Here is the story of an elderly man named Frank. He lived in a nursing home and no one knew much about him. No family or friends visited him and his advancing Alzheimer’s disease made it difficult to learn much about the life he had led before coming to the nursing home. Most of the time he sat quietly in one of the common areas, seeming to be off in another world. But here was something special about Frank. He had a quirky sort of gift: whenever any of the other residents got upset and could not be consoled by the staff, Frank would show up, sit down by his distraught neighbor, and gently soothingly say, ”Don’t fret I’m coming with the quilt.”
This phrase of his, delivered with such obvious compassion more often than not did the trick, acting as a sort of tonic for those in distress. And the staff were al thankful for it, though they didn’t understand it. What did he mean, “Don’t fret I’m coming with the quilt.”? Frank was no help in interpreting it, as he drifted off again to another world as soon as his words had their calming effect on his troubled friend. So it was a great mystery for a while.
Then a new nurse came on board. The first time she witnessed the mystery in action she too was perplexed. But the next day she came to work and could hardly wait to share what she had discovered with her coworkers. She reported that as she had been praying that morning, Frank, had come into her mind’s eye, repeating his phrase over and over -”Don’t fret I’m coming with the quilt.” ”Don’t fret I’m coming with the quilt.” Then suddenly his face had been transformed into the face of Jesus and the mysterious words were transformed as well and Jesus was saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, for I am sending you the Holy Comforter to be with you always.” Her co-workers starred at her blankly as she spoke of this prayerful experience, so she exclaimed, “Don’t you see? Frank senses when someone else needs to hear Jesus promise that he won’t leave us alone, always being with us through the Holy Spirit. When Frank was growing up, the Holy Spirit was often referred to as the Holy Comforter. And these days the words comforter and quilt have become almost interchangeable. The quilt Frank speaks of is the Holy Comforter, or the Holy Spirit – mystery solved!”
So it turns out that Frank in his strange and comforting ways was a man of faith, living out words that had brought him comfort in an earlier phase of life. Who knows what other gifts of the Spirit Frank had lived out before the onset of his Alzheimer’s? But the disease that was ravaging his cognitive abilities could not completely squelch his gift of sharing the love of his Lord. Even through his cryptic message, “Don’t fret I’m coming with the quilt”, that love shown and calmed troubled hearts.
It makes me wonder who this man was and what his journey of faith had been like. Who nurtured him in his faith when he was young? Was it his parents and godparents? I imagine them looking at him as a small child and wondering what he would do with his life. I imagine that they understood their job to be striving to create the environment in which the good gifts that were already in Frank could develop and grow. I imagine that they brought Frank, their beloved child to the font for baptism because they knew that depending on their own powers alone they would not be sufficient to his this awesome task. And maybe they knew that though their son had been given into their care, before he was their child, he was God’s child.
And I imagine that on the day of Frank’s baptism, his parents caught a glimpse of the mystery that in baptism Frank came to share is Christ’s death to sin and in the life of the Resurrection; and that through the waters he was being immersed in the Holy Spirit just as the apostles were on that first Pentecost; and that the same Holy Spirit would surround and fill him and be there to help them raise him up; and indeed would never leave him, even when he had grown to be an old man.
And I imagine that they knew that on the day that Frank was baptized, God smiled. God always smiles when through baptism a person is grafted into the body of Christ. God smiles because in that moment the Spirit is invited to work in the life of the baptized – to work with their unique gifts and potentials. Then given faithful tending by parents and godparents and later by the person themselves, eventually the Spirit brings those gifts and potentials to full bloom for God’s glory and God’s most gracious purposes.
And this morning as we prepare to welcome Evan, Lachy and Hudson into the Body of Christ (at the 10:15 service) I look at them and I try to imagine who they will become? What gifts will be Spirit make manifest in them? How will God weave them into the great tapestry of salvation?
And I wonder about all the rest of us and where we are on our journeys in God’s Spirit. And I ask myself, how are we using the gifts of the Spirit for God’s glory? And I think perhaps a better way to ask that question is, how are we allowing the gifts of the Spirit to use us?
And then I think of Frank again, offering his quirky yet profound gift to comfort and encourage his neighbors in the nursing home and I realize that God can do amazing and powerful things through us even at the times and in the circumstances of our lives where we might least expect it – even when the wisdom of this world would count us at our most powerless.
And isn’t that what happened with the disciples that first Pentecost? They had no plan. They were just waiting on their Lord’s promise that they would receive power from on high. And through prayer and fellowship with one another they were able to be open enough to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit when it came and from then on to give the best of themselves into its service.
And so, my prayer this morning is for all of us – but especially for Evan, Lachy and Hudson who will be baptized – that each of us in our own situations may be open to the Spirit working in and through us. That each of us prompted by the Spirit – like the disciples long ago, and like Frank in the halls of his nursing home – will make Christ known for the good of all to whom the Spirit sends us. And that trusting in the promises of our baptism, we can comfort and bless our fretting world with the news that Christ is with us, through the Holy Spirit, the Holy Comforter, the Cosmic Quilt! Amen+