Saturday, January 16, 2016

KKQ 2016: Saturday Evening, Lent

Here is where I explain what this little series of posts is all about.  This evening service included prayers for healing.

Saturday Evening, Lent
Psalms 42 and 43; Isaiah 43:16-21

Last year at KKQ, which was celebrating its tenth year, someone suggested we thank Varian for her ministry among us by making something for her out of pieces or yarn or fabric from every participant there.  I wandered from class to class, asking knitters for scraps of the yarns they were using - soft wools, sturdy cottons, lustrous silks and alpacas, in a rainbow of colors even Crayloa hasn't named, light and dark, lofty and sleek, from balls of working yarn and piles of yarn that had been unknit or worse.

Finally I went to the quilting room, uncertain whether what I was going to ask was even possible.  We had decided to tie the yarns together end to end to end, and thought perhaps we could use narrow strips of fabric as well.  I explained this to the quilters, and asked them, "So, from the fabrics you're working with this weekend, do you think there might be scraps?"

Cue the laughter.

Apparently, one of the many mysteries in quilting is not only that there are always scraps, but that as you work your way through them, piecing them in ever smaller strips and shapes into new quilts, the scraps multiply.  Exponentially.  Every quilter keeps a bag or box at his or her table to collect the fragments of fabric cut away but not discarded, for there may be life and purpose in them yet.  Pink from a quilt for someone's daughter.  A musical print in memory of a musical friend.  An orange that was chosen for the color of a sunset.

It isn't hard to see how like life our handwork is.  How we start fresh and new, how all things are possible on the threshold of a project, a year, a job, a journey, a relationship.  How we work eagerly and carefully with all we have been given, whether yarn or fabric or the ability to do math or a gift for teaching or a call to medicine or a chance meeting with someone we grow to love.  How we create something at once beautiful and useful, cutting away what we don't need.

And then...a stitch gets dropped.  A pattern gets misread.  A seam doesn't line up.  We run out of yarn.  We cut the fabric in the wrong direction.  We receive a diagnosis.  The phone rings in the middle of the night.  Someone moves away.  We lose a job, our health, our hope, a loved one.  We hurt someone, whether we meant to or not.

For everything there is a season...  In the liturgical season of Lent, we acknowledge how dark things can get, how tangled, how disordered, how discouraging.  We sift through what seems a pile of scraps and lay them before God.  We have not loved you with our whole hearts, we pray at the start of the season.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  We confess our unfaithfulness, our pride, our impatience, our anger at our own frustration, our envy of those more fortunate.  For whatever reason, whether we make a mistake or something happens that impairs us in some way, we lose sight of the pattern, of the possibilities that are yet there.  We are vulnerable, heart, mind, and body, and we need God's help.

I am about to do a new thing, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah.  Do you not perceive it?  Even now, in this season of darkness and doubt and discouragement, it springs forth.  For the scraps in the quilters' bags, for the tangled thoughts and feelings in our hearts, it might seem that we are finished.  But there is, quilters know (and knitters, too - or how many tiny balls of scrap yarn are in your stash?) there is infinitely more that yet God can and will make of us.

That extra yarn becomes a lifeline so that the next time you rip back you don't lose everything.  That scrap of orange that was a sunset in your quilt becomes a goldfish when you give it to the quilter at the next machine.  Or perhaps the scraps remain simply scraps, retaining the stories and experiences that made them what they are, as we retain the stories and experiences that made us who we are.  Darkness and light.  Ragged and smooth.  Bright colors and neutral grays.  There is always, always, another piece that can be placed somewhere we did not know it could be beautiful.  Perfection, muses another knitter, is wholeness, not the absence of error or darkness or mistakes.  It is the holding together of all the scraps and threads and making something new.

Yarn scraps can make tiny trees.

Fabric scraps can make tiny quilts.

From start to finish, really, that we can bundle up in shawls and quilts and scarves and woolen socks at all is nothing short of a mystery at least - a miracle more likely.  Most yarn and the threads that form fabrics start out as living things, or part of living things - wools and silks and cottons, tangles of fibers that have to be washed and brushed and spun and plied, or woven and cut into bolts.  We take those single long strands or strips of fabric and mix them up again, connecting loop after loop, piece after piece, until they become a new whole, made up no longer of something unbroken but of partial skeins and cut pieces of cloth.  I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, God says to those who had only remnants of life left.  So will God make a new and beautiful way out of us.  Amen.

The God's Eye we made for Varian last year, with our scraps of yarn and fabric.

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