Meadowbrook Congregational Church
“A RETELLING OF ‘THE QUILTMAKER’S GIFT,’ By Jeff Brumbeau and Gail deMarcken”
Rev. Art Ritter
October 14, 2018
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Once upon a time there was a quiltmaker who kept her house on top of the blue, misty mountains. Even the oldest person in the village could not recall a time in which the quiltmaker was not up in her house sewing, day after day. She made the most beautiful quilts – with the blues from ocean, the white from the snow, the reds and oranges from the sunsets, and the greens and purples from the wildflowers. Most people believed that there was magic in her fingers as she sewed. Some climbed her mountain, hoping to buy one of the wonderful quilts. But the woman would not sell them. She said, “I will only give my quilts to those who are poor. They are not for the rich.” It was known that on a cold, dreary night, she would make her way into the village and find someone sleeping on the street. She would offer to that poor person a warm quilt, tuck them in, and then tiptoe away quietly.
At that same time there lived nearby a very powerful and greedy king. He liked nothing better than to receive presents. All of the gifts he got at Christmas and for his birthday were not enough so a law was passed that the king could celebrate two birthdays a year. But that still wasn’t enough. Even with all of his shiny and expensive presents, he still wasn’t happy. He heard about the woman who made such beautiful quilts and he decided that if only he could have one of the quilts he would be happy. He sent soldiers to the mountaintop to request the gift of a quilt. When she greeted the soldiers at the door, the quiltmaker thought for a moment and then said, “Make presents of everything you own. Then I will make a quilt for you. With each gift that you give, I’ll sew another piece. When at last all your things are gone, your quilt will be finished.”
The king was dismayed. He said, “Give away all my treasures? I don’t give things away. I take them!” He ordered his soldiers to take a beautiful quilt from the quiltmaker but as they rushed her a gust of wind carried the quilt away. The angry king had the quiltmaker arrested and chained her to a rock in the cave of a bear. He was hoping that she would be frightened into giving him a quilt. But the quiltmaker made the bear a soft pillow of pine needles and the bear unchained her and brought her a breakfast of berries and honey. The furious king then sent the quiltmaker to a tiny island, so small that she could barely stand on her tiptoes. Again he asked her for a quilt. Once again she said no. The king believed that she would soon get too tired to stand and that when she fell she would drown. So he left her alone on that tiny island. The quiltmaker noticed a tiny sparrow flying across the lake. A fierce cold wind was preventing it from making it to shore. She called to the sparrow and as he sat shivering on her shoulder, she made him a coat from the scraps of her colorful vest. Soon the sky darkened with the arrival of other sparrows. Thousands of them swooped down, lifted the quiltmaker in their beaks, and carried her safely to shore.
The selfish king could not sleep that night thinking about the quiltmaker all alone on that island. He went with his soldiers to set her free. But when they arrived they found her sitting on a tree limb making purple coats for all of the sparrows. “I give up,” he shouted. “What must I do for you to give me a quilt?” The woman replied, “As I told you – give away all of the things you own and I’ll sew a quilt for you. And with each gift that you give, I’ll add another piece to your quilt.”
“But I can’t do that!” said the king. “I love all of my wonderful, beautiful things.” The quiltmaker answered, “But if they don’t make you happy, what good are they?” The king sighed and thought about it for a terribly long time. Finally he muttered, “All right, if I must give away my treasures, then I must!”
He went to his castle looking for something he could bear to give away. He found only a marble which he gave to a boy. But the boy smiled so brightly the king returned for more things to give away. Eventually he brought out velvet coats which he gave to poor people. The people were so pleased they started a parade. But still the king was not happy. So he fetched a hundred waltzing Siamese cats and a dozen fish as clear as glass. He ordered his merry-go-round with real life horses to be brought out and the children began to ride and laugh. The king began to show the smallest of smiles. He looked around and saw the dancing and celebration around him. A child took his hand and asked him to join the dancing. Now the king really smiled and even laughed out loud. “How can this be?” he cried, “How can I feel so happy about giving my things away? Bring everything else out! Bring it out at once!
Meanwhile the quiltmaker kept her promise. She began to sew a special quilt for the king. With each gift he gave, she added a piece to the quilt. The king kept giving. Morning and noon and night, wagons with presents piled high left his palace and brought smiles around the world. And the quiltmaker worked, and piece by piece the king’s quilt grew more beautiful. One day a weary sparrow fell to her window sill and she knew that the quilt had to be complete. She took the quilt and went to find the king. When she finally found him, his royal clothes were in tatters and his toes stuck out of his boots. But his eyes were filled with joy and his laugh was wonderful. She showed him the quilt that she had made for him. “What is this?” cried the king. “As I promised you long ago,” the woman said. “When the day came that you, yourself were poor, only then would I give you a quilt.” The king laughed again. “But I am not poor. I may look poor but in truth my heart is full of blessing, filled with memories of the happiness I have given and received.” Nevertheless he took the gift of the quilt but only when the quiltmaker agreed to accept a gift from him. He brought out his throne. “It is really quite comfortable,” he said. “And just the thing for long days of sewing.”
And from that day on, the king often came to the quiltmaker’s house in the mountains. By day she sewed the most beautiful quilts she would not sell and at night the king took them down to the town where he searched out the poor and downtrodden, giving them away in happiness.