the penultimate WORD

Series 2007 - June/July
Knit our lives as they are spun...


The Irvine Tartan  My monthly column in The New Brunswick Anglican


Following Diocesan Synod and General Synod



Ayutthaya by Lance Woodruff, Bangkok, Thailand, and his daughter Hannah Holly by Corina Samuel.











Weave our varied gifts together;

knit our lives as they are spun;

on your loom of time enroll us

till our thread of life is run.

:William Whitla


Rapunzel’s salvation is an enduring story of courage and intrigue.  Her salvation was at best an escape.  And her reliance was on a king’s son who provided her with skeins of silk which she used to weave a ladder.  Her skill at the loom enabled the adolescent to fashion for herself a means of descent.  

The maiden in the tower survived, along with her magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold.  And her compassion for her champion brought her to the royal hearth.

Elsewhere, in a neighbouring kingdom there lived a miller.  Inevitably their lot in life was little better than that of Rapunzel’s parents.  Poverty seemed to have a natural corollary: beautiful daughters!  The miller’s daughter had achieved some proficiency at the loom as had her cousin several valleys off.  While the one preferred to work in silk for some good end, the miller’s daughter worked with straw for the purpose of placing her papa in a good light for the king.

Now monarchs and those in authority have an insatiable appetite for precious metals that are indigestible.  And of gold woven from straw there can never be enough.  If she could accomplish this he pledged his Troth.  This was a promise he could bank on, through the deliverance of a strange little man whose name was Rumpelstiltskin.

The Brothers Grimm have provided us with the warp and weft of the stuff that make up our lives.  Our motives and actions, our aspirations and fears are carefully and faithfully woven into a fabric that measures cloth broad and in a pattern familiar and frightening.  We are moved by the tale of Rapunzel and the furious nocturnal shuttle work of Rumpelstiltskin.  We recognize the duel of ethical inclination and malevolent subterfuge in achieving our most coveted desire regardless of cost.  The debate is heard in every generation and seldom is the note of justice sounded or mercy heard.

Hallmarks of the Kingdom inaugurated by God’s Messiah are seldom evidenced.  The occasion for the Church to gather as the Body of Christ in its councils in Synods is a timely case in point.

Motions and Memorials will be presented and spoken to and voted on.  Whether we are confined to a tower or to a hall full of straw, at best we will approach the proceedings as though others have imprisoned us and we need to speedily work the shuttle to achieve our escape.  We do the spinning and we thread the loom, we slide the shuttle and we ram the threads home.  The cloth is ours and the design is ours.  Our fear of others who have done this dreadful thing to us has clouded our vision and skewed our perception of the loom motif.

The lyric written by Bill Whitla – some of you will remember him as the Curate at the Cathedral in the early sixties – reminds us to see ourselves not as the weaver, but as the fabric woven. We are neither Rapunzel nor Rumpelstiltskin.  We are cloth!  As threads we are drawn together in a pattern of redemption designed by the One who spins the wool and spun, threads the spun fibers on a loom of time.  A single thread tangles effortlessly and never finds expression in a cloak of compassion covering the tired and weary, the broken and diseased, the naked and hungry.

As the gifts of each one on the floor of synod are woven together voice will be given that will echo with sounds of justice and mercy in both Fredericton and in Winnipeg.  As fibers slip through the skilled fingers of the spinster, threads lengthen and strengthen to bear the weight of deliverance and not of provisional escape.  The length and breadth of the cloth we become is determined in the hands of the Christ who sits at his loom of time and weaves a fabric the envy of the kingdoms throughout the land.  Together we constitute a cloak trimmed with ermine for a king and a coat of warmth for the pauper seeking justice.  The hours of deliberation will tell the tale, whether as bishops or as priests or as laity – baptized all – we have seen ourselves as weavers or as the woven… till our thread of life is run.

Copyright © 2007 James T. Irvine

Microsoft Left-click your Mouse to open the Microsoft WORD filedocument

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Let Streams of Left-click your Mouse to Open the file Living Justice

score and lyrics

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Lyrics only: Let Streams of Living Justice

G. Holst Right-click your Mouse to download the Midi file Thaxted

from The Planets Suite - Jupiter


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Series 2007

Sermon delivered at St Matthew's ELCIC, Fredericton

Photo credits:

Ayutthaya by Lance Woodruff, Bangkok, Thailand,

and his daughter Hannah Holly by Corina Samuel.

MIDI file transcribed by Douglas Carter