For we are God’s workmanship . . . (Ephesians 2:10)
What is it about kneeling that we do it so rarely?
A middle ground is hard to find. Some churches expect people to kneel often and provide a kneeler on every pew. Other churches pray every week without ever bending the knee.
Pastor and author Calvin Miller once quipped that God never looks bigger than when you’re on your knees. So in our church’s prayer room there is kneeling bench. On the bench there is a cushion. The bench is there because sometimes the weight that drives us to prayer can only be borne by kneeling.
For that reason a small group gathered a couple of months ago to ask God’s blessing on the prayer bench. The real focus of this gathering was the completion of the needlepoint cushion on which people would kneel.
The needlepoint work involved fourteen people and roughly nine-hundred hours of labor that spanned a year and a half. This doesn’t include the time required for an artist to create a sketch for the design that became a painted canvass that then became a stitch guide. The panels of the cushion were passed from one careful stitcher to the next. Each of them focused on a piece of the design until finally the stitching was completed, the panels of the cushion were assembled, and the cushion was mounted to the prayer bench.
On the day we gathered for our service of blessing and dedication several of the people who had worked on the cushion were present. Any one of them could have easily pointed to the section of the cushion they had helped bring to life with color. Without a doubt they remembered the meticulous labor, patiently pressing a thread into the design, pulling it through, practicing their art in precise repeated motions. One might safely say that an attention deficit disorder of any degree would make it nearly impossible to enjoy the craft of needlepoint.
What I noticed as I listened to this group of artisans admiring the finished cushion was that none of them spoke of the section they had done. They could have told if you’d asked – but nobody pointed at their own work. Instead, they all took pleasure in the whole.
Had a single thread stood out it probably would have been regarded as a flaw. No one boasted in a single thread. What they took delight in was the totality of thousands of threads, whether their own hands had pulled the needle or not.
God is a master craftsman. His work in the world is a great design and our lives become meaningful and beautiful when we belong to that design. Life is distorted and tiresome when we insist on calling attention to the one thread that is ‘me.’
For a couple of weeks we’ll be thinking about God’s mission in this world, his great design for all people, all nations. What does that design look like, and what would it mean for you to be a thread in God’s hand, woven into the work he is doing?
Maybe the best way to find out would be to ask; and as you ask, you might consider kneeling.
Gracious God, help us to see the larger picture, the great design of your work in this world. Bring us in on what you’re doing, pulling us into the fabric of your mission by the power of your Spirit, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.