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Presentation by David Morris
First Baptist Church of West Hartford
January 20, 2013
Our scripture this morning is found in Genesis 6 verses 13 through 22.
But before I read the scripture I want to begin to tell you a story.
In order for the story to make sense there’s a few things you need to know about me.
I marvel at the universe in which we live, and stand amazed at the miracle of our planet earth. I am convinced that all of this was neither coincidence nor the product of chance. I believe the beauty in which we are surrounded surely was planned by god.
Sometimes god calls upon us to be a part of his plan. He calls upon us in many different ways. Perhaps we see the beauty of what he has created and are moved, perhaps we hear his words through others and recognize his call to action, and sometimes he speaks to our heart through an inner voice.
Many months ago Tom and Jason approached me and said: We hear you are a wood carver. We want to decorate our church with objects created by our members and we want you to carve the church symbol for our new lobby.
Immediately I explained that I was but a mere amateur and did not have the skill for this task. Besides my carvings are all very small and what you are proposing is much bigger than anything I had ever done. As I sought to convince them that I was not the right person for the job my inner voice said “enough already…this needs to be done”. Immediately I stopped protesting and agreed to accept the task.
Jason agreed to provide me a drawing of what they had in mind. As I waited for the drawing I thought I would turn to the first wood worker for inspiration. His name is Noah.
I’ll now read Genesis 6 – versus 13 through 22 from the King James version of the bible.
6:13 Then god said to Noah, the end of all flesh has come before me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the land.
6:14 Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.
6:15 And this is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.
6:16 You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.
6:17 And behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the land, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under the sky; everything that is in the land shall perish.
6:18 But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.
6:20 Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive.
6:21 And as for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.”
6:22 Thus Noah did; according to all that god had commanded him, so he did.
Wait a minute, I must have missed something!
I read it again.
Where is the part where Noah said “Oh lord this task is too big for me.” Where is the part where Noah says, “but lord where am I going to get that much gopher wood and you know I don’t have the right tools for the job”, or “lord you know I must have a complete set of plans and specifications before I can begin a project of this size”. The bible says nothing about this because it didn’t happen. The bible simply says: “thus Noah did; according to all that god had commanded him, so he did.“
Sometime later Jason presented me with his drawing.
Not knowing exactly what to do with the drawing one winter evening I took it to a gathering of about 6 fellow wood carvers. As we sat around the work bench I brought out the drawing and asked “what am I to do with this?” Much to my surprise, without hesitation 3 of my colleagues loudly responded in unison “Intarsia”.
Oh my, 3 people who had no idea what I was going to show them or the question I would ask responding simultaneously with the same answer!
I get it. You want Intarsia.
Well I had never heard of Intarsia before so I had to read a few books to learn about this new technique.
Intarsia is a woodworking technique that uses varied shapes, sizes, and species of wood fitted together to create a mosaic-like picture with an illusion of depth. After selecting the specific woods to be used within the pattern, each piece is then individually cut, shaped, and finished. Sometimes areas of the pattern are raised to create more depth. Once the individual pieces are complete, they are fitted together to form a picture or image.
The technique of Intarsia was perfected in Islamic North Africa before it was introduced into Christian Europe. The art was further developed by Sienese masters at the cathedral of Orvieto in 1330.
The next step in the process was to create patterns.
At first I thought I would be clever and using my drawing instruments lay out all of the angles perfectly. Too my surprise the drawing was not exactly symmetrical. As much as I tried I could not replicate the original using basic geometry. This would mean that I had to create each piece individually, and then the voice said: “like the people in my church”.
Oh, now I understand.
After creating the patterns I next turned to acquiring the wood. The dark rich color of walnut was self-evident, but what would I use for the lighter colors. I turned to my stash of wood in the basement and what I found was perfect.
The northern and southern latitudes are holly from Dick and Ruth Leggett’s yard. When Dick and Ruth moved into their new home in West Hartford in the early 60’s they proudly planted a young holly bush in the front of their home. Over the years they nurtured the holly and it grew into a tree. Eventually it became so big it had to be taken down. Now I’m sure Dick and Ruth had no idea that a portion of the tree would someday be in the lobby of the church, but I believe God knew.
The middle latitudes are pear from Duane and Joy Adams yard. They had planted a beautiful little pear tree some 6 years prior and I’m sure they enjoyed the lovely blossoms each spring as the pear grew in stature. How disappointed they must have been when the October storm of 2 years ago broke their tree and it had to be taken down.
Duane had put the trunk by the curb before he learned that as a wood carver it would be of interest to me. As I looked at the pear wood in my basement I thought; Isn’t that so much like so many Christians? Our lives are at the curb when god rescues us at the last possible moment and we are given another opportunity to serve him.
Over the months I fashioned the pieces and assembled them in to what you see today.
As I stand back and look at the finished work I would like to share with you what it means to me. The circle represents the earth, depicting the global reach of Christianity and our church, and within the church are the holly’s, and the walnuts, and the pear’s… a blessed and diverse group of Christians all gathered around the cross of Christ, which is so prominent in their lives.
I hope this work will mean something special to you and as you enter the lobby each Sunday you will reflect upon its meaning.
I am thankful god has given me an opportunity to be a part of his plan and this church.
A special message to my friends at Lumberjocks—- Sometimes we start a project not knowing where it will go our how it will turn out. I guess that’s what they mean by “faith”. We have to have the faith that we can do this (even with limited skills / tools, and a variety of other obstacles) and with faith in ourselves and the help from a higher authority we can create art!