Ruth had a saying: A person all wrapped up in oneself makes a very small ball.

Ruth would know about such things. She was weaver for the sheer pleasure of it. Once when I was a seminarian intern, preparing to become a pastor, she invited me to her home for conversation and lunch. She proudly showed me her loom of smooth polished wood sitting in the corner of a room filled with winter sunlight. Strands of yarn or spun wool, released from the confines of a skein or ball, were stretched across a frame. Threads, woven together, were beginning to take on a pattern.

But Ruth did not have me over for lunch only to show me a craft she loved. She wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into if I went into pastoral ministry. She wanted to make sure my family, that is my husband and two school-age children, could be carefully and lovingly woven into this new vocation.

She was wise in such matters because, as the wife of Lutheran pastor with her career as a dietician, as a pianist, a cellist and a maker of meals with little in the cupboard, she had learned much about weaving different strands together to make for a strong family with healthy children and grandchildren. At the time of that lunch she was grieving the loss of her beloved husband, yet she continued to weave and graciously stretch her life into the lives of neighbors around her.

We held her memorial service yesterday. All of us who knew her are deeply grateful to God for the way Ruth quietly wove her care into our lives.

Today, as I preached from 1 Corinthians 13, I reflected on how the anxiety in our culture can find its way into our congregations and undermine the agape love of a faith community. Our anxiety turns us inward, makes us self-protective, and turns us into small, worried clumps that can be rude and impatient and keep a record of wrongs. That was, in fact, why Paul wrote to his former congregation about love, to help them open up and stretch their lives into the fabric of one another.

Yes, a person or a congregation wrapped up in themselves is a very small ball. Ruth, the weaver, had plenty to say about that. Although she had many challenges in her life to be anxious about, she refused to remain that small ball of yarn, because God was so lovingly woven into her life.