Hand Tools

Hand Tools

Grace and peace to you from the All in whom we live and move and have our being. Relearning Christianity’s earliest tools.

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.”

Luke 10:1-20

I have a thing for hand tools.

This claw has been a favorite of mine during demolition work for a bathroom remodel. It’s pulled drywall, leveraged 2×4’s, and lifted many a nail.

This saw has cut many overgrown limbs from the mimosa and fruit trees in our yard.

This screwdriver is my favorite – the head can be switched from flat to Phillips. It’s an everyday tool, as essential to nurturing the home as a fork is to nourishing the body.

I have a thing for hand tools.

I like the patience and perseverance they demand.

I like the sslllowwww thinking that comes with a single-minded focus on doing one small thing at a time, and doing it – patiently, with perseverance – until there is the joy of a job well and truly done.

I HAVE power tools. A reciprocating saw. A chainsaw. A drill with all kinds of attachments. I even use them sometimes. But I don’t like the noise and fury of them.

Give me a job, some simple hand tools, all the time in the world – yep, that job will get done.

I’ve been working with tools a lot lately. We’re in the middle of several home improvement projects. We’re temporarily living in the garage because work is underway in our living area.

JESUS’ HAND tOOLS

I guess that’s why Luke’s story about evangelism seems a lot like a toolkit to me. I spent some time sorting through the tools in this passage. I ended up with two distinct toolsets.

One toolset contains tools that most closely look like or sound like Jesus. These are hand tools.

The most recognizable Jesus tools in Luke’s story are:

  • The sharing of his peace.
  • The grace to accept hospitality. This tool takes lots of practice.
  • The simple but profound message that, listen if you will, the Kingdom of God has come near.

These hand tools are not hard to use, once you get the hang of them, but they require practice, patience, perseverance, slow thinking, and a reaaalllllyyyyy long view about outcomes. Nothing gets done in a hurry with hand tools.

Luke’s Power Tools

The other toolset is made up of tools that serve Luke’s evangelizing agenda. These are power tools. In this passage, as in real life, power tools, well … they definitely overpower hand tools.

Luke’s power tools are the drill, the chain saw, and the nail gun:

  • The power drill that God will get you if you do not believe.
  • The chain saw of God’s wrath for entire communities.
  • The nail gun of power and authority – in the name of Jesus – to demonize, subjugate, dominate or drive out anyone we have decided is an enemy.

Power tools are harder than hand tools to use in some ways, but they don’t require as much patience or perseverance. They get the job done fast. Their results are consistent and immediate. Those results are often irrevocable. Who among us has not learned this the hard way? Who among us has not drilled through, cut down, or crucified something … or someone?

Noise and Fury

The noise and fury of Luke’s power tools echoes through the centuries – from the militant nationalism of Constantinople’s version of Christianity to the Crusades – from the church doctrine naming all non-Christians as “offspring of the devil” that fueled the genocides that built Christian empires around the globe – to “killing the Indian” in North America’s Indigenous people and apartheid in South Africa – from using the bible’s toxic “curse of Ham” to justify white supremacy in this country – to the “God-Guns-Trump” twist on militant evangelism that swept through our pews and rocks our sensibilities still.

The noise and fury of Christianity’s power tools echoes in our hearts, embedded as they are in scripture, liturgies, hymns, and prayers. Author and theologian Brian McLaren experienced it this way:

When I met a gay person, when I interacted with an atheist, an agnostic, or a person of another religion … my Bible-quoting inner fundamentalist seemed to whisper in my ear, ‘Don’t trust them … Don’t fully love them. If they’re open, you should try to convert them, but otherwise keep your distance. Come apart from them and be separate!’”

Brian D. McLaren

He might as well have used Luke’s words, “Wipe the dust off your feet and leave them with threats and curses on your way out the door.”

McLaren goes on to say:

We are coming to see that in hallowed words like almighty, kingdom, dominion, supreme, chosen, sacrifice, lord, and even God, dangerous viruses often lie hidden, malware that must be identified and purged from our software if we want our future to be different from our past. We are realizing that our ancestors didn’t merely misinterpret a few Scriptures in their day; rather, they consistently practiced a dangerous form of interpretation.”

Brian D. McLaren

Relearning Christianity’s Earliest Tools

McLaren’s lifework – and mine, and maybe yours too – is not to get bigger and better power tools. Our work is to re-learn the heft and shape of Christianity’s earliest tools – the Jesus hand tools.

These hand tools – peace and grace and good news – are not hard to use once you get the hang of them, but they require practice, patience, perseverance, slow thinking, and a reaaalllllyyyyy long view about outcomes. Nothing gets done in a hurry with hand tools.

But then, to my way of thinking, nothing really needs to GET done – not by me or you or even the church. The big job – the big job of RENOVATION – the big job of making all things new – that job has already been done, is still being done, and will continue to be done by the All-In-One whose love for all creation is eternal, whose grace is unlimited, and whose generosity knows no bounds.

As an old, old prayer of the church goes:

“Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

Patience and perseverance

So… I have a thing for hand tools. I like the patience and perseverance they demand.

I like the slow thinking that comes with a single-minded focus on doing one small thing at a time, and doing it – patiently, with perseverance – until …

Until the demons of my heart are overcome by the practice of sharing Christ’s peace …

Until the venom in my tongue is washed away by persevering at the table of grace …

Until the dust on my feet is all holy dust, an accumulation of one small step at a time through God’s kingdom come near …

Until I return to Jesus with joy and he laughs, “There you go, sweetie. You are making my joy complete. You are learning to love the other as I have loved you.”

Amen.

Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert guest speaker, Sheri Brown.

Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.

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