by David Phelps
"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." - Mother Teresa
Spring is in the air. And so are balloons. It's time for my fourth(!) annual post-Easter column. As usual, I'm writing about balloons, plus a single red flower for variety.
Each Easter Sunday, when we go out onto the church lawn and release our balloons, I'm sure some of our neighbors are saying to themselves, "There go those crazy Methodists and their silly balloons. What do they think they're doing?" I know the tradition of the balloons takes some explaining for those who are new to our congregation. But our "silly balloons" mean something special to us. They represent tradition, hope, joy and faith (1 Cor. 1:27).
Earlier this year, during a brief interlude of Springlike weather, a single red tulip came up in our front yard. Our five-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Monica, discovered it and promptly named it "Flower."
"Flower is so beautiful!" she exclaimed.
But the interval of warm weather that had prompted Flower to come up had been followed by bitter cold, snow and hard rain. If you looked closely, you could see that Flower was missing some of her petals.
Monica also noticed the missing petals but her admiration for Flower was undiminished.
"It doesn't matter if Flower is missing some of its petals. She's still beautiful to me."
Obviously, Monica saw something in Flower that no one else could see. I thought of the description of the messiah in Isaiah 53:2. Then, on Easter Sunday morning, she found Flower lying in the yard, its stem broken; it was obvious even to Monica that it was finally dead. She carefully picked up Flower from where the wind had blown it and placed it where it had first bloomed. She then made a "grave" for Flower by covering it with dead leaves. As Monica tenderly buried Flower, I thought of the burial of Christ (Luke 23:50-56), in which Jesus' closest followers sadly but lovingly buried their teacher and friend.
As Ann Randall said Easter Sunday morning, a cross is more than two pieces of wood or metal. A cross is an "intersection." The cross of Christ is the place where humanity meets God, where human sin meets divine grace, and where our unloveliness meets God's love.
God sent Christ to live and die for us because God saw something in us. God saw beyond our sin and saw God's creations and the people we could become (Rom. 5:8).
A little girl can look at a ragged, wind-blown flower, barely more than a weed, and see beauty. We can look at a cross and see grace and love. And we can look at Easter balloons and see more than some "silly balloons." As they fly away, their bright jellybean colors garish against the blue Easter sky, we can see symbols of hope, faith and love. In the same way that we send forth the balloons, God sends us forth to carry the message of the gospel, to show others what we have seen, to bring them to intersections with God's grace and love, so that they might know Christ.
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are saved it is the power of God. . . . For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Cor. 1:18, 22-25 RSV)