When Hosanna Industries was born 28 years ago, two words were coupled together in an attempt to bring enduring identity to a newly-founded mission. “Hosanna” is the ancient Hebrew word that Jesus heard the crowd crying out as He entered Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. It is a word of faith that means,“Rescue me; save me, Lord!” “Industries” is a word that refers to the energies of work, production, skill, giving, and effort in bringing help to those who need God’s help in today’s world. It’s a very simple combination of words implying an equally simple formula for compassion-based mission in these days: faith + work = God’s response to the desperation of the human condition.
We’ve tried through the years to bring our faith to the doing of a lot of great work, and in many important ways, through your working, praying, giving, and volunteering, you’ve been an integral part of that effort. Humbly and more gratefully than my words can adequately express, I thank you.
Hundreds of new homes have been built, thousands of existing homes repaired, hundreds of thousands of believing people have rolled up their sleeves through the years to help the needy and to work very hard in the name of the Lord to get the job done, and I applaud that great and gregarious effort, but I do so cautiously.
Our work should never become more important than the wonder of God’s grace, more pressing than the beauty of God’s love.
Sometimes the work itself, the human effort, can become the ultimate aim, and when that happens, terrible things can occur. Work can become an idol, a false-god, and our attentions can be distracted from the divine to the base.
When I think about the mission’s work through the years, the item that first comes to my mind is the swinging of all those hammers and the driving of all those nails! We didn’t keep count, but a little fair estimating and arithmetic tells me that we’ve probably driven somewhere in the neighborhood of about 10 million nails through the years! That’s about 20 tons of nails, or 1428 pounds per year, 120 pounds per month, 30 pounds per week. That’s a lot of driving and a lot of work. I hope it’s been good work.
Today is Good Friday. 2000 years ago, an innocent carpenter turned preacher died on a Roman cross. He didn’t deserve to be executed. He committed no crime. He was only 33 years old, but He made some very powerful people want to eliminate Him, and for a while, they did.
That was bad work. Somebody had to work hard to trump up false charges. Somebody had to work hard to antagonize a crowd. Somebody had to work hard to craft a rugged cross. Somebody had to work hard to forge those spikes. Some unfortunate soldier had to work hard to seize a hammer in one hand and drive three large nails, one through each of the wrists of that young man named Jesus, the third through the metatarsal bones of both of His feet. That’s what crucifixion involved back then.
Bad work. Ugly work. Shameful work.
It would be very easy to despise that work and condemn the workers except for one plain fact. I was there. Maybe you were, too.
Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to conduct good and faithful work, but sometimes our work strives after things that aren’t so good, things that might even be bad, dishonorable, unhelpful, or self-promoting.
Thank God for the three nails that crucified Christ. The gravity of human effort meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. That one nail stands as a reminder of God’s forgiveness for all the wrong I’ve ever done. That second nail stands as a reminder of God’s forgiveness for all the wrong ever done against me. That third nail stands as a reminder of God’s forgiveness for all the sins of the whole human race, the entire weight of all the world’s wrong.
May the eternal meaning and the profound mystery of those three nails and what God accomplished with them break upon your consciousness like the dawning of the first Easter morning, throughout this sacred season, dear Hosanna friend.