Thursday, May 19, 2016
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! Revelation 3:15(NLT)
Frank Donoroma was a friend, and a member of the church I served in 1990. He was part of the lay leadership and sang in the choir. Frank lived right behind the church, and for many years served as custodian. He was the only one I knew who didn’t get dizzy climbing straight up a special ladder we had to change light bulbs in the 40’-high sanctuary ceiling.
My friend earned a living with a hammer in his hand, so it was no surprise that when he retired he took up woodworking as a hobby. Often from my study on the second floor of the church, I could hear him using all sorts of machines to cut wood, or shape and smooth the contours of his latest project. He was quite good. I still use a wooden wastebasket he made for me.
As a craftsman who used wood for medium, it was natural that when the church decided one Advent Season to offer to our community an interactive “tour of Bethlehem,” Frank would play the part of the carpenter…his character’s specialty would be, as the contract-holder with the Roman officials, to make crosses for executions.
With church members as tour-guides, visitors were taken to homes, shops, an over-crowded inn, and even a synagogue. The guides would ask questions of the citizens, shop keepers and officials. Some of the dialogue took on a life of its own!
Frank’s carpenter shop on the tour was right after the nativity. He was supposed to have one line; when the tour guide asked: And, what are you doing, sir? Frank would respond, Oh, I make crosses; the Romans pay good money for my work.
The tour guide would make a face for the visitors and tell them: Those heartless Romans use those crosses to kill our citizens of Bethlehem; I hope that little baby we saw in the manger never has to face that. Then she would turn back to our cross-making carpenter and say: You should be ashamed…don’t you know those heathen Roman dogs would even put the Messiah on one of those things you’re making if he were here?
At that point Frank was supposed to shrug and go back to pounding on the wooden crossbeam. But the words rolled out of his mouth before he could stop them…
Lady, it’s just a job!
The words came out so naturally and captured the spirit of indifference so well that we kept that dialogue throughout the two nights of tours. Hundreds of people met a man who casually made death sentence apparatus seem just a part of normal living.
In a conversation weeks after the Bethlehem Walk, Frank told me that his role as the “lukewarm cross-maker” caused him to lose a few nights’ sleep. He said that it was one thing to play a role in a pageant, saying that phrase over and over, it’s just a job. But it started him thinking about how he lives and if he’s anything like that carpenter he played.
Frank said he began to look at everything he did so differently. He wanted to make certain he didn’t crucify Christ with his attitude and what he did every day. Playing that role made him think hard about the way he lived his life. He said to me at one point: Preacher, whoever that guy was who made the cross they hung Jesus on…I don’t ever want to be him.
So…it wasn’t just a job after all!
What’s it going to be like today? Just a job…or white-hot for Jesus?