Kites, free and tethered

Pastoral Messages | October 15, 2015

Earlier this week, the Quad Cities experienced what Winnie the Pooh would surely have called a blustery day.  It was windy. The kind of wind that kindled fires in fields of dry crops. The kind of wind that would knock someone right off their bike. As I left St. Paul on Monday afternoon, braced against the wind, I noticed something bright in the sky across the street in the Madison Elementary School yard.

It was a kite. A young child and her dad were flying a kite. Dad was holding on tight to the string, leaning back as the kite danced in the wind. His daughter danced around him in total excitement. Seeing those two with their kite in the sky made me think of my own kite-flying days as a child.

I remember it not being easy. I’d get frustrated at the kite not quite catching the wind and having it crash down into the ground. And then there was the string, always getting tangled. But I also remember the total joy of finally having it catch the wind. I remember feeling the pull of it and how it would move with such grace and freedom.

A flying kite is an amazing thing. It is simultaneously so free and yet completely tethered. It acts with such autonomy but is still tied down. And in this way, I think a kite teaches us a bit about faith.

As God’s people we have been given such freedom, Jesus offers us the kind of unconditional love that liberates us from being worried about our every action. We are freed to take risks without fear. Grace provides an open sky in which to live and play and serve in our own unique kinds of ways. Caught up by Spirit, we don’t have to be held by all that tries to restrict us. As Jesus says to Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

But we are also tethered. Like the string that keeps a kite from crashing into a tree, God holds onto us. Our unlimited freedom is restrained by our commitment to others. We can’t just do anything because we’ve got this responsibility to love God and love our neighbor. Like a kite, our faith makes us people totally on the loose and yet also tied down. Free and tethered.

And, like trying to get a kite off the ground, it’s not always easy to find the right balance. But when we let our faith catch the Spirit and really fly, we’ll discover the delight and wonder of being both held and released.

–  Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

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