St Johns Lutheran Church Willow Creek

Connecting People to Jesus in Rural Minnesota


Lessons I’ve Learned From a Crosscut Saw

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Pastor John Bennett

Alright, I admit the title is a bit hokey, but I would argue that it’s accurate, at least from my experience. So why such a randomly odd title? A little over a month ago I drove the students from St. Paul’s in Truman to McGowen Farms just outside Mankato. I had planned on getting work done while the kids played, but as chance would have it, with my daughters being on the trip as well, I got roped into doing something that I don’t ever want to do again: cutting logs with a two-person crosscut saw. At one of the stations students could cut pieces off of old phone poles and then brand them with one of the few irons sitting in the fire, and as luck (or the lack thereof) would have it, I was asked to help. Of the three cuts I made, two were for my daughters, so it was worth it to me for that reason alone, but I have never felt so old in all my life. Of course it didn’t help that the saw was rusted and dull, nor did it help that I was sawing with a small child on the other end of the saw, and even though I’m sure it was good exercise, the blisters on my hands and the ache in my back told a much different story. And the great irony in all this? The gentleman who owns the place, after I had finished helping three children cut logs, informs the children that there was a pile of pre-cut wood sitting behind a shed. I had done all that work for nothing.

So what did this teach me, besides the obvious that if I’m ever going to cut wood again I’m getting a chainsaw? I realized that this experience is allegorical for our life in Jesus Christ. Part of the human experience tells us that the reward that is offered is in direct proportion to the work that is done, that everything has a price. Even that which is offered as “free” usually requires some kind of financial commitment. If you want an example of this, if you’ve recently upgraded to a “free” smartphone, you’ll find just how free it isn’t if you call your provider to cancel the plan. One of the greatest gifts we have as those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, crucified and risen for our salvation, is that the hard work of our salvation is something that we don’t have to do, and even if we did we would never be able to do anything to tip the balance between God’s standard of perfection and our inadequacy as sinners. The hard work for our salvation has already been done for us; when Jesus said “It is finished,” He was talking about His hard work of earning for us the gift of eternal life. Favor with God has been won for us by Jesus’ blood, and by clinging to Him in faith, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

Now, that being said, the good news that everything necessary for our salvation has already been accomplished by Jesus doesn’t mean we should sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we don’t do this work for ourselves, rather we do for the Kingdom of God in joyful thanksgiving for what Jesus has accomplished in us and for us. What is this work? Quite simply, it is to labor for the sake of the Gospel, what Lutherans might refer to as sanctification, living the Christian faith. We accomplish this when we bear witness to who Jesus is and what He’s done for us in what we say and do in our daily lives, we accomplish this through our intentional efforts to share this message of salvation with those who do not yet know this same Jesus as Son of God and Savior, we accomplish this through our financial support of missionaries who are taking this Gospel to the ends of the earth, and we accomplish this when we pray that those who hear the Gospel with their ears might have open hearts to this message, and with us confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

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