Sunday, June 11, 2017
Holy Trinity A
WRAPPED IN GOD’S LOVE
Beloved people of God, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. AMEN.
Quilt Sunday is not a principle festival or even a lesser festival in the church year. But here at St. Andrew it feels like it should be. The presentation of quilts to our seniors is one of the most special worship events of the year. Our quilters put such love and care into making these quilts. They are intended to be a sign of God’s love and our love for our seniors.
The congregation I
belonged to when I graduated from high school did not have a tradition of making
quilts. But a dear friend of our family gave a quilt to me. It went with me to
my first year of college at St. Olaf in
Today Marissa Willke and my daughter Mary will be receiving quilts. Mark and Lisa Willke and Donna and I have all gone through this before: Monica Willke received a quilt from St. Andrew, and our children Hailey and Luke also received St. Andrew quilts. But it feels a little extra special when it is the last child in the family. You may have heard me joke that I have been looking forward to being an empty nester for twenty years. Now that it is about to happen, the truth is we are going to miss having our children around. Even if one or more of them come back for a time, it will never be quite the same.
As Marissa and Mary venture forth into the next chapter of their lives, we hope they will experience many joys and successes. They will no doubt, however, also experience some times of sorrow and difficulty. At such times we hope their quilts will be a reminder of how much they are loved.
This year I decided to do a little research on quilts. Quilting has been an important part of our American tradition. But people around the world have been using padded fabrics for clothing and bedding for centuries. The term "quilt" comes from the Latin word culcita, which means a stuffed sack. As a noun, “quilt” refers to a 3-layer stitched bedcovering. As a verb, it refers to stitching through 3 layers of cloth to hold them together.
Initially quilts served primarily the practical purpose of providing warm covers for beds. Sometimes they were hung over drafty doors and windows to keep out the cold. Early settlers never simply discarded things that wore out. They had to be careful stewards of their resources. Virtually any scrap of cloth could be woven into a new quilt or used to repair a worn one. Over time, as life conditions improved, quilts were often invested more and more with meaning and became works of art. The quilts given to our seniors are intended to be both practical and meaningful.
One of the most interesting stories I came across was the “quilt code theory,” posited by historians Jacqueline Tobin and Raymond Dobard. Based on oral testimony from Ozella McDaniel, a descendant of slaves, they believe African American slaves may have used codes woven into quilts to find their way to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Secret messages were woven into quilts that would be hung in full view. For example, a wrench pattern might mean the time was right to gather your tools and get ready to flee a plantation. A bear pattern meant you were supposed to follow the path of the bear over the mountains to the north. A tumbling blocks design indicated that an Underground Railroad agent was in the area.
Some have dismissed this quilt code theory as folklore, insisting that it lacks proper evidence and documentation. Dobard counters that they had to employ oral history. No one was “going to write down what they did and what it meant.” It might have fallen into the wrong hands. Even if this quilt code theory is folklore, it still makes for a great story. It shows how quilts can be not only a source of warmth and a sign of love, but also a means of resistance and liberation for victims of injustice.
In the church year this is Holy Trinity Sunday. It is the only Sunday named after a doctrine. Through the centuries various illustrations have been used to shed light on the Trinity and explain how three can be one. A common illustration is the triangle. Another one is an apple. The apple consists of the skin, the flesh, and the core. I can never remember which part is supposed to be God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. None of these illustrations are completely satisfactory.
More helpful is the hymn “Come, Join the Dance of Trinity,” which we will sing after the sermon. The first verse goes: “Come, join the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun— the interweaving of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son. The universe of space and time did not arise by chance, but as the Three, in love and hope, made room within their dance.”
Our quilters stitch love and hope into the quilts they make. This stole was made by a weaver in McMinnville. I needed a white stole, but I know he intended also to weave love and hope into it. The hands serving communion bread on it are a sign of God’s love for us. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all about weaving or stitching love and hope into the fabric of the universe and into the fabric our lives. Some may recall that the theme of one our capital campaigns was “Weaving a Fabric of Care.” The dance of the Trinity is all about weaving a fabric of care into our daily lives. There is plenty of room in this dance for each one of us.
In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, and according to our likeness.” Then in 1:31 we read: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” This translation is okay, but it does not quite capture the full meaning of the original Hebrew. A better translation than “indeed” might be “behold.” It is as if God, like an artist, created all things and then stepped back to behold the creation and said “Wow!” “Very good” is more like “exceedingly good.” God beheld the creation and was delighted.
Created in the image of God, we are invited to join in the dance, to weave love and hope with the triune God. God is delighted to have us participate in the dance. By participating in the dance, we come to know how much we are loved by God. Knowing that we are loved by God and by key people in our lives makes such a difference in the way we live our lives.
When we know that God delights in us and loves us dearly, we are more likely to become the people God created us to be and to engage in the full dance of life. The theme of our Vision for Ministry at St. Andrew is “Because God Cares.” Because God cares, we care. Because God cares, we live out our core care values: God care, Earth care, community care, neighbor care, and self care.
As Marissa and Mary embark on the next chapter in their lives, the more they know that God delights in them and that they are wrapped in God’s love, the more likely they are to be filled with the courage to take some risks in life. Whether it is going to college or tackling a new job or seeking a new relationship, they do not need to be afraid to fail. God does not abandon us when we fail.
At the end of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus gives his disciples a mission to go and make disciples of all peoples and to teach them to observe all that he has commanded them. His final words are: “I will be with you always to the end of the age.” He does not say, “I will only be with you if you are successful.” He assures them that he will be with them every step of the way, through good times and difficult times, joys and sorrows, successes and failures.
The more Marissa and Mary know that God delights in them and that they are wrapped in God’s love, the more likely they are to have compassion for the most vulnerable among us.
The more Marissa and Mary know that God delights in them and that they are wrapped in God’s love, the more likely they are to commit themselves to making a difference in the world.
In the final line of verse three of “Come, Join the Dance of Trinity,” we will sing: “Go tell the world of weight and woe that we are free to move!” God’s heart is broken by the weight and woe of the world. God’s delight in the world and all its inhabitants is the basis for God’s deep sadness for those suffering in the world. We are called to share in that deep sadness. Knowing that God delights in us and loves us deeply frees us to move— that is, to respond in love and hope to all who are suffering. Marissa and Mary, as quilts helped move slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, may your quilts, a sign of God’s love, free you to address hatred and injustice along the path of your lives.
Marissa and Mary, I want to share one final thought with you. As you move forward into the future, we hope the two of you will work hard— put your whole self into whatever you are doing. But never forget that God rested on the seventh day. Use your new quilts to get a good night’s sleep. To thrive in life, to dance with the Trinity, it is so important to balance work and rest. We want you to go to sleep every night knowing that God loves you and we love you dearly.
In Jesus’ name, AMEN.