Memorial Service Reflection for Corinne Groehler, March 1, 2017

Psalm 139:8-18, II Corinthians 4:16-5:1, Matthew 11:28-30

I.

    The Psalm today speaks of God as one who knits: a knitter: one who weaves the threads of life into the tapestry of creation. The patterns of the one who knits are microscopic and cosmic as both great darkness and wonderful light are woven into the stuff of life itself. We will return to God’s knitting in Psalm 139 in a bit. It is sufficient to recall as we begin that God weaves the strands of life just as Corinne knitted so much love.

And knit she did. There were mittens and shawls, baptismal blankets, scarves, and clothes. Stitching of all sort. She assembled kits, and blankets, and cloth for those in need, Woven in, with, and under it all was a sacred compassion that was actually more contagious than her laugh. Our lives, and the lives of so many, were warmed by her knitting.

But perhaps some of her best work involved the weaving of her life, the assemblage of those things that shape what it means to live well. Woven into her life is the story of a love many of us celebrated with her and Ken just a few years ago at the Old Feed Mill in Mazomanie. Do you remember that gathering to recall love’s anniversary? Here were two that loved each other, and out of that love was woven the gift of home and family.

She wove the life of a mother: teaching her daughters how to knit life for themselves: grounded in compassion and grace, courage and persistence, tending to knittings of their own making. Yet in this mother’s weaving were those darker shades of sorrow that come with the loss of a son. All of us, who knew her through and after Jared’s death, know that this sorrow was always present in her heart, even in times of great joy and laughter.

Corinne wove with us the fabric of life in church and community. She engaged us with her laugh and love. She was our friend. She knew how to be a friend, how to be there, how to express congratulations and sympathy, how to write in flourishing script what needed to be said.

And Corinne wove a deep courage into the web of her life. Sometimes knitting requires deep courage in the heart of the knitter as we struggle to pull the strands together in times of adversity. All of us who knew her were impressed over and over again with the courage it took to face grief and then cancer in this last years.

II.

   Oh, Corinne was a knitter. And may we be also. For every one of us has some weaving to do. Some knitting to attend to. We all need to learn about casting on and getting things going. Things badly started will never work out. We all need to learn how to hold the strands so that they come together without getting too tangled. We all are given the needles and tools we need to weave the yarns we spin in patterns not always of our choosing. And some of us will weave with the right hand, and others the left, while each of us intertwines our heritage and family, our loves and loved ones, our work and this community, our friends and strangers, our hopes and fears into something that can be worn and keep us warm in those later years. And then it is time to finish the piece and bind off the life we have been given. May we all weave well the strands we hold, through darkness and light; good times and bad, sickness and health, until it is time to hem our own piece of this life.

All knitting ends with a binding off: a death, a letting go of the needles of life, as the fabric is lifted from the framing tools that created it. The readings from Corinthians and Matthew are about this binding, this letting go. For as we find our frames no longer able to support us, we discover that the fabric we have woven was not intended to stay on needles at all, but to be released. The binding off begins a new reality, we would say in Christ. Paul in Corinthians would say we have a new life through the binding off. Matthew would say it is time to put down our needles. There is a time for the knitter to rest: to stop the movement of her hands and tools, and lean into an unknown future beyond her frame. Badger fans know there is a fifth quarter that always comes when the game is over.

III.

   Corinne was a knitter. And may we be also. But there is something more: something about God’s handiwork. The Psalm today spoke of God as one who knits: as one who weaves the threads of life into the tapestry of creation. The patterns of the one who knits are microscopic and cosmic as both great darkness and wonderful light are woven into the life itself.

As the years go by science allows us to more precisely encounter and make sense of the nature and mystery of the fabric woven by the weaver. And yet, just as Corinne’s knitting always expressed something deeper: a compassionate heart: the compassion woven in, with, through the yarn; so also the intricate and grand strands of life signify not only an astronomy and biology but also the joy and hope and meaning and purpose for which we and all creation long.

I think to me, one of the most interesting things about this divine yarn spinner is the dropped stitch. You know, we all expect God to knit a perfect piece. But then we encounter in God’s work, that dropped stitch, what seems to be a missed loop, a whole in the fabric, a flaw in the tapestry. Yet it is in the flaw, the rough spot, the opening, the loose end, the missing element, the imperfect, the difficult, the problem, the sorrow, the challenge, that we discover the deeper richness supporting the entire project. Compassion is woven in brokenness. For Jesus died, was crucified even, almost as if God were dropping a stitch, telling us that in such a tangled mystery we shall learn the secret of all great knitters. Even and especially in what is deemed the imperfection, the hands will express the love in the knitter’s heart. God, even and especially in the hard times is knitting us into eternal love.

And with this confidence, to this knitter, we now entrust Corinne as she casts off. May she know now the unity which awaits each of us: that deepest weaving of grace and compassion, that place where now Corinne and Jared are united in each other and all the saints in light.

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