The Works of Our Hands

Get Excited and Make Things

Matthew 8:3: Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

I don’t know if you were encouraged to make things by hand when you were younger. I know I certainly was, largely to keep my hands (and in some cases my feet) busy at some useful task so they would not break something valuable.

Bernard Tate narrated a classic example of using his hands and ingenuity with his story about improvising an instrument for watching the eclipse last week. Here’s what he wrote in one of his “Postcards from D.C.” emails, a series in which he writes about interesting or amusing or striking events or sights in the city.

“About noon on the day of the eclipse, a sudden “eclipse fever” hit the Government Accountability Office building, and everyone was asking each other if they had their eclipse glasses, or rushed to build pinhole viewers in which the pinhole acts as a lens and projects an image of the sun onto some surface. I went across the street to the CVS and bought a roll of aluminum foil.  I cut the front and back off my office steno pad, taped a piece of white paper on one piece, cut a hole in the other piece, taped aluminum foil over the hole, and punched a pinhole in the foil.

“Several folks had cereal box & shoe box pinhole viewers, but my little 10-minute special had a longer focal length and projected a bigger image…with the screen on the sidewalk and holding the pinhole five or six feet away, I got a half-inch image.”

It occurred to me that in his story, Bernard used his hands to create something timely and useful, and that got me to thinking that, while God created the universe and everything in it with words, God chose to fashion Adam directly from the earth. While we don’t know the exact process God used, I imagine it would have been something like hands or some other agency that could shape matter. As humans, we can be involved with God in co-creation using, along with other methods, our hands. Allowing us to be a part of what God does seems to me to be further evidence of the great love and grace that God bestows on us and on creation at every turn. Praise God for the works of hands, for love, grace and for creation. Amen.



Sabbath Rest

Rest Here



Matthew 12: 8: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
I don’t know if you remember a time when Chik Fil A wasn’t the only business that closed on Sundays. This was the case when I was a boy, and up through about 1988, when Virginia’s blue laws were repealed. It’s interesting that the town of Colonial Heights didn’t get around to repealing its Sunday closings until March of this year. Having Sunday closings was inconvenient and required some planning, but I wonder if there isn’t something to setting aside a Sabbath.

Orthodox Jews take the observance of the Sabbath very seriously. They cannot shear sheep, work with wool, thread needles, weave, tie or untie knots, sew, tear, write, erase, cut, build, light a flame, carry anything, drive, turn on a light switch, or finish anything that had been started before the Sabbath. While we might not want to go that far, I wonder if there are some things we tend to do on Sundays that we really don’t need to do.

When I was young, many people had jobs involving manual labor, and they worked hard five or more days a week. Saturdays were reserved for errands and catching up on household work and maintenance. As a result, they were ready to rest on Sundays. I remember that I was expected to lay my suit, dress shirt, tie and shoes out Saturday night for the next day—and I had to polish my shoes. I still remember the smell of the polish as I tried hard not to get it on my hands or clothes. I didn’t always succeed.

On Sunday morning, we got dressed in our best clothing and sat down to breakfast. It was a challenge for me to keep bits of egg and bacon off my pants. Generally I did, and then we were off to church. When we came home, my father, brother and I relaxed in the living room with the Sunday papers and their color comics while my mother slaved in the kitchen to fix a special Sunday meal of fried chicken, green beans cooked to within an inch of their lives, biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy and, of course, sweetened ice tea. I’m sorry now that we didn’t do anything to help her, but that’s how it was back then. We didn’t eat like that the rest of the week, and that special meal made the Sabbath more special.

After we ate and everyone had a nap, it was time to entertain ourselves by taking a ride in our car. It’s hard to believe now, but driving then was a pleasure, and we always seemed to find something interesting to look at. When we came back, we had sandwiches for our evening meal, and then settled in to watch our black-and-while television or play rummy (to this day the only card game I know). My paternal grandmother visited us from Tennessee every once in a while, and as a strict “old school” Baptist, she did not believe in drinking alcohol, dancing, going to movies, or gambling, including playing cards without money being exchanged. She did like watching wrestling on television, however.

Obviously, we can’t go back to those days, but I wonder if we can set aside some time on Sundays to relax and focus on our relationship with each other and with God. Doing so would help us navigate this all too busy world, and I believe it would make us better people and better witnesses to the power and love of God, who created the world in six days and took a Sabbath. And God saw that that special time was very good. Amen.