Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant. – 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NRSVUE)
Last summer I toured Saint John’s Abbey Woodworking where a small team of craftsmen (mostly monks) build furniture they describe as sustainable, long-lasting, and utilitarian. I think their designs are better described as artistic, sublimely gorgeous, and eat-your-heart-out-Ikea minimalist.
On the tour, a woodworker explained that they had long outgrown their workshop. Soon they would be tearing down their buildings and creating a new, expansive workshop with space for all their tools, projects, and room still to grow. There was great anticipation about this long-dreamed-of woodworking shop.
The final stop on the tour was the lumber shed, where high above planks of red oak and maple was a loft soaked in natural light, sunbeams beckoning for a passerby to climb up and explore. For over 50 years this loft was the studio of a monk who is a prolific painter. Nestled above the woodworkers he births vibrant works of art that end up in the Vatican and Parisian galleries alike. When the old workshop is demolished, his sacred space will also be torn down.
The community helped the painter set up a new studio nearby. They assisted him in packing his canvases and brushes and gently unpacked his tools in the new space. They recognized that in the midst of the exciting growth for the rest of the community came this deeply personal loss for one among them. They grieved with him. They named and honored his sacrifice, just as the painter named and honored the need for a new woodworking shop.
This is the commandment to love one another. To accompany each other rather than insist on our own way. To tell truthful, tender stories rather than keep a record of wrongs.
Together may we bear all things and endure all things. May Christ’s love never end.
Liz Miller serves as the pastor of Edgewood United Church (UCC) in East Lansing, Michigan.