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No Labor Unnoticed

Thursday, October 20, 2016 • Randy Kilgore • General
Utterly alone, at the bottom of a fourteen-foot trench filled with water so thick with silt he literally couldn't see his hand in front of his face, William Walker laid 25,000 bags of concrete, slitting each bag open so the concrete could spread out as it set. He then used 115,000 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks to shore up the national treasure we know as Winchester Cathedral.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts, to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.  -Exodus 31:1-6

     Utterly alone, at the bottom of a fourteen-foot trench filled with water so thick with silt he literally couldn't see his hand in front of his face, William Walker laid 25,000 bags of concrete, slitting each bag open so the concrete could spread out as it set.  He then used 115,000 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks to shore up the national treasure we know as Winchester Cathedral.

     Every morning, five mornings a week, fifty weeks a year, for six years and one month, from 1905 to 1911, Walker would climb into his diver's suit and wait while his tenders loaded forty pound stones over his shoulders and placed a fifty-pound metal helmet over his head.  Then he would step into 18-pound metal shoes and descend into the depths of the trench around Winchester Cathedral to work for three and a half hours. 

     After an hour for lunch, he would go through the ritual again in order to work another three and a half hours in the pitch dark completely alone. 

     Incredibly, the majestic structure that thrills people even today with its remarkable architecture had been built on a bog, floating on what Sir Francis Fox called a "raft" of massive beech timbers.  As the timbers rotted, the mighty building started to sag.

     It isn't stretching things at all to say William Walker single-handedly saved Winchester Cathedral.

     So, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, Walker fought to save a structure built by long-dead humans to honor a still-living God.

     Walker didnâ??t live to be honored for his master-work.  He would be one of the millions of people felled by the flu pandemic that swept the world in 1918.  When a sculptor was commissioned to craft a statue to honor Walkerâ??s sacrificial effort, he used a photo of the wrong man, a mistake not corrected for almost ninety years!

     But William Walkerâ??s work wasnâ??t done with an eye towards human recognition, for he knew something most of us need to learn; or, learn again: It isn't adoration or statues or even the satisfaction of a job well done that is God's gift to His children.

     It's the work itself!  The God who created the universe; who included labor in that Creation and called it â??Good;â? turned to humans and invited them to be the stewards of that Creation, investing in their work a value both temporal and eternal.

    Let the coal miner rejoice.  Let the bond trader exult.  Let the firefighter and architect and school teacher glory in their labor, for God in His infinite wisdom has given them the chance to play a role in shoring up the foundations of a Creation built to last forever.

     One day, when every knee has bowed and every tongue confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord, every dark hour, every tedious task, every ounce of effort given by God's children to the tending of His Creation will see the light of day, and we will know and count it as great treasure that God let us be a small part of His big work.

--Randy Kilgore

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