Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
Note: This is a story I shared with my congregation about a new building we are constructing at Hope. One note about the project is that we are building it principally with the help of volunteers.
It’s hard to believe that it has not been two and a half months since the first wall was set at Hope. Setting those walls is something I will not soon be able to forget, and not merely because of what they stand for. You see, standing those initial walls was not without some drama on my end.
When the telescoping handler was delivered to Hope it did not take long for me to claim a role as the principle operator. Some guys (and it doesn’t matter the age) simply love construction equipment, and I am one of them. For days I oriented myself on the machine moving stacks of wood from place to another. When the day came to pick up the 20’x20′ wall sections I was cautious but prepared. One at a time, I picked up each section and moved it to its permanent home in the new building.
Things were going great, and my confidence operating the machine was growing. Then it happened. The time came to set the wall in the farthest corner, around the excavator, and over the foundation wall for the front of the building in a strong wind. I was getting good, but not that good. I approached the task, but I ended up setting the wall on the ground two-thirds of the way to its ultimate destination after coming to the realization that it was set the wall on the ground or get set on the ground by the wall. It tested my skills, and I definitely failed.
Eventually we stood the wall, and approached the task with new focus and concern. That night I barely slept. The task of operating the machine remained. The next day I returned to the job site with phrases running through my head: Slow is fast. Safety first. I told myself that I would not push the equipment or myself. There would be no more mistakes.
I got into the cab of the forklift that morning, and went to move a pile of wood closer to our build site. And it happened. While picking up the wood, I smashed the forks directly into the foundation wall and crumbled the concrete. So much for taking it slow, doing it right, and not making a mistake.
While some guys who saw it laughed it off, I sat in the cab with a competing set of emotions: complete disappointment and raging anger. I went to tell Mike, our leader, what happened and to hand him my keys to the tele-handler. I was done. But his response not only surprised me, it was healing. He told me that would not be our last mistake, that we can fix it, and to get back into the cab.
It was grace.
When I think about what God is up to in our building at Hope, I used to think doing it ourselves would be a liability. I now believe it is one of the greatest parts of the project. You see, we are building more than a community center, we are building a community. A community where all have gifts to share, where no one has to be perfect, and where grace abounds. We are building a community where effort is celebrated and shame has no place. We’re building God’s kingdom, and, in the end, isn’t that what it has always been about?
The world has enough disappointment. The world has enough anger. The world has enough insecurity. The world has enough doubt. The world has enough pessimism. You may not be building a community this center, but you are still invited to build up your community. Embody grace. Share joy. Be life. Shine your light. And wherever you are, build hope.