Gees Bend Quilts

They took the shirt tails, the pockets, the overalls tired from sweating in the cotton fields, they took the faded feed sacks sewed for little girl's dresses, the fragments of materials gleaned from the Sears Roebuck company project to make shams for pillows--they took the scraps, the leftovers--cloth too washed to wear but too precious to burn--they took it and cut it, spread it out and tied it together with the calloused hands of love to make covers for their baby's bed, warmth for their children's feet, safety against the cold which blew through the slats which made their homes. These women, African descent, these women, strong with determination, these women, daughters of slaves, created quilts which now hang on the pristine walls of the IMA. And thousands of us wander in awe as we stare at the olive green, the black, the red, the gingham, the corduroy, the art that their scrap collections have created.

What a story!! Women, a part of a community of share croppers, cut off from voting by the stopping of a ferry between Gees Bend and Camden, Alabama, kept on keeping on, persistent in their collection of pieces of lived life, recycling them into covers for their children, and now they are world renowned artists with their grace and beauty filling museums around the world.

Isn't this something of what it's like to preach sermons? Don't we do the same thing, persistently collect scraps of lived life, pieces of left-over sweat and laughter, work and play, scraps too tired to breathe but too precious to burn, and we lay them out, piece by piece, looking for patterns, and when we see something that might contribute to the quilt that could warm a tired and frigid soul, we tie it together with the thread of language, hoping to salvage the sacred and make it a blessing for those who cuddle under it.

Those are the best sermons--the best blankets--the most moving and blessed words. They are not the events of heroes, held up and reminders to the weary and wounded that they are inadequate and useless unless they become heroes themselves, but they are the scraps of moments of ordinary, overworked and under appreciated people who persistently press on in their living faithful love in community. They are the moments that clothe each of our lives that get cut from the fabric of our daily life, laid beside the moments of other cloth, different but sacred, of the gifts of other scared but sacred hands, loving daily life.

Women, weary with work sew visions of beauty from leftover living. Preachers, speaking in a word weary world, create covers of hope from scraps of life. And we who wander thorough the halls of museums and sermons are blessed and warmed.