My Words to You

Poet Jean Valentine writes:

My words to you are the stitches in a scarf
I don’t want to finish
maybe it will come to be a blanket
or a net to hold you here

love not gone anywhere.

I am drawn in by her first line:
My words to you are the stitches in a scarf
I don’t want to finish.

With these words,
I hear a longing to linger by a beloved,
who thinks,
I just want to keep talking to you,
stitching words of care,
knitting a net for you whom I love.
I am going to keep
knitting together words for you,
over and over again,
reminding you that you are held,
by a steadfast, resilient love.
Love not gone anywhere.

My words to you are the stitches in a scarf
I don’t want to finish.
I just want to linger here with you,
talking, delighting in your company
losing all track of time,
losing track of all
but the love that flows between us.

My words to you ….

I can’t help but think
that God’s words to us
are stitches in a scarf
that God does not want to finish.

In the beginning,
God created all the earth,
the insects that fly,
the toads that hop,
the dogs that run,
the water that flows
and the people who live.
God saw that all of it was beloved,
and God declared that it was good.

When people thought they had it all figured,
and tried to tell God and others:
I have no need of you;
God was still there, sitting in the corner,
stitching her scarf,
making it into a net or blanket
so that we would be held.

When the Pharaoh enslaved the Hebrew people,
forcing them to work without a day off,
demanding that they create more, more, more,
because the ego of the Pharoah
could not be satiated,
because the Pharaoh had sold themself
to greed and celebrity.
God said, this is not right!
God saw the harm the Pharaoh did
to the fiber of the people,
the way the Pharaoh tore at the twist of yarn,
and so God sent Moses,
who said, let my people go!
who said, no more!
who said, I object!
who said, maybe I don’t speak well
but I will show up
until every last person is freed.

God kept knitting: beloved, beloved, beloved,
until every last person was freed,
liberated and led to the Promised Land.

Moses, and his siblings Miriam and Aaron,
were knitting needles in the hands of a loving God,
stitching a world of freedom and dignity.

Then, there came a time
when the merchants became corrupt,
and all they cared about was profits’
they forgot about the widows and orphans,
foreigners and strangers,
entrusted to their care.

Profits over people. Profits over people.

You would think that God would get tired of fibers by now.
After all, wasn’t the scarf long enough?
Didn’t the people yet understand?
How did they keep forgetting?

But God loved the softness of the yarn in her fingers,
she loved to watch the pattern unfolding,
the mocha browns,
the caramel overtones,
the golds and whites,
the brilliant splotches of blue and turquoise.
Enamored by the task, she kept going.
God added new colors to the sequence,
sending prophets,
one by one,
who said to the people:
Have a change of heart!
Reconsider how you are living life!
Act with justice and mercy!

Throughout all of it,
the prophets kept weaving,
beloved, beloved, beloved;
the widow, the orphan,
the stranger,
those working full time and not able to get by,
they are beloved and revered,
adding brilliant hues to the tapestry.

For a time,
the people would remember.
All the while,
God kept on stitching,
because she loved the people so much;
she delighted in the colors and textures,
and each strand brought her joy.

Sometimes the yarn would become tangled
in a seemingly useless heap,
but, even then,
God still admired the fibers,
grateful for their richness and beauty,
and so she would sit there
– sometimes for hours or weeks –
slowing working the strands in her hand,
untangling them
bit by bit,
not wasting anything.
Then she would knit on,
using every last yarn,
until at last people knew what was true:
that they were held
by a Love that did not give up on them.

One day,
the people felt like were becoming unstitched,
like things were hard
and would never get better.
Have you ever faced a moment like that?
When the drudgery of a day turns into weeks or years?
Or perhaps it peaks in a single moment,
and you wonder,
how will I find my way from here?

God turned the yarn in her hand.

What would God do now?
How could she care for the people?
How could she help them see their splendor?
A love poem? A song? More scarves?

God had tried it all,
but now she had an idea:
God would send them
a Word they could touch,
Love made real.
God would send the Word in the form of Jesus.
Jesus would be their net and their blanket.
They would not be alone.

