Put on our work clothes and repair our divisions
I once dreamed of visiting Grandpa at his home in Lorain, Ohio. Dad wore work clothes and carried his toolbox, ready to fix Grandpa’s washing machine.
This is how he preferred to spend his weekends – doing things for others, like getting his hands dirty while digging in one of mum’s many gardens. When he wasn’t wearing his work clothes, he put them on and put on his street clothes to take us to mass, or his golf clothes for our weekly outings. He was never too tired to invest his precious time in the people he loved and cared about.
Once, when I was a little kid, I tried on Daddy’s yellow hard hat. The weight of it almost knocked me off my feet. Yet day after day and night after night, he put on that headgear to work at the steel plant, sometimes for double shifts.
It was with the sweat of his brow that he paid for the education of his children. This is the reason why my work clothes are the jacket and tie that I put on to preach Sunday sermons. Even though my father remained a faithful Roman Catholic, he was proud of my accomplishments as a UCC pastor. From southwestern Wisconsin to northeastern Pennsylvania, he and Mom traveled regularly to hear me preach and make new friends in my congregations.
My father’s faith was like one of the big, strong steel beams he helped make and maintain. When Frederick W. Faber wrote Faith of our Fathers, along with about 150 other hymns, it was to guide and inspire us to live our Christian faith, “with kind words and righteous lives.”
That people of my parents’ generation were known as the “older ones” was surely no coincidence. It is with the sweat of their eyebrows that generations that have followed, including baby boomers like me, have had the freedom to put on the work clothes of their choice.
On this 20th anniversary of September 11, when our freedoms were once again threatened, may we continue to be reborn from their ashes on a steel beam (1 Corinthians 3:11). In the words of a hymn by JM Neale, “Christ became the sure foundation, Christ the cornerstone, chosen by the Lord and precious, binding the whole church into one.”
In these times when we seem hopelessly divided, it is the precious time we invest in sharing the love of Jesus Christ that will unite us again. So let’s get out our toolboxes, put on some work clothes, and start mending what’s broken with kind words and righteous lives.
Reverend Mark Katrick is at St John’s UCC