Saturday, January 16, 2016

KKQ 2016: Saturday Morning, Epiphany

Here is where I explain what this little series of posts is all about.

Saturday Morning, Epiphany
Matthew 2:1-12

We know they're going to ask before they do.  We're sitting there, knitting - quilters, I'm not sure whether this happens to you also, as I think you're less likely to pull out your sewing machine in the doctor's waiting room or in line at the DMV; but perhaps you do experience this here at Kanuga when we knitters visit the quilting room - so we're sitting there, knitting, working away at something that does not demand our full attention, and we become aware that someone nearby is watching.  Just stolen glances at first, but they get longer and longer, until it can only properly be called staring.  Finally the question comes, "What's that gonna be?"

This is gonna be a sweater (the fair isle yoke part).

It is a pivotal moment.  Potentially powerful.  For the question, though sometimes mere courtesy, is often genuine curiosity.  A little wonder, even.  A mystery.  A spark.  "What's that gonna be?"

"A scarf," we say.  Or a hat.  Or a shawl.  Or a quilt to fit a cradle.  We work more slowly for a moment or two, exaggerating movements we usually make without effort, to spark more interest, to keep the wonder alive, to fan the flame.  Do we tell them the scarf is for a grandfather who has a hard time keeping warm?  That the hat is for a friend who will soon lose her hair?  That the shawl is made with yarn we bought last summer on our family vacation?  That the quilt is for our first grandson, made with fabrics leftover from his mother's or father's baby clothes?  "What's that gonna be?"  A scarf is only half the story.

This is gonna be yarn.

For everything there is a season...  In the season of Epiphany, we remember how sparks of recognition flew at first like stars in the night sky and finally burst in transfigured glory.  "What's that gonna be," people murmured as Jesus began to be known.  At first they just stole glances, and then they stopped and stared, not fully recognizing the shape of his words and actions but aware they were seeing and hearing something new and wonderful and of God.

"What's that gonna be," they asked as he turned water into wine, or cast out demons, or said blessed are the meek.  "This is going to be salvation," Jesus might have said.  This is going to be forgiveness. This is mercy.  This is love.  This is justice.  This is grace.  This is welcome.  And then he'd tell a story about vines and branches, wheat and chaff, baker women, shepherds and sheep.  What was happening was extraordinary, the eruption of heaven on earth, but it happened in ordinary time, in the course of ordinary days.  Like us on our ordinary days, Jesus went here and there, he worked hard, sometimes he rested.  He met with friends, at his meals, said his prayers, noticed the people around him and asked him how they were.

"What's that gonna be"  Our quilters know the question because I myself have asked it after staring stealing glances as pieces become a whole, as patterns are revealed that I had not seen before, each an epiphany all its own.  I know it's a quilt, but if I linger long enough, I learn the rest of the story, or some of is a sunset over a mountain, or a gift for a golden anniversary, or a prayer for someone who is grieving, or a cover for a college-bound kid.

This is the sunset over a mountain, before it got quilted.

I suppose any moment, whether we are stitching a garment or a blanket or a life, any moment can be pivotal and powerful when we use it to show and tell how we make meaning, to let someone know, because they have asked, who and whose we are.  And the light, like the work in our hands, grows as someone else now knows something about warmth, about love, about grace.  Then we go back to our work, back to knitting, back to quilting, back to living, as though it is the most ordinary thing in the world.  Which, of course, it is.  And of course, which it isn't.  It's extraordinary.  That's why they stare.  That's why they ask.

It is fitting, perhaps, that we have this retreat in the actual season of Epiphany, when every Sunday tells the story of how someone who stared suddenly sees.  The gospel story for this morning does not say so, but surely the wise men wondered, even worried, when the star they followed stopped not above a palace but a place where peasants lived.  They must have stared at the child who seemed far more the son of the carpenter in the corner than a king, let alone the son of God.  Who knows what happened there that night at Joseph and Mary's house that finally helped them see just who he was.  "What's that gonna be?"  Maybe Mary told the story of the angel who came to announce what God meant to make possible.  Maybe Joseph told the story of his dream.  But like that moment when stacked stitches become a fox paw, or when bow ties emerge from an arrangement of fabric, the wise men saw the light, saw everything differently than they had the moment before.

These are the stacked stitches that became a fox paw.

"What's that gonna be"  Perhaps the best answer of all would be to say that we aren't sure yet, even if we know it is, minimally, a hat or an art quilt or a shawl.  The truth is, it's a story that is still unfolding, with epiphanies around every corner, revelation in every row, stories in every stitch.  In the gospel, Jesus had years yet to grow, the wise men had miles yet to travel, the star had light years yet to burn, our own stories were yet dreams in our ancestor's hearts.  So also our projects are works in progress, as we are.

What if, today, we shined a light for every moment of recognition, every time we saw the pattern - in our projects, yes, but better still every time we saw in one another the pattern of heaven on earth as we go here and there, working hard, resting, eating meals with friends, saying our friends, and telling each other our stories.  May this day be blessed and bright.  Amen.

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