigured?

My best friend and I had a few days away last week sunning ourselves on the Isle of Wight riviera. We did a fair bit of walking and visited a few tourist attractions including Butterfly World, which is a very interesting place, I can tell you.

And there I saw a sight I hadn’t seen for a while. A butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. Easing its way out of the soft shell it had created not long previously when it was just a tiny grub.

‘Metamorphosis’ is the word to describe this process of radical biological development. Form changes. Behaviour changes. Diet changes. The creature matures into what it was designed to become.

As Buckminster Fuller said, “There is nothing in a caterpillar to suggest it will be a butterfly”.

I think that in the back of my brain I was reminded of last week’s blog about transition.

The natural world is full of metamorphosis. Think: seed to flower, acorn to oak, embryo to baby.

The bible is rammed with metamorphosis: dust of the ground to Adam (from mud to Man), a Christian ‘reborn’ as a new creation, the disciples on Good Friday to the disciples at Pentecost, God becoming a baby, Jesus resurrected, Jesus ascended.

And Jesus, ‘transfigured’. Literally ‘undergoing metamorphosis’, because that’s the word Matthew and Mark use to describe his dazzling change in appearance on the mountain.

About 30 years on from this event Paul uses the same word when writing to the young church in Rome:
‘Don’t conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is …’
(Romans 12:2)

The word ‘transformed’ could equally well be translated ‘transfigured’. It’s the same ‘metamorphosis’ word in Greek.

He says, ‘Don’t conform, but be transformed’.

‘Don’t conform and take your values, hopes, anxieties, aspirations, lifestyle, expectations, dreams, prejudices, politics (and all else) from the world around you,
but be transformed by re-aligning your attitude with God’s will - your values, hopes, anxieties, aspirations, lifestyle, expectations, dreams, and all the rest.’

Church history is full of ‘Re-‘ words: re-newal, re-formation, re-vival, re-storation.
Paul encouraged the Romans to be changed by ‘renewing’ their minds. Renewal (and its cousin ‘re-‘ words) speak of the process. Transformation (aka metamorphosis) is the fruit.

So, how to align with God’s will?

Well, maybe a starting place could be where we were last Sunday? With the exhausted disciples as Jesus looked out at the vast crowd with ‘gut-wrenching’ compassion because they were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mark 6).

None of us will emerge into Spring 2021 the way we entered Spring 2020.

None of us.

We’ll be different. The world will look different. The church will look different.

Things are being re-formed around us; we can’t escape the uncomfortable process.

But we have a choice between conforming and being transformed.

And what might post-covid transfiguration look like for me? At home, with friends, at work?

And what might it look like in the areas of church life I’m most closely involved with?

What might it look like next Spring?

Or tomorrow?

Or even, later on today?

Suggested reading:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The second half of 1 Corinthians 15

Angus Lyon