University Congregational Church
May 25, 2014
Exo. 39:1-3, 22-26
When we were in Istanbul, Turkey in March, we had the opportunity to learn about Turkish carpet making and observe a carpet weaver. A woman of middle age sat cross-legged on the floor in front of her loom. Fibers were stretched vertically on the loom. With deft fingers, she chose a small thread from a pile of various colors and made two double knots in about one second. We learned that there are up to 900 double knots per square inch in a good Turkish carpet.
These ornate carpets are time consuming and truly works of art. I wondered aloud how the weaver knew which thread to choose in the process of creating a specific pattern. It turns out that most of the patterns are several hundred years old and associated with a region of Turkey. Above the loom was a printed pattern – much like ornate cross-stitch patterns – which indicated the color for each knot.
The process is so painstaking that the government only allows carpet weavers to work 3 hours a day. Otherwise, they experience problems with eyesight, finger dexterity, and back pain.
Being a stitcher myself, I watched this Turkish woman as she knotted thread, and I realized that (although she spoke no words) she was telling an old, old story. With each thread and each knot, she wove together the good and bad of her day into a lovely piece of art. It’s a peaceful process – one in which she adds a final blessing – an “Amen” to her past and her present. She is weaving together the joys and the sorrows, the trials and the celebrations, the hopes and dreams of life.
I think this art of weaving stands as a good metaphor for the work you and I are called to as people of faith.
- We get up in the morning and listen to the news of the world around us – people at war, wild fires out of control, kidnapped children – and we switch off the news and go about our day.
- We drive past people holding signs “Will work for food” and get hit up for a school fundraiser from the neighborhood kid.
- We visit with a friend and listen to their joys and their sorrows.
- We work, volunteer, interact, take care of business, and finally return home.
- We talk on the phone and offer advice, support and counsel… or just visit.
- We watch TV, take a bike ride, run errands, pay bills, and finally sit down to rest at the end of the day.
- As we begin to ease ourselves into rest, we think through the day’s activities, not always knowing what – if anything – we can do or say to ease another’s burden.
And while we are all asleep, God weaves our lives together and makes sense of them. I don’t know how this happens. I can only attest that it does.
Our scripture for today is a description of some of the first priestly garments made for Moses and Aaron. It’s found in Exo. 29. The description is thorough and complete in the Bible – indicating that even the threads used to make a vestment were the finest linen and royal color.
Winnie Henry is a Navajo rug weaver in Chinle, Arizona. She was asked how she understands weaving as parallel to life. She responded, “I advise people to weave together the pieces of their own lives. Remember that interwoven with the mind are meditation and thoughts. When you make a mistake, correct it. Weaving is like a menu, you have to mix all kinds of ingredients to stay strong. If you get too perfect, you are in heaven already.”
This is the work of each Christian. We live and breathe our faith. We join our lives with others, experiencing their pain, their joy. And at the end of the day, it all comes together in our thoughts and prayers in one steady rhythm – a weaving, if you will.
That’s why days like Memorial Day are important in our lives. This weekend is set aside to remember. Some theologians like to split the word re-member. We re-member those lives lost in war. When we think of them, they are re-united in spirit. We re-member our loved ones who died in other ways and we remember their stories. We weave together our past and the lessons learned, our present and our hope for the future. It is a collective weaving process with the whole of our society. It is necessary and good to do this.
In fact, it is a work of love – love for those who have gone before us, love for ourselves and love for those, even our own children and grandchildren, who will follow us. In the act of remembering, we are weaving our lives with theirs into a smooth, loving work of art.
Take a moment to think of those people – past, present or future – who are a part of your life’s weaving. Some of them may be like big, old hunks of heavy yarn. Some might be smooth, silky pieces of ribbon. Some might be short threads while others are longer. We’re different colors, different textures, different shapes, different in many ways.
And somehow, without an obvious connection, the Spirit has woven us all – with our strengths and our weaknesses – into a beautiful tapestry.
Corrie Ten Boom is among those who are credited with writing this beloved poem entitled “Life’s Weaving”:
“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
Today, we are using one of my favorite songs, “Weave”, as our closing. “Weave” is a beautiful ecumenical song written in 1979 by Rosemary Crow. She said when her home church got a new rector from Australia, he was obviously new and different. In his first sermon he said that he felt God led him to them and the rector was waiting to see how God would weave their lives together. That sermon, plus the Quaker sharing of the peace, “The Christ in me greets the Christ in thee” inspired the song. When three branches of the Lutheran church merged, they used this song as a theme. Shortly thereafter, the Girl Scouts adopted it as a song. The 1984 Girl Scout/Girl Guides world conference in New York used it as their theme song.
A soloist will sing the verses and I invite you to join in on the chorus.