When you consider the great art masters, which names come to your mind? Michelangelo? da Vinci? Rembrandt?
Though I enjoy spending the occasional quiet afternoon at a museum, I’m not a big museum enthusiast. I’m not interested enough in the study of art to know many of the names, or even how to pronounce some of them. While I may not know the names of many of the masters, I do enjoy seeing some of their masterpieces.
I remember visiting Rome in February of 2014 during the Jubilee of Mercy, passing through the Holy Door into St. Peter’s Basilica. Immediately as I entered, I saw Michelangelo’s Pieta to my right. I took far too many photos, and stood there for quite some time . There’s something about being so close to the incredibly intricate work of an undisputed master that allows you to see and appreciate the detail and skill. It’s breathtaking, actually. The level of workmanship is exquisite.
Today’s verse reflects on the creation of God, and tells us that WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP.
I find the choice of words used in translation fascinating. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy giving you the “Bishop Robert Version” of the scriptures from time to time. I’m not a theologian, but I love digging into the inspired words God chose. The New Testament was largely written in Greek. But not the high falutin’ Greek of the courts and legal system. Instead it was the common, everyday colloquial Greek used by the commonplace folk. God wanted His word to reach people where they live, and touch their hearts with Spirit-filled inspiration. And sometimes one simple, everyday word can speak volumes of meaning.
In the Greek, the word that most of our versions translate “workmanship” in this verse is the word “poema.” As you may have guessed, it is also the source of our word “poem” in English. What lessons can we derive from God’s choice of this word? What can it mean that we are God’s “poem?”
Every poem has an author. Poems do not magically appear out of thin air. They are crafted with care and deliberation. The author has a message to communicate, and is choosing a medium that encompasses a certain style, meter and structure to do so. God is the author of your poem. He wants to communicate His message through you and your life, and to do it in a way that will be fully unique to you while staying totally true to the core essence of who He is.
Every poem has a theme. Poems have a focus, a specific message. You do as well. He will speak His message of grace through you in a different way than He will do so through anyone else, because you are unique. God wants to use YOU, not your impression of some preacher or other.
Every poem has an audience. It is directed to a specific group of people. In fact, sometimes it is directed to one specific person! You are who you are because of how God created you. You are WHERE you are because He intends that you be salt and light to those around you, a reflection of His glory and grace. And He may bring you to other places in HIs time to shine your light there, too!
Every poem has a purpose. The second part of today’s verse tells us that God also created your life with purpose, In fact, He created you in Christ Jesus for good works. Specific things He had in mind beforehand, and created you with a particular mix of gifts, talents and abilities so you are perfectly prepared to accomplish them. Your life is not purposeless, it never was.
Moses thought his rash actions had removed him from the place where he could be used by God. At age forty, he committed a murder, and then ran for his life to the other side of a desert so he wouldn’t be caught. He spent the next forty years sitting in fields alone, except for the flocks of sheep he oversaw. Sitting on a rock at the age of eighty-something, I doubt that Moses felt like his life had much purpose or held much promise. If anything, he probably felt like he had wasted his life.
But God knows how much preparation is necessary to properly position us, to adequately train us, to teach us to hear Him and listen to His voice. God knew the plans He had for Moses. At just the right time, God moved Moses back to Egypt as His spokesman. And the rest, as they say, is history.
You are not “wasted workmanship” – you a masterpiece in process. His work in you and me is CERTAINLY not finished! Like Paul, we can say, “It’s not that I am perfect, or have even arrived at my goal. But I am determined to press on and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” That’s got to be our focus. Pressing On! Taking hold! Whenever someone asks me, “How are you?” my most common reply is, “I’m pressing on.” It’s a reminder to myself that I’m not finished yet. The Master still has more to do in me. I’m not there yet. But I haven’t quit.
WE ARE HIS WORKMANSHIP
It’s the master that makes us a masterpiece. Look at any of the great masterpieces in history – paintings, sculptures, even poems. Architectural wonders or any other thing your mind can consider. All of them have one thing in common. Not one of them had a hand in their creation! No beautiful painting helped paint itself. No poem added a single verse to one of its stanzas. No symphony wrote one of its notes.
We alone have the privilege of choosing to yield to the Master’s hand as He works on us and in us so that He may eventually work through us.
And, as He does work through us, it is the master’s hand that creates the value and beauty beheld by the world.
Myra Brooks Welch is best known for her poem “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.” It recounts the story of an old violin, battered and scarred, being sold at auction. The auctioneer thinks it’s worthless, and begins to offer it for a dollar. His pitch is interrupted by an elderly man who came forward, tightened the strings and began to play. The melodious tone of the master-crafted instrument stunned the audience into silence. When the man stopped playing, the auctioneer could hardly speak. He spoke softly and asked, “NOW what am I bid for this old violin?” and it sold for thousands.
I’ve said that every poem has an author. Every poem has a theme, an audience, a purpose. That is all true. But the true value in the poem is in it being shared with the world. da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper would have still have been beautiful if he had painted it on canvas and hidden it in a remote corner of his studio. But its true value has been appreciated only because he chose a fresco that the world could see. One of the most recognizable works in the world has impacted history and hearts because it has been shared with the world.
You are God’s masterpiece. You are so, not because of yourself, but because He has crafted you. He has done so with purpose and intent.
You may believe that you are old, battered, scarred and useless. Like the violin in Welch’s poem, you may think that you have been tossed aside. Perhaps you’re like David, who everyone thought was too young to be used by God in any meaningful way. Or you could be more like Moses, convinced that if God was ever going to use you, it would have been long ago.
But God doesn’t care whether you’re eight or eighty. He’s a master craftsman, and so you are His masterpiece. When He picks you up and begins to do what He does with His masterpieces, the purpose He ordained for you before the creation of the world will be seen. And the world will be different because you were obedient, and let the work of the master be seen in you.
FOR WE ARE GOD’S MASTERPIECE