Up at the top of the St. Paul Sanctuary, floats a red foil heart balloon. It’s been there for seven weeks. I was using that helium balloon during our Good Friday family service, until a curious preschooler freed that helium balloon from its weight. It quickly ascended to the ceiling, much to the delight of dozens of children and the horror of a least one St. Paul staff person (me).
I immediately began to wonder how we could get that balloon down from the ceiling. A Nerf arrow with a push pin attached? A really tall lift? Huge suction cup gloves and shoes? Nothing was realistic, so my only hope was that it would very quickly deflate and sink back to earth. But when my colleague let me know that Mylar is a sort of polyester foil that is completely impermeable, I knew it would be awhile. Helium in Mylar balloons only can escape through the tiny opening at the bottom of the balloon. A regular latex balloon with its porous plastic would have been such a better choice.
And so throughout the Easter weekend and for all fifty days of the Easter season that red foil heart balloon has been at the apex of the sanctuary, right above the altar. It’s still there right now. It hasn’t dropped even an inch. It’s as buoyant as it ever was.
The thing is, I know some people who live with the same determined buoyancy as that balloon, regularly rising with strength. Somehow, regardless of what happens in their lives, despite being tossed to and fro by all of life’s changes and chances, they remain buoyant. It’s not as though they are impermeable, quite the opposite, actually. They just can’t be sunk or pulled down.
It’s got to do with faith. According to John’s account of Jesus’ life, when Jesus came to his disciples after the resurrection, he met them in an upper room. He breathed into them, giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit. I kind of imagine those disciples as heartbroken, deflated balloons, flopped over in despair. But then Jesus breathed into them and their life took shape. He filled them, lifted them up, and freed them from their fear and despair.
The Holy Spirit fills us up, too. We receive courage and confidence, peace and hope to stay afloat, maybe even soar. Even as so much deflates us – or tries to. We aren’t made of Mylar – with all of its impermeability, nor should we even try to be. Instead we live with the kind of courageous vulnerability that comes from loving. So of course we droop, deflate, despair.
And that’s when we come back the source of our life, to get inflated, yet again. Worship, prayer, study, community and service, these practices of faith fill us up. This is the real secret of how these amazing people we know live with such buoyancy, without being deflated. It’s not that they don’t lose air, they just know how to connect, over and over again to the source of life, air and hope: Jesus.
– Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor