Scripture John 17:1-11
My friend Nichole has a quilting and sewing station in her house. At any given time, if you were to walk by that station, it would be covered in swatches of fabric, in process projects, rotary cutters, pins, and designs. In that space, multiple quilts, even one she gave me when I moved to Omaha, grew from an idea, to pieces, to pinned together, to stitched together, to completed design. For some reason, thinking of her at her table, makes me think of God. I picture God as this cosmic quilter with the unending universe as God’s quilting station.
In the beginning, when God created, the earth was a formless idea. God pulled together the sun and the day and the moon and darkness and the night. Manifesting fabric and cloth, God fashioned the sky and the seas and the dry land and plants and animals of all kinds. Then God created a special fabric, made after God’s own image and likeness. A fabric capable of goodness and choice with free will. Fabric that shifted and changed as it was cut, each piece unique, no two alike, this fabric of humanity. And after sewing and stitching, God looked at God’s handiwork, this quilt of creation, and called it good. Then God continued, quilting and creating, adding on year after year and eon after eon through today. Each of us, each of you, stitched together, piece by piece, a part of God’s great quilt of love.
And we are, you know, stitched together and interconnected. Genesis names humanity as made in God’s image, made from the dust of the earth, and filled with God’s breath, connected both to God and the rest of creation. The apostle Paul writes about us being individual parts of one body, how we are all gifted in different ways and are all necessary parts of a greater whole. The Rev. Dr. King referred to our inherent interconnectedness by saying: “…all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of identity.” We belong to God and God has lovingly stitched us together. We are a part of God’s great quilt of creation, God’s quilt of love. Then why, you might ask, does Christ pray for us to be one? Verses 10 and 11 of our passage today read: “10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” Christ not only prays that we might be on as he and God are one but prays for our protection? Curious, since we are already inter-connected. But the thing is, we don’t always recognize it. We don’t always appreciate and live like we are stitched together. We may be one but we do not act like we are one. Plus things also actively tug at our stitching.
I remember at the last church I served, I was walking through their fellowship hall. It was partially carpeted with carpet squares designed to easily trade pieces out if one got stained or damaged. As I walked through it, I looked down and saw a stray thread. I get random stray threads on my clothes all the time that aren’t connected to anything but just appear so I was like, I will be helpful. Oh no. Oh no. I was actually pulling up the threading of the carpet. Some things unintentionally or unconsciously pull at our stitching. Things that might even start off healthy but can become damaging: certain relationships, food, alcohol, coping mechanisms like Netflix, facebook, tik tok, anxiety, depression, fear. All of those things pull and tug at our stitching until one day we look around, and we’re floating, isolated, hurt, starting to separate from the rest of the quilt. There things in this world that tug at our stitching too. Racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, excessive partisanship and toxic political rhetoric. All of those things work to isolate us and separate us from healthy, life-giving, community. Sometimes people mean for that to happen and sometimes people don’t. Unfortunately, the effect is the same. The stitching that binds us to the rest of humanity, the rest of creation, starts to fray, rip, and come a part.
We were made in community for community. We are stitched together with the rest of creation on purpose. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, we were made to be in healthy, life-giving connection with other people. Those things that tug at our stitching are real and can cause real harm, and they are not more powerful than God and God’s love. In Philippians chapter one, Paul wrote, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” God began a good work in us by stitching us together into a quilt of love and God will help us bring that connection to fullness, to it’s completion. In John chapter 17, a couple of verses after our passage today, Christ is still praying to God and says, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” Christ knows, knows that things will pull at us and tug at us, so he prays for our protection and, earlier in John chapter 16, tells the disciples to take heart, because he has already conquered. God wants us to focus our time and energy, not on the things that pull us a part, but on what brings us together. When we appreciate the beauty of our interconnection, we focus on how wonderful it is that God made us, not in isolation, but to be a part of loving communities, we open ourselves to new avenues of grace and experience the fullness of God’s love. We encounter deeper levels of community new experiences of love. When we embrace our stitched together nature, our unity is brought to completion and we become one as God and Christ are one.
This week, how can you lean into our stitched together nature? How can you recognize our inherent interconnection? Humanity is stitched together into one great quilt of love made by God. Your fabric square is stitched to yours, and yours, and yours and yours. Recognize that quilt, embrace that quilt, love that quilt, and experience new avenues of God’s love.