In our Litany of Penitence that we pray every Ash Wednesday there is one line that always catches my attention. It is “We confess to you, our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work.”
It’s the little things that I think about in praying this. The little things that, unchecked, over time, have a corrosive quality on the soul and can become big things.
With that in mind I share this story I have saved ( I’m a huge collector ) over the years.
Far away there lived a king who loved to draw up plans for buildings. He had a skilled carpenter who worked for him and he would supervise the work of the carpenter in buying of materials for his creations. He valued highly the work of his carpenter.
One day the king told the carpenter of plans he had drawn up for a wonderful guest house which the carpenter would build. “It is on the best property and I want you to use the best materials. Cost is no problem.” He said, “I will not be here to supervise but I trust you will do this with excellence…Give me the bill when I return from my journey and I will pay you in gold.”
The king left for a long time and the carpenter thought, “Here is my chance to make a lot of money.” Instead of the best builders he sent for barn builders. He also sent for only second rate materials for everything and used his skill to lay a very thin veneer over the wood so that it looked like the very best wood. He wrote out a huge bill for the king.
When the king returned, the carpenter gave him the bill and it was paid before the king saw the house. The carpenter took him to the site and gave him the key.
“No,” said the king, “keep the key. I can see you have followed my plans. I myself selected the best piece of property and drew the plans.” Again the carpenter tried to press the key into the king’s hands but the king said, ” It is lovely to behold. I know your work and that you used the best materials. I am very pleased.” Again, thanking the king, the carpenter held out the key.
The king shook his head. “No, I do not need to see the guest house. You keep the key. I have valued and loved you so much over the years I wanted to reward you. I had you build this house according to all my plans. This is a gift for you, dear carpenter”
The small dishonesties that creep into our lives. They are worthy of our consideration. They are most often important to recall and even confess from the heart. The God who calls us to a holy Lent, is really not a stern and angry judge. For, as this story helps us to see, in the end, God’s most severe judgement–is God’s love.
-The Rev. Stuart Kenworthy