Celebrating St Francis / Creation Sunday

I hope you will enjoy this reflection given by Jacqui Knight (Madam Butterfly) on Sunday, 5 October.

There were numerous dogs (and their owners) in attendance, a cat, a kitten, and a caterpillar! It was a very moving service – moving hymns, thoughtful prayers. Two beautiful quilts – one crafted by Maureen Trotter (Russell) and the other by Judi Ferguson (Wellington) decorated the walls.

As usual the church liturgical team put together an inspirational service. You can see photographs here:


Here is Jacqui’s address:

Today is Creation Sunday, and we particularly remember St Francis.
He was an Italian, born in Assisi (and we often say ‘St Francis of Assisi’) about a thousand years ago, the son of wealthy parents. He saw the dangers of being rich – and chose to live in poverty and peace.
A few minutes ago we sang the prayer that’s attributed to him, ‘Make me a channel of your peace’. Beautiful words, aren’t they.
Can we become a channel of God’s peace? We can. There are some valuable lessons in creation. Let me share some that I’ve learned from Monarch butterflies over the thirty or so years I’ve been studying and learning about and delighting in them.
Firstly – I must tell you that Monarch butterflies are NOT endangered. There are too many people who love them, who plant their host plant, milkweed, and enjoy the beauty of the life cycle. Everyone knows the Monarch butterfly.
However, the phenomenal migration of the Monarch in North America may well be at threat – 3000 miles or more from Canada to Mexico, every autumn. It’s at risk from such things as pesticide use, global warming and genetic engineering. Deforestation – the trees that they overwinter on in Mexico are being chopped down and sold by people who don’t have any other way of earning a living, even though the forest is protected, and doing so is illegal.
Also it’s at risk from things like development and the removal of ‘weeds’ and wild places from the countryside. People’s selfish demands on Nature. (A similar migration in Taiwan, with the crow butterflies – the government has created a corridor to allow them safe passage over a motorway… but that’s another story!)
When I flew to the USA recently, I reflected on the amazing journey that the Monarch had taken to New Zealand – what an adventure, carried by wind and wing-power all the way to the Hawkes Bay from somewhere in the Americas, around about the same time that this church was being built. Here I was, lying back in my seat on an Air New Zealand 747, being fed and entertained, while that little insect had used its own wings to travel all those miles! Isn’t that amazing?
Over in the USA there is concern that some children have become completely removed from Nature and there’s a huge movement through schools to educate Canadians, Americans and Mexicans about Monarchs. This year I became part of the Monarch Teacher Network when I trained with them in New Jersey.
Now here in NZ we all know that Nature is all around us, it’s perfectly normal to live with ants and weta and all sorts of insects and birds and fish. But many children in the US have never experienced this or the ‘outdoors’.
The Monarch is a wonderful ambassador for Nature. Watching a Monarch go through its changes is a beautiful experience that can stir up interest and intrigue – and one gets hooked on the whole Monarch-milkweed-pest-predator relationship.
At first you ‘love the Monarch’ and ‘hate the aphids and wasps’ that destroy your Monarch or its food – but then you kind of get a perspective on things, that when a female Monarch lays her 300 or 400 or 1000 eggs, it would be pretty lopsided if all of them were to survive. So you begin to be more relaxed about Nature being in control, and realising that WE are NOT in control of Nature.
It’s a bit like that in the real world too. If everything was LOVELY, and there were no wasps or aphids to give life its bumps and ups and downs, it would become quite a lopsided world. If we don’t have the bad things happen – the losses, the failures, the accidents, death… we wouldn’t REALLY appreciate the good things – and life – and being alive.
None of us can expect to be here forever. We all have to die. It’s sad to lose someone, but death is a part of life… and while we treasure memories of someone special or a beloved pet, they are never really dead to us.
Death of the caterpillar… and the beautiful butterfly emerges. Look through eyes of hope, and see a butterfly inside the caterpillar. Hope knows that beauty is waiting to be born, in the unlikeliest of places…
The people who I come into contact with in the Monarch world are inspiring. There’s one particular woman I’m thinking of in the USA, and she has taught me a lot. Not just about butterflies – but also about focusing on the good things in life.
Now we all know that caterpillars’ skins never grow. That when they grow too large for their skin, they crawl out of it, or moult. They have a new baggy skin underneath which allows them to continue growing. Well watching caterpillars moult brought a question to Edith’s mind: What is keeping her from growing as a Christian?
She realised that some of it is ‘not letting go of yesterday’. And I do that too. Negative things I tend to hold onto, and I go over and over and over them. For instance, I need to grow out of dealing with negative relationships.
Judging people! Having expectations of others.
Time spent in negative thoughts is wasted time. I need to ask forgiveness or forgive, and move on. Let it go!
My metamorphosis is a continual growing in the life of Christ. Reviewing my failings, and trying to do better. Trying to be less envious of those who have more than me. Judging people who don’t agree with me. Eating more than my body needs. Being humble instead of boasting about, or boring others with my achievements… I’m sure you can all identify with that.
Monarchs will lead me on new adventures as I continue to grow as an environmental educator and a Christian. I can see there are some exciting things in the future; Monarchs have led me on an inspiring journey in my 59 years – and there’s more to come.
I am not sure who wrote the following, but this prayer helps me with my metamorphosis:
I asked for Strength… and I was given difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom… and I was given problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity… and I was given a brain and talents to work.
I asked for Courage… and I was given obstacles to overcome.
I asked for Love… and I was given troubled people to help.
I asked for Favours… and I was given opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted… but everything I needed.
Live life without fear, confront all obstacles and know that you can overcome them.

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