The Grace Immanuel building, currently under renovation, is OLD (well, for America). To put it in perspective, the church was built in 1887 and the Wounded Knee Massacre took place in South Dakota three years later. As one might expect, the demolition process in such a building is turning up some little treasures: old Bible story cards from 1900, a very stylish but decomposed woman's high-top shoe, a 7-ounce Seven Up bottle, and many 19th-century square nails. I have always loved those nails, which have been found in two of my own houses and also in previous work at the church. For those of you who might not know, the nails really are square, with a rectangular head, and were hand-poured in a mold, then filed into shape before being used. I noticed a very large one - about three inches long - lying near the construction crew chief's dusty computer the other day. With great enthusiasm, he described to me the process of making such a nail. Together, we marveled that a person would spend that much time on the production and perfection of one nail. But then, the whole structure is held together by those well-made nails, hammered into place 128 years ago.
Do we care that much about our tasks in life? Do you value yourself and others enough to take a healthy pride in your work - whatever it is? We know people who do, and who do not. Our life is affected by their attitudes, and we must also measure ourselves in this way. The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a' Kempis, offers this counsel:
"God regards more the affection and love with which we perform a work than how much we do. We do much when we love much. We do much when we do what we have to do well. We do well when we regard the common good rather than our own will."
Our work matters in the web of life, in the deepest way. As Jesus said, "The one who is faithful in little is faithful in much." Can a nail be a work of art? I think you know the answer.