Friday, January 15, 2016

KKQ 2016: Friday Morning, Advent

Yarn and Jesus and mountains.  Y'all, for a retreat, it just doesn't get any better.  Unless you throw in 100+ knitters and quilters, the best toast you'll eat anywhere, and snow on Sunday morning.  Then you've got the Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Retreat, at which I have had the privilege of serving as chaplain for the past few years.  The posts that follow are the "homilettes" (so, a homily is a short sermon; a homilette...) I shared at our morning and evening worship services.

The theme was officially "Turning and Re-turning," a lyrical thread from the Appalachian tune, "Simple Gifts."  I had been thinking about the liturgical year, which had begun in Advent, and we were only just in Epiphany.  And it had been a year since we had seen one another, and so many things had been begun and ended between when we had last been at Kanuga and when we returned.  In our stitching, we turn and re-turn to the start of rows or strips of fabric; in something of the same way we turn and re-turn to the start of the story of salvation every time Advent comes around again, always building on the story with another year of our own lives, of new experiences and perspectives and rows or strips of faith.

What ended up being the "unofficial" theme, because it was the refrain I kept returning to in my reflections, was "For everything there is a season."  Some of what is here will have made more sense if you were there, but I hope it is still enough familiar that you might turn and re-turn to similar seasons in your own years and projects and faith journeys.  So we begin with Advent...

Canticle 15 (Luke 1:46-55); Luke 1:39-45

And blessed is she who believed...

Seredipity Needleworks, Tuscaloosa, AL

We stopped at a yarn shop yesterday, on our way from Jackson, Mississippi, to Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, North Carolina.  We actually stopped at two yarn shops.  Now, this is problematic for several reasons.

First, perhaps you have not seen the car in which the three of us, sometimes four, travel to this retreat.  It's not a small car.  There's plenty of room for plenty of things, and yet with all the yarn, and books about yarn, and things for working with yarn, and things made out of yarn...and suitcases, if they fit...there's only just enough room for people, if we hold yarn in our laps.  The last thing we need is more yarn.

Second, perhaps you have not heard about how we travel.  Someone said yesterday that we always manage to squeeze a nine-hour drive into around thirteen hours.  Sometimes it's because of where we eat on the way.  Sometimes it has something or other to do with the car or its gas tank.*  There's really not time to stop for yarn even once, let alone twice.

*We may or may not have run out of gas on the way last year.  Twice.

I think one of the reasons we stop for yarn anyway is because we know what will happen when we open the door and step inside the shop.  It has happened to all of us, I'm certain, walking into a yarn shop or a fabric shop.  Or don't you have to pause for just a moment on the threshold to catch your breath, overwhelmed, even if you knew exactly what you came there to fine?  All that color!  All those textures!  All those patterns!  All those possibilities!  You could make anything!

Perhaps, like me, you wander among the displays, touching with reverence the fibers or fabrics, smiling with involuntary delight at a particular print or at a color more saturated than any we have every seen.  Can it really be that yellow?  Perhaps we pick up a skein or a bolt, or see a shop sample, and begin to imagine something we might make something beautiful, something bold.  But then reality sets in, whatever it is about our daily lives that makes us too busy or too tired or too fearful, whatever limits our possibilities, and we put it back down and walk away.

In the Making, Birmingham, AL

But what if...

In the season of Advent, we pause for just a moment on the threshold of what some have called the greatest story every told, the story of how God opened the door from heaven to earth, stepped inside, and became Emmanuel, God-with-us.  The possibilities were endless, as in a yarn shop or fabric store.  But not every yarn works for every pattern; not every fabric can take every shape.  You wouldn't knit something with scratchy wool to go around your neck, or quilt with flannels or thick batting for a Mississippi bed.  God could have picked any pattern for the Savior of the world - a blue whale, a dogwood, a cumulus cloud, a warrior, a king.  But God chose humility and a sense of humor (Jesus could tell a joke!), ordinariness and passion, calloused fingers and dusty feet, and devotion as a shepherd to his sheep.

It was not a new pattern.  God had made a person before, with the same hands and feet and shoulders that sometimes get cold, with ears and a mouth and an eye for color, and bearing God's own image.  But there would be a new thread this time, the perfect yarn for God's pattern of salvation.  This person would not simply bear God's image.  This person would be God from God, light from light, true God from true God, love from love...

...if Mary would believe it was possible, if she wasn't too busy, too tired, too afraid, if she wouldn't put down God's invitation to do something beautiful, something bold, and just walk away...

More In the Making...

Blessed is she who believed there would be a fulfillment of all that God has spoken, Elizabeth said when she embraced her cousin.  That God would do something as extraordinary as becoming as vulnerable as we are.  That God would choose reality - our busy-ness and weariness and fears - as the place where God would do more than we could ask or imagine.  That God would piece salvation together from humility and humor and ordinariness and passion and kindness and community and welcome and relationship and prayer and creativity...from the kinds of things that will be happening right here at our retreat...

More In the Making... This yarn may or may not have come home with me.

For everything there is a season.  For believing that anything is possible, for preparing as best as we can, for waiting for the marvelous things that have been promised, that season is Advent...and the first morning of the Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Retreat.  We're waiting for the warm scarf or yoked sweater or bowtie quilt that will soon be born.  The patterns and yarns and fabrics are chosen.  What if, today, we believed that God will fulfill all that God has spoken?  What if, instead of putting down what we think cannot be done, we believed that God-with-us will be with us?  What if reality is as full of color and texture and promise as a yarn shop, or the quilting room, or heaven?  Amen.

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