Sunday Morning, Easter
1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Psalm 36:5-10; John 20:1-18
Now there are varieties of gifts, wrote Paul, who often said that his gift was weakness. There are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit, the same God who activates them all in everyone.
I learned, just yesterday in Mimi's class, that one of my gifts is mis-reading a knitting pattern. I am calling it a gift because Mimi's one classroom rule is that you cannot talk down about yourself. Perhaps others of you, whether knitters or quilters, have my same gift. It isn't that we do not understand the techniques we're being taught. It's not that we cannot execute them. It's simply that we have a gift...of not seeing what is right in front of us on the page.
Many of the projects we tackled this weekend demanded our best efforts. I saw all of you hard at work in your classrooms, sewing curved seams, knitting brioche, arranging quilt squares, making fingers on gloves. I chose Fox Paws for my project, and with the others in Mimi's class I cast on and started knitting.
|This is my mom's Fox Paws. She has the gift of not mis-reading the pattern.|
So, until you reach row ten of that pattern - row ten, after nine grueling rows of knit-one-yarn-over-knit-one-in-the-same-stitch, slip-back-two, change colors, weave in the ends as you go... Until you reach row ten of Fox Paws, it's a hot mess. There are bunched up stitches everywhere, looking nothing at all like the pattern picture, and the only way to tell if you're knitting it correctly is to count, and then to pray. When you get to row ten, suddenly you see them, those little fox paws, which had been there all along.
Supposing him to be the gardener... I love this little detail in John's Easter story. Supposing him to be the gardener. Mary Magdalene, alone at the tomb, already grieving and now also anxious to find her Lord...Mary Magdalene turns away from a vision of angels to see a man standing nearby. Supposing him to be the gardener...Mary is gifted, too. She does not see what is right in front of her. She did not know that it was Jesus, John explains, and scholars and preachers have often said it was because resurrection was not a category she knew, that she did not recognize him because it couldn't possibly be him.
Others, including Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, give Mary more credit than that. Though Jesus clearly knew a little bit about growing wheat and grapes, or so it seemed from the stories he told, he was definitely not in the plant business. Mary thought he was the gardener, Bolz-Weber believes, because he looked like a gardener, which is to say, he was a mess. In icons and stained glass windows, the two of them stand face to face. Jesus is dressed all in white, with flowing hair, his face clean, his halo shining. But if Mary supposed him to be a gardener, he must have looked a little rough, the way we do when we're pulling weeds. Dirt under our nails, on our faces and between our toes; the hem of our pants (or his robe) soaking wet from the grass, maybe wearing a hat or carrying a hoe, with bits of leaves and twigs in our hair.
|One of the knitters at the retreat cares for the gardens at Kanuga.|
The heather was blooming while we were there.
It was an understandable mistake, perhaps. God had been a gardener before, of course, in the very beginning, when God planted the seeds of all that would take root and grow and flower into creation. How fitting that on the day of resurrection, when creation was made new, infused not with time but eternity, that God would appear as a gardener again. Mary did not see Jesus until he called her name, and then suddenly there he was, right in front of her all along.
For everything there is a season... In all seasons, there is Easter. Every Sunday on our church calendar, whether in Advent or Lent or any other time of year...every Sunday is called a "little Easter", when we gather again to remember that Jesus died, yes, but also that he rose, re-creating us, and it is on this side of Easter that we now live - not just every Sunday, but every day.
Which is not, of course, to say that every day we look our best, as we do for "big" Easter, in our white dresses and pastel ties, lily-fresh. It may be that here, on retreat, we've been more appropriately dressed to find our risen Savior. If Mary, who had seen him face to face, supposed him that day to be a gardener, how many times, on how many days, have we look at Christ right in front of us not knowing that he was there? In the smile of the server in the dining hall. In the patience of our teachers here. In the stranger who has now become a friend. Singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer writes, "God walks round in muddy boots, sometimes rags, and that's the truth. You can't always tell, but sometimes you just know."
Resurrection is messy. There are scars. There is misunderstanding. There is the business of becoming a new creation. There is meeting Christ on a morning in the midst of grief and confusion. And there is finally leaving the place where we saw him. In the Fox Paws pattern, row one comes around again eventually. And for a time the stitches will once again be all bunched up and difficult to work. But now we know the little paws are in there.
|It was a jumbled assortment of squares. But there's a quilt in there all along.|
Jesus the Gardener sent Mary out to tell what she had seen. And she went, and it very well may be that we have a gospel to read at all because she announced to the others that Christ had risen and that they would see him going ahead of them. And when indeed they did, Jesus said he would be with them always, even to the end of the age.
Mary was gifted. And so are we. And I don't just mean that sometimes we don't see what's right in front of us. Mary had the gift of courage to tell the story of resurrection, as unbelievable as it sounded. Some of us have the gift of patience to teach. Others listen well, or start good fires in fireplaces, or elicit smiles, or are gifted at encouragement. We are all of us creative, and we all are able to wrap the world around us in warmth and color and generosity - or what else are we doing when we give someone a sweater or a hat or a quilt?
|Charlotta is gifted at quilting.|
|Trish is gifted at knitting.|
|These knitters and quilters are gifted at music.|
They play for our closing service every year.
I hope there is new life in you today, at the end of this wonderful weekend we've shared. We've walked in the shadows of mountains and trees, we've not had to cook even once, we've sat by fireplaces, we've talked with friends, we've napped, we've shopped, we've walked in the snow, we've stitched for three days straight without interruption. Alleluia! Alleluia! For everything there is a season... Soon we will leave Kanuga, and in 360 or so days return (but who's counting?!). In the year to come, in every season, may we share our gifts, may we keep creating, may we seek and find Christ not in perfection but in all the beautiful messiness of life. He's right in front of us all the time, and with us to the end of the age. Amen.