As a child I participated in an ancient art form. Someone bought me a little red metal loom with multi-colored stretch loops. My not so nimble fingers used the coat hanger-like hook to make potholders. I am sure Mom still has some of those prize possessions stashed away somewhere. Somehow I do not think the piece of functional kitchen ‘art’ will measure up to the value of the seventeenth century Persian Vase Rug that sold at Sotheby’s auction house a couple of years ago for just under $34 million. The rug represents the height of the art form developed in the Kerman region of Persia – an isolated providence that could develop the art without the devastating series of invasions experienced by her neighbors
Archeologists have found evidence of weaving in every major civilization in the world. Before humans could write, they could weave. While materials and technology varied, people took thin fibers and wove them into something larger, stronger, and more beautiful than the fibers where when left in a pile. The Bible includes many references to weaving from Joseph’s many colored robe and the Mosaic law’s mandates on purity of woven material to Lydia’s dyeing business and Tabatha’s garment making compassion ministry.
The invention of the cotton gin and mechanized looms took weaving out of cottages and into factories. Weaving helped fuel the industrial revolution that radically transformed human culture. More recent globalization of technology and commerce has emptied most of the mill towns of the western world in the search for cheaper labor in Asia. Yet native crafts people from around the world, and young children with their little looms, still practice this connection to our ancestors.
Perhaps weaving represents our interconnectedness better than any other human experience. Pulling one thread or changing a series of patterns impacts the whole piece. Walking through Acts 5 illustrates both the wonders and threats to the unity of God’s mission in the world. As Peter and the apostles mentioned, all they had to do was witness what they had seen.
Witnessing required faithful to each other and the leading of the Spirit.
Strangely the only real threat to the Master’s weaving mission came from the inside. A couple of saints wanted to act like they fully participated in the mission, as did Barnabas from the previous chapter, but they retained some of the property’s purchase price for themselves. Rather than remaining true to the Weaver, they had let Satan fill their heart. The language of the text seems to convey an effort to falsify the Spirit in their lives. They wanted to act like they followed the Spirit rather than doing so. Such counterfeiting betrayed both the community of believers and the Spirit.
Death came. And then Death came again.
Strangely unity followed.
Signs and wonders flourished at the hands of the apostles as they wove their way through the public spaces around the temple. Male and female believers allowed the Weaver to insert their lives into the tapestry. Hope abounded for the sick and demon tormented people who could get within a shadow’s reach of the apostles.
From my modern location, I would think imprisonment, ordering of the establishment against the church, and beatings would threaten the church’s unity and mission faithfulness. Such actions had disrupted the messianic claims of previous contenders as narrated by Gamaliel, but this time the followers joined together instead of slinking their way back to anonymity. The lashes brought whelps of rejoicing rather than angry screams for revenge or whimpers for relief. They rejoiced over the privilege to be “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
What appears to be mistakes or flaws in our tapestry may in fact be our greatest strength. Just as prize burl wood develops as a result of an injury, virus or fungus, those things that we expect to bring tears result in beauty. What we think harms our chances to fulfill God’s purposes draws us nearer to the One who entered our world and changed the pattern of our lives to fulfill His plan. Beatings sent the early church back to the temple and to fellowship from house to house where they “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
Here I thought my difficult year posed a threat. Perhaps the Weaver has been at work once again.
I think it is time to pray.
Forgive me, I pray. At times I try to shield part of myself from Your body in an effort to protect myself from what threatens the natural man. Such actions come dangerously close to falsifying the Spirit as did Ananias and his wife. I sometimes pull back from my brothers and sisters in a way the betrays the fellowship with Your Spirit.
Only by Your grace are we sustained as Your people.
Not only am I grateful for your forgiveness, I am overjoyed with the new potentials that this season of life provides. What I think blocks the way for Your purposes actually opens a new door to identifying even more deeply with Your plan. Renew my mind, spirit, emotions, and actions, I pray, so that I may live my days as reasonable service. Strengthen my witness in public space as well as in fellowship with my brothers and sisters. Failure in either place would represent a step away from Your tapestry design.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done… on earth.
In Jesus name,
Thank you for walking with me through Acts 5. Perhaps some of the reds in your part of the rug look a little brighter and take on a new meaning than they did before. Perhaps you too yearn to trust the Master Weaver in a greater dimension as you consider your current situation. Please join with me in celebrating our identity in Christ and anticipate the signs and wonders He will perform through His body during this season. A hurting world awaits the next shuttle move the Weaver has in store for us. If we take over the weaving, maybe we could make a decent potholder out of our lives. If we let Him control the loom, He will complete the treasure without price – the work He has already begun. The sick and demon possessed await our decision.