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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

July / August 2011

Dear Friends,

            The quilt’s been in the family as long as I can remember.  Someone once told me that it’s called a “double-wedding-ring-quilt,” and it was probably sewn for young newlyweds many years ago.  I don’t know whose wedding it commemorates or who sewed it.  Those questions never occurred to me until there was no one left to ask.  We’d call the thing an heirloom if it were in better condition.  We’d use it on our beds if it weren’t so unfashionable.  But though we neither treasure it nor sleep under it, I do sometimes reach for the old wedding quilt on summer evenings, as I did just last week.  I spread it out under the silver maples, and there I lay, listening to the world.

            A red squirrel scolded me from the branches nearby, scandalized that I’d set up camp so close to her.  I didn’t mind her chiding; she’s been known to trespass in my space, too.  Birds sang into the approaching dusk.  I-79 hummed in the distance.  We’ve lived here for a year, and the highway has kept silence exactly twice that I can recall: once when I rose in early darkness to write a sermon and once on Christmas morning.

            As I lay on the old quilt, my younger daughter chattered to herself quietly and made chalk drawings on the driveway.  She and the interstate have a few things in common: busyness, endless motion, continuous sound.  It was one of those midsummer evenings when all my work was done; my three ladies were all happily going about their business; the cucumbers and zucchinis were swelling like slow balloons in the garden.  The loud cicadas were still a few weeks away.  All seemed well with the world.

            Of course, all was not well with the world.  The greed of some would still guarantee the poverty of the many.  The power-lust of some would still perpetuate large scale and needless violence.  Even on that idyllic evening, the earth itself could cry out for justice.  But moments of tranquility overtake even the most tempestuous of souls, and those of us who yearn for a “coming kingdom” of justice and peace need such moments.  They give us strength for the journey, joy for the hard task.

            And in that moment, all did seem well, lying there on a wedding quilt beneath the old, old maples.  When we step back to survey our lives, it’s these simple pleasures that we remember.  Moody European dramas spend long moments showing life as it happens wordlessly: a bus ride, a family meal, a moment by the sea.  And often, when a film wants to depict a person looking back on his or her life, it’s the moments like these that roll before the mind’s eye: playing on the schoolyard, walking with a loved one, music wafting from a neighbor’s open window.  These times are sacred.  They’re holy.  They’re stuffed with the very life of God within us and all around.

            Church, too, is a place of simple things.  Our two most meaningful acts are a bath and a meal (baptism and communion).  Preaching, praying, and singing are the soul’s attempt to make simple conversation with Life, for God is best known in simplicity.  In the days ahead, I charge each of you with the plain task of sharing “simple things” with anyone in our midst whom you do not know.  It could be a visitor or just a person sitting alone.  Share a smile and a greeting.  But more, make some attempt at conversation, however awkward.  Too often, we shake hands with visitors at the passing of the peace, then we leave them to stand uncomfortably alone.  Ask to sit with a newcomer or a stranger!  Invite that person to coffee hour, or to Sunday school, or even to lunch!  Introduce those persons to others, and remind them to fill out the pew pad!  Simple things.  They make all the difference in our lives.  And God is very much in them.