Sirach 38:24-34: God’s Ancient Handiwork
I still like to balance all the work that happens in my head with the work of my hands. I find that when I have spent too much time with ideas and concepts that the only way to regain a sense of equilibrium in a hectic day is to return to the production of something I can touch – crocheting an afghan, preparing a casserole, mending something that has been torn or broken. It is in this mending that I so often feel the snags in my heart begin to heal. I recently saw a documentary about how work in the earth with one’s hands and time spent in nature that is far from development is used as a therapeutic method for some who suffer from depression and I can see the wisdom in this. All of nature seems to me to be God’s playground because it is the work of God’s hands. Perhaps the work of our own hands can be just such a playground for us. It is good to return to simple manual occupations when life feels overly complex or complicated, when our human-ness has somehow forgotten our divine-ness.
In today’s Noontime we read an anthem of praise for those who work with their hands and even their feet. The vocation – or calling forth – of a person’s craft is praised. We are asked how we see wisdom increase in ones who have little time for the study of and reflection on God’s written word and the written wisdom of the learned ones (as in 39:1-11). Guiding the plow and the draft animals to create a fertile furrow, engraving, designing, and smithing metals, molding pots . . . all these are expert skills of the hands without which no city could be lived in, and wherever they stay they need not hunger. Sometimes I believe that we city folk have gotten too far away from our country roots. We forget why we have been created . . . to know, to love and to serve God . . . not ourselves. We have forgotten our true craft and we have forgotten how to maintain God’s ancient handiwork.
Over the past several evenings I watched news stories about organizations begun by westerners who bring important health care and safety to indigenous peoples in Asia and Africa. Stories of how people who spend little time tending to their own basic survival needs turn their hands to the provision of a better safety net for those who truly have little. One endeavor in Borneo that takes local goods as barter also invites those who have nothing to barter to replant seedlings on that country’s deforested hills. All sides win, even Mother Nature. Another story was of a young man who provides shoes for children in order that they not suffer from illness contracted from the volcanic soil where they live – a simple gesture with an inspiring consequence. There are so many small yet hugely wonderful movements in the world each day that speak to this idea of knowing one’s simple craft . . . and living it out. They are too numerous to name; yet it is these movements to maintain God’s ancient handiwork that bring light to a world threatened by violence and wars of many kinds.
When we become too far removed from who we are and who we are meant to be, it is no wonder that we lose our way. When we become too puffed up like the example of leaven in bread that Jesus uses to describe the prideful scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 16:6, we have forgotten our craft and we no longer have the true vision of our purpose which is to maintain God’s ancient handiwork. As we spend time this evening in prayer thanking God for all that he has given us, we might also thank him for our vocation, for the calling forth of our own craft which we offer to the world and back to God as we engage in, participate in and maintain . . . God’s ancient handiwork
A Favorite from October 29, 2009.