"Steadfast Love ... and Grit"

“Steadfast Love…and Grit”

Pastor Bill Dow


     Betrayal is a human condition that most of us experienced in some form. I don’t know about you, but I feel betrayed when I see images of people stockpiling things like toilet paper in a time of crisis. I feel betrayed by the stores that allow panic buying. I feel betrayed by those who attempt to balance economic concerns with human life. Oh yeah, I’m feeling betrayed for sure.

     But my anger at being betrayed is offset by the images and stories of dedication, competence, determination, courage and faith. God bless those who have trained for this time of crisis and serve our communities with essential services of health care and protection. 

     My friends, WE ARE LOVED…not in the warm, fuzzy kind of love, but in the gritty, determined love, that serves with a purpose.

     Humility is not being someone’s doormat! Humility is knowing exactly who you are and your intended purpose. Armed with that knowledge, the humble person rolls up their sleeves and enters the fray.

     Arrogance, on the other hand, continually seeks to advance self-interest, inflating the image of importance while using power to fortify and advance the protective walls of self-affirmation.

     In all three of the gospels, the disciples are caught arguing over who was the greatest among them. Requests are made to sit at his right hand when Jesus comes into power.

     The garden is a moment of great tension because just like in Bible study, the disciples can’t figure out when, exactly, Jesus is speaking literally or figuratively. He has told them he must die and rise on the third day, but is he speaking of some kind of allegorical kind of death? Surely, he can’t mean a literal death…can he??

     The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.

     We a caught up in such a time. We a confronted by the weakness of our flesh. We have graphs showing trends, but we don’t have vaccines. We have equipment to treat symptoms, but not enough. Already in some places, decisions are being made about who lives, and who dies, may God strengthen those who are backed into that corner of decision making. Pray that our decisions today regarding social distancing minimizes the spiritual trauma of those forced to do triage. And pray for those willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work making equipment that will save lives. 

     In our first time together, I preached a message about temptation and short-cuts. This would be the time when we would cut up the lottery ticket. The prayer lifted by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals a profound theological moment. Jesus, the Son of God, pleasing in the sight of God, the One who fed five thousand with a couple of fish and a few loaves, the One who walked on water and calmed the storm, the One who healed so many, this same Jesus experiences unanswered prayer. Silence. 

     This is a moment of faith…THE moment of faith. The Son of Man will face everything the world can dish out: betrayal, abandonment, rejection, mockery, torture, and the most hideous death one human being can impose on another. Silence.

     All right then. It’s time to wake those entrusted to vigilance. Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer. 

     There’s a wonderful musical called Quilters. Are there any quilters here? This play is available on You Tube. I recommend it for your time of Safer at Home. I’ll post the address with the text of this sermon. You can find it on the church website or use a search engine and find it that way.

     Quilters speaks to the steadfast love and grit of pioneer women who saved every bit of cloth during extremely hard times when every scrap of cloth was precious. The salvaged bits were sewn into squares and then the squares were sewn together to make a blanket that not only served to keep someone warm, but to also tell a story.

     You see, the scraps that make up the squares emerge into the vision of the quilter. Scraps are turned into images of art…that tell compelling stories of life. Value is added. Dignity is restored. But what is especially compelling about a quilt is that can also serve the pragmatic need of warmth, particularly in the dead of night.

     In its original form, quilting was not an individual effort. The quilting bee was, and still is, an important form of social gathering. Youngers begin to be exposed to the conversations and efforts of adults working toward a common outcome. Nine stiches per inch is the exacting standard of quality…easy with a machine…but by hand? And when nine stitches per inch is achieved, the evenness of each individual stitch compared with the others is evaluated. Quilting is not for the faint-hearted.

     Yet quilting is the teacher of patience. It takes forever, even when you’re working as a team. It’s also a teacher of grace. Mistakes can be mended. Corrective action can be employed.

     Don’t get me wrong. There can be a nasty side of quilting as well. Arrogance has a way of showing up in all aspects of living. But my experience with quilters is that the better you are, the more you’re willing to work with others and share your gift in a communal setting.

     One of the greatest quilters I know is Mary. She’s now deep in the grasp of Alzheimer’s Disease. She still recognizes her husband, pretty much, but has no idea who I am even though I served as her pastor for eight years. Mary still lives at home with the special features that keep her from getting lost or hurt. But here’s the point…she still quilts by staking squares of material and arranging them in ways that suit the image of her vision. Her creative process is still at work. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.

     Quilting is a wonderful metaphor for the Body of Christ. The scraps of our human brokenness are transformed by a vision of grace and joined to serve a pragmatic purpose, restoring and maintaining the dignity of those entrusted to our care…while giving glory to God.

     Those who claim that this virus is God’s wrath released upon us for some sin that reinforces a political or theological position have not entered into the fullness of this gospel narrative!

     The path of Christ is not a way of comfort and privilege. It’s not a way of getting what you pray for or getting into heaven when you die. Following Jesus is a way of learning who you truly are and what your purpose for living really is. It’s a way to augment the inspiration of Creator God in talented and pragmatic ways that address the challenges of living in the 21st Century. Ten years ago this gathering could not have happened. Let’s be thankful for the work that made our gathering possible. Pray that it inspires us and others to amazing things to the glory of God!

     We live in a world of accelerated change…exponential change. It’s confusing, it’s frightening, and it’s tempting to withdraw into the numbness of indifference. But this can also be an awakening! The love of Christ Jesus has not diminished for one moment. We are forever linked to his sacrifice and the grace He extends to all.

     On Good Friday let us pause to remember the nature of God’s love and what it means to be a follower of Holy Jesus.


Quilters Act 1 & Act 2






  August 2021  
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