"What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand new life and have everything to live for.” 1 Peter 1:3 (The Message Bible) The Rev. Debi Powell-Maxwell always loved butterflies, but their transformation from caterpillars into beautiful, multicolored creatures became more poignant at several key times in her life. Powell-Maxwell, pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Yukon, said the butterfly became symbolic after her marriage ended and her son won a battle against chemical dependency. The caterpillar’s metamorphosis — emerging from dormancy or a death-like state in the cocoon into victorious new life — also is a powerful metaphor for the Resurrection story, she said. "Like the butterfly, when Jesus emerges (from the tomb), He is more powerful and beautiful than before,” she said. Powell-Maxwell’s penchant for butterflies will take flight today during a planned Easter butterfly release at her church, 601 Maple. If weather prevents the butterflies from flying today, she said they will be released as soon as possible for children to see. Several other churches also are using butterflies as a way to tell the Resurrection story to children. "When they see a butterfly, they can remember Jesus being risen from the dead and think of new life in Christ,” said Lucy Newlin, church education assistant at First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater. "It symbolizes how when God changes us, we go from one thing to something else.”
A hiding placeChildren at Powell-Maxwell’s church spent Holy Week looking for signs of life to emerge from about 30 cocoons inside a butterfly pavilion at the Yukon church. Youths at Newlin’s Stillwater ministry and McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church in Norman did the same, although the young people at McFarlin peered at a whopping 180 cocoons. Beth Carter, director of children’s education at McFarlin, said the youths have spent the last several weeks watching the metamorphosis process and were amazed one afternoon to find their caterpillars hidden in cocoons. Children cannot grasp how incredible Christ’s Resurrection is until they can understand the concept of someone dying, Carter said. The cocoons help illustrate the concept of death, she said. The Rev. Leah Hrachovec, associate pastor at First Presbyterian in Stillwater, said it is often hard for children to imagine that beautiful winged butterflies will someday emerge from the shriveled, unattractive cocoons. "Just when you think something is dead and has no hope, new life comes,” Hrachovec said. "It’s a metaphor for the very real journey that we follow with Jesus on the cross. It looked hopeless for Jesus and His disciples, but God transformed Jesus’ death into the Resurrection and produced the miracle that we know.”
New life emergesLate last week, painted lady butterflies began emerging from the cocoons at all three churches and the church leaders said the children were thrilled. "We’ve talked about how Jesus rose and how it is a rebirth of us,” Carter said. "The butterflies are colorful, more visually stimulating than the caterpillars so they can see this change. When Jesus rose, He rose to a more magnificent state and they can imagine that.” Powell-Maxwell said she has based her recent children’s sermons on the caterpillars and butterflies. "It’s just become such a great teaching tool,” she said. "It’s become a symbol of new life as it applies to all our lives.” Hrachovec shared similar sentiments about the winged insects. As she imagines the butterflies eventually flying free along the grounds of her Stillwater church, Hrachovec said she knows that many youths will recall the recent lessons they have watched unfold about Jesus and the Easter story. "It’s an encouragement to us to live our lives as witnesses to the Resurrection — and to reflect God’s grace,” she said.