Each week one of the Regional Ministers in our team sends out a ‘Thought for the Week’ to the Ministers in our Association. This week was my turn and I have decided to recycle that thought for you too rather than having to create something new for you, dear bloggists. I hope you don’t mind having ‘hand-me-down’ bloggages!
Each weekday those who have national and regional roles within BUGB are invited to pray the same prayer together. Thursday’s prayer is:
O Christ, the Master Carpenter, who at the last through wood and nails purchased our whole salvation, wield well your tools in the workshop of your world so that we who come rough-hewn to your bench may here be fashioned to a truer beauty of your hand. We ask it for your own name’s sake. Amen
I really like this prayer. It is particularly poignant as at the moment building work is taking place at our Manse to convert the garage into a study and I can hear the sound of wood being sawn even as I type. Jesus was apprenticed in the family firm: Joseph Bar Jacob and Sons. Being a Carpenter in Jesus’ day meant you were the local odd job man. The Carpenter was the one called on to mend leaky roofs (especially when four hooligans wreck it in order to lower a paralysed friend through it); they made furniture; they built fences and stables (and mangers); they helped build houses; they were the handymen that others called on when a job was beyond them. And when working with wood the carpenter would start with trees and logs not planks that were neatly sawn, planed and sanded. They worked with raw materials, perhaps even cutting down the trees in the first place.
Jesus was used to taking gnarled, misshapen, rough pieces of wood and reshaping, honing, trimming and combining them with other pieces to make things that were useful and functional: things that were an important part of everyday life. Maybe that’s where the idea of ‘church’ came from! I have a friend who is a joiner and when he looks at a tree or a log he is looking at what it could become, imagining the possibilities and appreciating the beauty of the wood. That’s how Jesus looks at us: all of us need to be ready to submit to the Master Carpenter’s tools that shape us – reading the Bible, praying, listening for his voice in others, going through difficult times, receiving encouragement, working alongside others, and in all of life allowing his Spirit to hone us as he gives us the gifts we need and the fruit of his work is seen in our lives. As the prayer reminds us (if we needed reminding) all of Jesus’ followers are a work in progress – Ministers included. All come ‘rough-hewn’. And all can be fashioned to a truer beauty.
And of course, as this prayer reminds us, wood is a theme for Jesus’ life: the one who was laid in a (probably) roughly made manger at his birth and worked as a carpenter until he was 30 was nailed to a roughly made cross at his death. Unlike the crosses at the front of many churches this was not a well-joined, planed, sanded and varnished cross. Just two massive branches crudely lashed and nailed together to bear his weight as Jesus bore the weight of the world’s sin. Crude. Brutal. E.ffective. Daily we return to the foot of the roughly made cross in repentance and faith, aware of our need of forgiveness and a fresh start. Daily we wonder at the love the Father has for us that he would ask the Son to die for us. And daily we ask him to continue the work of shaping, honing, planing, and refining us and using us with others to build his Kingdom.
Be blessed, be a blessing