One lazy summer afternoon my friend Christine and I sat on the rickety porch talking about absolutely nothing while our kids ran around outside. At one point she gazed over my shoulder and in her calm mother-of-six voice said, “Ah, you’re missing a window pane there, Heido.”
I looked behind me and sure enough a pane was just…gone. We stepped
outside to the deck and the troops gathered around. Everyone had to
stick a hand through the hole. At the base of the window the glass lay,
unbroken but sheepish.
“If you don’t fix that, Mom, the flies will get
in,” my ever-helpful son Martin said, poking at the neighboring pane
with a stick. It clattered to the deck. “That one too.”
Well, there was no way around it. It was summer. Maine has bugs. It
had to be fixed before nightfall. Before long I was back on my deck
with glazing compound and glazier points. I don’t know where I learned
to fix window panes – maybe growing up on a farm or the summer I painted
college dorms – but it’s something I know how to do.
Warming to the task, I began the fun of rubbing a snake of glazing
compound between my palms. I relished the satisfaction of placing a
little metal point in just the right spot to keep the pane snug against
the sash and the expert flick of the putty knife smoothing the compound
so pretty and even. Except that when I finished, it wasn’t. It wasn’t
in the same hemisphere as pretty and even. What it was, was --
marginally -- okay. But here’s the truth: as homely and unprofessional
as my panes looked, I was a little proud.
As I stood on my deck dodging annoyed bees and wielding my putty
knife, I began to wonder if that’s how the gifts of God work: some of us
have general ability in a number of fields, some of us are tremendously
capable in one area. Some of us have strong minds, some of us have
strong backs. Some congregations have a powerful call to one ministry,
some are drawn to many missions of a limited scope. Some priests are
gifted in pastoral work, some are drawn to other pastures.
If that is true, then there’s the beauty, the symmetry of our life as
the Church of Christ – on the parish, diocesan, Church-wide, and
Communion-wide stage. Each one, each entity has a niche but we need
what the others bring to the table to be complete. We tend to think of
gifts as big, bold offerings, but perhaps some of us are gifted with the
ability to do a lot of things well enough. It’s not a flashy gift like
preaching or singing or running a tight meeting, but what congregation
could do without those few capable and willing souls who are there, day
after day, doing what needs to be done. And how do we shake the crazy
notion that a certain way of being a church or a priest or a saint is
more valuable to the Kingdom of God than any other?
My late father, who insisted that knowing how to shingle a roof was a
life skill his children needed to possess, used to say of himself, “A
jack of all trades, master of none.” He always said it with a
self-deprecating chuckle, but we knew he wore it like a badge of honor.
I think God has created a lot of people like my dad and me, those who
can do long division in a pinch, tie on a fishing lure, roast a turkey,
comfort a friend or write a heck of a good letter when the need arises.
Those among us with tremendous ability or a singular talent are dear
to us for showing us God’s image so clearly. Those with broader gifts
sound the daily gentle hum of the Spirit of Christ in our midst, and
they sure are handy to have around when a window pops out.