And so,
Jesus came into the world,
and had this way of lingering
with each person,
talking, delighting in their company
losing all track of time,
losing track of all
but the love that flowed between them.

People would come up to Jesus and say,
I don’t know if I belong.
I talk differently. I think differently.
I am wearied by the ways
people keep moving by me,
and never actually see me.
.
Jesus remained with them,
enthralled by a splendor
that they did not always see,
listening to the whole story,
knitting and purling over and over again.
Jesus would say,
I know you have been called many things,
but this is your name now:
your name is beloved.
This is the name the Great Love gave you at your birth,
with a steadfastness and insistence that cannot be shaken.

Even at Jesus’ baptism,
the heavens could not contain this holy care;
the skies spilled open,
pouring out grace,
as God stitched the Word
into all our hearts:
You are my beloved with whom I am well-pleased.

The words are spoken not just to Jesus,
but to all of us,
in the places where
our threads are tattered and worn,
tangled and knotted.

Sometimes we forget. Sometimes it doesn’t feel true.

I am reminded of that by Fayette’s story.

Fayette’s story is one
that I heard many times as a student pastor.
In the context of today,
it enlivens the Scripture
and helps us understand
the Word God weaves.

I came to know Fayette’s story
from the pastor at my internship,
who heard the story from
Pastor Janet Wolf
in Nashville, Tennessee.

Fayette came to Janet’s church one summer
pacing back and forth
outside the open doors,
listening intently to
the music, the laughter, the words.
Occasionally,
she would crouch down on the front steps
engrossed, amazed and astounded.
Little by little that summer,
Fayette moved from the sidewalk to the steps,
from the steps to the door
and finally one day from the door to the pew.

Months passed
and finally Fayette decided to join a membership class.
As part of this class,
Janet began to explain about baptism.
She began: “You see in Baptism, each of us is named”
but before she could finish,
Fayette jumped up and with excitement,
began to finish her sentence
“each of us is named by God
as a bright brilliant, beloved child of God
who is beautiful to behold.”
“I know, I know those words.
I heard you say them before at all the other baptisms.”

“That’s right,” said Janet,
“we say them as a response to everyone’s baptism.”

“Well,” said Fayette,
“I can’t wait until you say them at MY baptism.”

It seemed from that day forward,
Fayette began reciting those words whenever she could.
During prayer time, in the middle of the sermon,
in the midst of a hymn,
you could hear Fayette shouting out,
“You are a bright, brilliant, beloved child of God
and you are beautiful to behold!”

Finally the day came for Fayette to be baptized.
As she emerged from the waters,
she sprang out of the baptismal pool
dancing and leaping for joy down the aisle.
Turning to the congregation, she said, “And now I am …”
and the whole congregation responded,
“bright, brilliant, beloved child of God
who is beautiful to behold.”

Well, not long after,
the pastor received one of those dreaded
middle of the night phone calls.
It was the local hospital calling to say that
Fayette was there,
having been brought in after a brutal assault.
As Janet approached Fayette’s room,
she could hear her mumbling to herself,
“bright, brilliant, beloved …
bright, brilliant …
bright, brilliant beloved child of …”

Standing in the doorway,
Janet could see Fayette pacing back and forth.
Her face was swollen and bruised,
hair going this way and that.
She turned to see Janet standing there and she said,
“I am a bright, brilliant, beloved child of God …”
but she couldn’t quite finish it.
Again she started,
“I am bright brilliant beloved child of God” a
and turning to see herself in the mirror
with the reality of the words
not matching the image staring back at her,
she went on, “And God is still working on me!
And if you come back tomorrow
I’ll be so beautiful to behold you won’t recognize me.”

Fayette’s story reminds me that
God’s words to us are ones of persistent love
and insistent liberation.
You see,
Fayette knew,
even in the midst of the struggles of her life,
that there was nothing that
could take back, erase or wash way
the truth celebrated at her baptism,
that she is a bright, brilliant, beloved child of God
who is oh so beautiful to behold!
This had always been true.

Knit, purl, knit, purl.
God keeps on stitchin’,
‘till at last we see
we are enfolded by: love not gone anywhere.

Whoa.

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Categories: Sermons, Uncategorized

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