During church two Sundays ago, out of the blue, Jane Jackson and the Santa Maria Guild presented me with the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received: a crazy quilt made with storied fabric from the individual lives of my church family, pieced and lovingly sewn together. To everyone who gave a patch for this quilt thank you SO much!
There are painted crosses on red felt from Donald who has been restoring our church with elaborate stencils since I was in high school. There are the floral cotton patches from Linda’s sister Jenny’s pajamas. I never met Jenny but it was her terminal illness that pressed Linda to come to Grace Church and we prayed for Jenny on the phone before Linda and I ever met. Mary’s patch in the quilt is an African print. How many times has she shook me to the core singing Gospel during communion in one of those bold print shirts? There are also puppy appliques cut from JB’s out-grown footie pajamas. JB is a child in our congregation who I baptized and am getting to watch grow up. I could go on sharing the stories sewn into this quilt and would like to. After church on the day it was given to me it was spread across the piano and during coffee hour people showed me, one by one, where their patch was and told me what it meant.
I have a Bible study speech about how Scripture is like a crazy quilt. It isn’t made from a whole cloth. The books in the Bible come from different places, times and people. Ezekiel tells the story of prophesizing to dry bones during the Babylonian exile twenty-five hundred years ago. When I am hopeless I touch this story and God asks me what God asked Ezekiel: “Human, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3) There are letters about hope written by Paul to the churches while he was in prison that must have strengthened Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he was in a concentration camp after a thwarted attempt to stop Hitler. And in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus speaks to the early Christian community about how God watches over sparrows. “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was my Grandmother’s favorite hymn and I remember singing it next to her in her little, clap board Methodist Church in Jackson. It went into my blood and stayed with me long after she died.
And there are ugly stories in Scripture, stitched with threats and curses and contorted genealogies with people lost to time that the Bible can only name but not remember and wild stories about giants too. They are scraps of sacred stories- like weird relatives you don’t want to invite over but don’t want to forget either because they are pieces of the puzzle to who your family is.
My friend Ray told me that as a child he asked his religion teacher, Sister Rose, what the Bible stories meant and why they mattered. She told him, "Every story in the bible is about you. Each tells us how to live a life of happiness. Even the sad ones.”
You aren’t alone. You are sewn into a story, part of the great love of God in all of its outrageous weirdness, longing and joy. And you are living one of those stories now. What do you want to say?
Rev. Laurie Jean Wurm