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When I first entered Woodmont Weavers my heart began to pound because it had the elements of hand made crafts that I do so adore and love. In the front shop there were knitted scarves, handmade jewelry and table runners. It was the back of the shop that was the most intriguing. There were perhaps six weaving looms and there were colorful woven wall hangings with abstract designs, as well as, weavings of birds. Yet, these birds were only the representations of birds that had been transformed into something more colorful and fantastical.
I was told that these weaving looms were the property of St. Colletta’s special education programs. It turned out that there were about six developmentally disabled weavers who sat at these looms daily and were paid for their weavings. So, I returned during the daytime to see these weavers at work. They sat busily doing their work, as I talked to one of the workers for this non-profit. That is when I asked if they did commissioned work, liturgical banner in particular.
“Yes we will, but it will take us some time to do it. Bring in a picture and we will see what we can do.”
When I returned with a picture of the Lamb of God from an old church fresco she made some minor changes and said it would be done in about four weeks. I knew that one man was the particular weaver that produced all the large works. She told me that somehow he just looks at the picture and starts weaving what he sees. No pattern, no preparation, he has a picture put in front of him and he starts to weave.
I was amazed and excited. I went away expectant, but soon I forgot. Ever so often this woman at the shop would call and apologize for it taking so long, but mostly the weeks started to turn into months. I went in a couple of times and she would tell me that their weaver was still weaving it and that it had taken a little longer than they had expected. Finally, I got the call that I should come and pick up the banner that it was done.
I entered and as this woman unrolled it I was delighted. I could tell that she was intensely proud of the man who had created the piece that now hangs at the back of our sanctuary.
She looked at me stroking holding the banner and said, “you know he doesn’t talk, never has. His autism is so pronounced that he could never communicate verbally. Then one day he sat down at a weavers loom and began to weave beautiful things. It is really one of the only ways that he communicates to the outside world. He communicates by creating these wonderful works of art!”
I could tell by her beaming eyes that she was getting a glimpse into something deeper than only an autistic man at a loom. She was seeing something divine.
I will tell you that there are many times that I come into this silent sanctuary and pray. Finally, my focus falls on that banner and I remember the story of the man who communicates by weaving beauty out of his fingers. That is the Spirit of God my friends. I hope that you experience it.
It is not easy getting up every week trying to come up with new material, material that might inspire you, might make you go out viewing the next week with different eyes. I struggle weekly with ancient texts and crafting words that might make a difference in my world. Most often when I feel that I have connected my condition with your condition is when I preach something that I need to hear. Then I feel that spark of the Spirit igniting somewhere deep inside me, exciting me and propelling me forward to do good works.
This is transfiguration Sundays and I am less interested in memorializing Jesus, Moses and Elijah glowing on a mountain. That is what the disciples want to do and we should never do that. It is because Jesus has torn the veil away that we can glow with the Spirit in this world. I want to feel that spark, I want to weave communications that had previously stuck in my deadened tongue, and I want to live a life that is burning with importance every day. That is the message of Corinthians. When the spirit of Christ comes to us we cannot hide it in a veil, it will shine for our entire world to see. There is one of my favorite lines from a gospel that I sing when I am in what I call my Shekinah Glory or the witness of the Spirit in my life. It goes, “I said I wasn’t gonna tell nobody, but I couldn’t keep it to myself. What the Lord has done for me.” I want that spirit this morning so that I can claim with the psalmist, “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in my!”
Let’s turn from the stodgy institutionalization of Jesus Christ. Let’s not make Jesus’ teaching into a 5-point program for the good life. Let’s remember what Christ’s radical message entails, it is freedom! All those things that enslave, know that you can be liberated! Christ’s coming will rip the veil from our faces. We will not be able to feign ignorance of spiritual things, nor deny others of our good works. Christ will ruin our ability to ignore the sin, narcissism, self-pity, rage, resentments and abuse that we have let creep into our lives. We will not be able to deny the power of God moving amongst us. We will show radical mercy to others and enjoy the idea of peace. We can gain a miraculous release from fear. We will be free to know real emotions, forgiveness and repentance. We will know God and more importantly we will know that God accepts us. It is my hope that I can always recreate that look in the woman at Woodmont weaver’s eyes; it is the look of the veil ripped away. It is the look of someone who has seen the divine at work and cannot explain the mystery of that salvation. That is the salvation that I want this morning.
Thanks to Suzi W. on Twitter
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