Summary: Just as this amateur carpenter used rejected timber to repair a door and inserted misfit timber into a cabinet gap, so God uses rejected people and misfit churches to build the Kingdom.
I love to watch buildings take shape. I guess it’s the frustrated engineer in me, because that is what I would be involved with if the Lord had not, some fifty years ago, told me to build churches and souls instead of structures. But I love to see buildings take shape. There is a special joy in watching all that raw material come together into something useful.
I suppose I come by that naturally. One of my grandfathers was a contractor, specializing in moving houses. My dad used to tell stories about how, when he was a small boy, his assignment was to crawl under a house and put support blocks in place. Sounds like child endangerment to us, but he survived. Grandfather Smith found joy and fulfillment in moving things around, taking what was in the wrong place and making it useful again.
That grandfather died when I was only two years old, but my other grandfather was my first hands-on teacher. Grandfather Harpole had been a master mechanic for the Big Four railroad, and could make all sorts of things. He taught me shop trades – how to drive a nail, how to use a saw, how to drill a hole. I think of him every time I use tools. And no, he did not teach me what to say when I hit my thumb with the hammer! I figured that out all by myself!
That grandfather died when I was nine years old, and I am sure there is much more that I could have learned. I got along the best I could with the skills I gained. Today, if you were to visit my home, I could show you in every single room my efforts at building, especially my efforts at carpentry. I will be the first to tell you that it is not a pretty sight. But I have done what I could.
Let me tell you about some of my projects. These will tell you something about what the carpenter does with his timber. And, do not despair, they will also connect with the Scriptures and with the Good News!
Come with me through our dining room and stop at the door into the kitchen. Look closely and you will see that it has been reworked. Some while back we bought a new refrigerator-freezer, one of those side-by-side monsters, and the delivery men found it tough to move through the door. They did it, but it was not easy, and they banged up a few places in the process. So the mistress of the manor decreed that the door should be widened.
I managed to show her that major widening was impossible, but I did agree that a totally unnecessary moulding strip that narrowed each side of the frame could come out. No problem. Ah, but who knew it had been put on with glue? And who knew that when it was removed it would leave jagged, unsightly remains? We were going to have to put something right back on the places we had just cleared. We were going to have to defeat our own purposes, unless we could come up with something paper-thin.
I looked in every hardware story in the county, and found nothing. But then I remembered that in our own backyard there was a discarded door, one of those cheap interior doors that was made of nothing but a fragile frame and some sort of ultra-thin plywood. This thing had been sitting out in all kinds of weather for months, waiting for me to take it to the dump. Well, I took it apart, and behold, there was enough of that thin material to cut and put into place inside that mangled kitchen doorframe. We have our wider door, and with a paint job and some discreet filler here and there, it looks just fine.
All because we did not discard something that looked like trash. All because we redeemed from the garbage pile timber that seemed to be useless. But it wasn’t.
That other carpenter, that much better one, has the same approach. The one whose mission it is to build up ancient ruins and raise up devastations has also decided that He will reclaim what the rest of us have thrown aside as useless. The one who announces that He is sent to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners – that carpenter has looked in His own backyard and has seen possibilities in what others call human throwaways.
Waiting in this Advent season, waiting to celebrate the birth of the Promised One, waiting for good news in times that seem to be filled only with disastrous news – waiting now must surely mean that we do not throw away either ourselves or our neighbors. Waiting must surely mean that we are to redeem life wreckage.