The Elderly Contractor
An elderly master carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.
He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.
When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”
The Future Orientation of the Beatitudes
In his thoughtful book, Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes, Jonathan K. Dodson describes one of the keys to understanding the beatitudes: live faithfully now, experience Gods blessings in the future:
Another way to read the Beatitudes is as a promise of future blessings for the present. Live poor in spirit now, and you’ll benefit immediately—get a foot in the kingdom, so to speak. Hunger and thirst for righteousness now, and you will get a taste of eternal satisfaction.
This certainly fits with the “future logic” of the New Testament, in which there are frequent exhortations to do something in the present based on future realities: “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable. . . . Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 58).
Taken from Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes by Jonathan K. Dodson Copyright (c) 2020 by Jonathan K. Dodson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
A Little Girl and The Founding of World Vision
In 1947 huge crowds came to hear a thirty-two-year-old Californian preach at mass evangelistic rallies throughout China. Although Bob Pierce had no knowledge of Chinese language or culture, his message of American old-time religion was warmly received, reportedly reaching tens of thousands and even converting twenty members of General Chiang Kai-shek’s personal bodyguard. But despite these impressive results, Pierce’s trip to Asia would be most remembered for his brief encounter with a single little girl.
In Xiamen, Dutch Reformed missionary Tena Hoelkeboer invited Pierce to preach to four hundred girls at her school. When one of her students, White Jade, informed her father that she had converted to Christianity, he beat her and threw her out of the house. Hoelkeboer was distressed at the prospect of taking on yet another orphan and demanded of Pierce, “What are you going to do about it?”
Deeply moved, Pierce emptied his wallet of the five dollars it contained and promised to send the same amount every month. When he returned to the United States to report on his evangelistic exploits, Pierce told the story of White Jade in churches across the United States. In 1950 he founded World Vision in order to sponsor more needy Asian children like her.
By the turn of the century, World Vision had become the largest privately funded relief and development NGO (nongovernmental organization) in the world, and White Jade’s story continued to be used both in advertising and in recounting World Vision’s history. Even at the time of this writing, White Jade remains central in defining World Vision’s identity and approach for its employees and donors.
Because of its deep rhetorical resonance and staying power, Pierce’s encounter with White Jade and Hoelkeboer might possibly be the single point at which North American Evangelical Christians began to reprioritize compassion for the poor.
A Marshy Foundation
The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy is going to fall. Scientists travel yearly to measure the building’s slow descent. They report that the 179-foot tower moves about one-twentieth of an inch a year, and is now 17 feet out of plumb. They further estimate that by the year 2007 the 810-year old tower will have leaned too far and will collapse onto the nearby ristorante, where scientists now gather to discuss their findings. Quite significantly, the word “pisa” means “marshy land,” which gives some clue as to why the tower began to lean even before it was completed. Also–its foundation is only 10 feet deep!
The great architect Frank Lloyd Wright was given the challenge of building the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, one of the most earthquake-prone cities in the world. Wright’s investigation showed that a solid foundation could be “floated” on a sixty-foot layer of soft mud underlying the hotel, which would provide a shock-absorbing but solid support for the immense building. Shortly after the hotel was completed it withstood the worst earthquake in fifty-two years, while lesser buildings fell in ruins around it.
Today in the Word, March 1989.
You Are the Tree
In the film Of Gods and Men, director Xavier Beauvois tells the story of a small group of mostly French monks living in Algeria during a time of civil unrest. These monks live a life of quiet fidelity dedicated to prayer and work in the rural part of the country near a small village. As part of their work, the monks run a small health clinic and also provide necessary physical supplies like clothing and shoes to the people in the village.
Early in the film, word reaches the monks that a group of Muslim radicals is on the move and will soon be in the town adjacent to the monastery. The monks will be in danger as soon as the radicals take the town. However, they are given a choice. Because the radicals have not yet arrived, there is time for the monks to leave the monastery and move to a more secure place. In a pivotal scene, the monks speak with members of the village, most of whom are Muslim, about the decision.
One monk says that they are all like birds on the branch of a tree, uncertain as to whether or not they will fly away or stay. A woman from the village corrects him. “You are the tree. We are the birds. If you leave, we will lose our footing.” I am reminded of the words of Psalm 1, which liken the righteous to a tree with deep roots. The life of the Christian community and the life of the commonwealth, a word traditionally favored by Christians to describe the sum total of communal life in a given place, are knitted together. And so the monks make the brave choice to stay. They cannot turn their backs on the people they have been called to.
Taken from: In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World by Jake Meador Copyright (c) 2019 by Jake Meador. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
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