‘Shedding the Blood of Creation’ as Sacrament or Sacrilege

“There is absolutely no reason a piece of furniture should not last hundreds of years. Literally, hundreds of years.” So says Harrison Higgins, a maker of custom furniture based in Richmond, Virginia. According to his website, Higgins began making furniture over 30 years ago as an apprentice to a German furniture maker.

In a short film produced by Christianity Today – “Furniture Fit for the Kingdom” – Higgins “describes the theology behind his furniture-making – and the beauty revealed when we treat the creation as more than a resource or even a social cause, but as a sacrament.” As this four-minute film unfolds, Higgins calls our attention to the overflowing love of God as evidenced by the good things that He has placed into His creation, just one of those things being the raw material – in this case, wood – that Higgins uses to build customized furniture to the glory of God, to endeavor to make something that is worthy of the tree from which it was cut. According to Higgins, when we look at all of creation with an eye toward sacrament, we “handle it differently.”

Personally, I find it very encouraging that there are people left in this world who enjoy building furniture consistent with the 18th-century level of craftsmanship, the “high-water mark” of furniture building, according to Higgins. The net effect of being introduced to someone who loves what they do and seeks to live out their vocation in a manner intended to give glory to God is to consider how the work we do provides value to God’s creation…or not.

For the last year or so, I have been studying the topics of faith, vocation and culture with a group of D.Min. candidates at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. While I am not enrolled in a Doctor of Ministry program at Covenant, my master’s program has been uniquely designed to allow me to earn credit while hitching a ride with roughly a dozen other folks who are seeking to make a lasting contribution to this intersection of Who we worship on Sunday mornings and how we spill that sense of awestruck wonder over into our Monday mornings (and the rest of our work week). Just over a year into a three-year stint, I can say with confidence that much of my thinking about “my job” has been seriously messed with…but in a really good way.

For someone like Harrison Higgins, we can see at once how his chosen profession allows him the “spiritual room” to praise God as he harvests trees, shapes them down into smaller pieces, smooths them by hand and carves intricate detail into the designs he has been commissioned to build. Someone like me, however, might come away from this video with very natural questions such as, “OK, but how do I create and maintain websites to the glory of God?” or “Is there anything at all sacramental associated with working the drive-thru window at the local McDonald’s?”

While there is definitely some sense in which we have all been alienated from the goodness of God’s creation by the modern, industrial era – moving from family-based enterprises such as a farm or general store to increasingly-narrowed fields with very specific job descriptions – as Christians we worship a Creator God Who owns, as Abraham Kuyper said, absolutely “every square inch” of His creation. This is very good news! While the fall of mankind (Genesis 3) has very clearly left its stain on everything we think, speak and do, God so loves His good creation (Genesis 1:31) that He is faithful to answer our prayers for redemption…even in today’s fast-paced, technological age.

Many of us – though certainly not all – have been given the great gift of time off from work on this Memorial Day. Perhaps we have already filled up our “day off” with so many activities and events that we will fall exhausted into our beds tonight, only to wake up on Tuesday and dive right back into the increasingly-frenetic pace of our normal work life, self-deprived of the very “spiritual room” that we desperately need to consider how what we do to earn our living is making its impact – good or otherwise – on the good, beautiful and sacramental creation that we “drive-thru” each and every day.

As I get older, the tremendous value of God-glorifying simplicity takes up more and more space in my heart. Yes, the world is increasing in complexity every day, but listening to someone like Harrison Higgins is a much-needed reminder that we enter into a complex world by choice. There are simple choices that everyone can make – sacrament or sacrilege? – and we need not be world-class furniture makers or powerful culture makers to participate in what God has already completed (John 19:30) and inaugurated with the resurrection of His Son from the dead.

In that spirit of simplicity, then, maybe we could all try to get a little more rest today, punch a couple of holes into our schedule this week for an aimless walk or a prolonged session of staring out the window, and ask God to open our eyes a bit: “Lord, show me how I can cooperate with Your plan of redemption when I show up at work tomorrow morning. Help me to find opportunities to experience Your glory in the mundane details of my work life.” When I remember that God owns everything and is able to reveal Himself in the everyday, I find the confidence to allow Him to reshape my work life such that others will find cause to ask me for the hope that resides within (1 Peter 3:15).

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