Dandelions. The last few days I have been surrounded by dandelions. This does not mean that our evolving green lawn is dotted with the sweet, yellow flowers. Instead, it means that the dandelion has been the central metaphorical image for the annual gathering of United Methodists that has once again descended on the city of St. Cloud. Yes, the dandelion. There have been songs about dandelions. Liturgical words about dandelions. Sermons that use the image of dandelions. And art everywhere that has lifted the lowly weed to new heights.
Why the dandelion, you may ask? Well, we have been focusing on new ways to be church, new ways to tell the stories of the movement of the Holy in the world. Someone at some place along the line in the planning for this conference began to use words like bold, fearless, wild, unfettered, unleashed, tenacious to describe their hopes for the community of faith. For some reason the image of the dandelion came to the planner’s minds. And what an image it became for our gathering!
When something……or someone…..has been labeled annoying and misplaced, it can be difficult to change our minds about them. When something….or someone has been called wild or bold we can develop a certain negative set of feelings. When something…..or someone is fearless and unleashed we can tend to put them in categories that cause us to shy away, to keep our distance. We can want to take all the tools possible and use any poison chemical we can to rid ourselves of these beings that mess with our tidy, controlled lives.
So,you can see how the dandelion fits perfectly for an image of the way the Spirit often comes unbidden and planets itself in the midst of things that may have become staid, have become unable to grow in new ways. Enter the spirit of the dandelion into any well manicured, immaculately maintained lawn and there is bound to be opportunity to see things, to do things in new ways. This is the image that challenged, excited and confounded us. How does it ring with you?
Of course this metaphor need not stop with a new imagining of how church might be influenced by the simple dandelion presence. Most of us have places in our own lives where a touch of wild, bold unleashing might be welcomed, needed. Many of us have at least parts of our career or work that could use a little touch of fearlessness or tenacity. Perhaps a little dandelion action could make all the difference.
I have a sense that those who have given many an hour to digging the powerful, long roots of dandelions out of a yard are wincing right now. I get that. And yet I must admit that after the long winter we have endured, when one of the first bursts of color I saw in a yard I passed by was the brilliant yellow of a dandelion, nothing looked more beautiful. It is all a matter of perspective. While we may not welcome them reproducing like crazy to cover our entire lawn, it might do us well to honor their bold desire to bring their happy color to an often dull world.
Whether or not this image will carry into the more than 300 United Methodist churches around Minnesota bringing not only a renewed sense of spirit but a gentler fondness for this simple weed remains to be seen. I, for one, doubt I’ll ever see the yellow flower in the same way. Now, for me, the dandelion has taken on divine status and my heart has been strangely warmed by them. While I may still pull them from my yard lest they make yellow what we hope to remain green, I will do so with a sense of honor for their spirit and way of being in the world. I am thankful for the way another lens can make such a difference.
And that lesson is one that seems to need to be learned time and time again.
*****Extra special gratitude to Mickey Olson whose art opened to us the lowly dandelion.