Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.
Sixty years ago next month, a man by the name of Leonard Read wrote a short but extraordinary article. What made it so extraordinary was that it took the abstract and seemingly dull subject of economics and made it concrete. But his little article did more than that. With this piece, Leonard Read also filled countless readers with a sense of humility and a sense of awe.
The title of his essay was, “I, Pencil.” In it, Read demonstrates how even the making of a plain pencil involves all kinds of people in all kinds of circumstances from all over the world.
He starts with the wood. The wood had to come from a source of lumber—perhaps a place like the American Pacific Northwest. But the equipment to harvest the trees came from somewhere else, the metals for making the equipment came from somewhere else, and the transportation for moving the wood involved many scattered teams of individuals in various places. In addition, the human skill needed to transform massive loads of lumber into precise, delicate sizes involved many more.
In his article, Leonard Read then goes on to think through all the other parts of the pencil. What has to happen to get the graphite for the pencil? What has to happen to develop the yellow paint? What has to happen to construct a machine that will print the letters and numbers? What about the coats of lacquer that cover the pencil? What about the metal band on the end that fits just right? What about that mysterious piece of technology we call the eraser? What’s the nature of the glue that holds all the parts together? And finally, what does it take to assemble all of these different components in such a way that it does not cost a fortune to do it?
A major point in Read’s article is this. The creation of just a plain pencil does not involve a few select people. Rather, it involves wide swaths of people from multiple languages, multiple cultures.
In that way, it’s similar to how the Lord uses the gospel to create his Church. The Good News of what Jesus did on the cross to wash us clean is not for a select group or a select class. The gospel, John records, is for every nation, tribe, language, and people. The gospel is for everyone because everyone needs the gospel. And it is through this gospel that God builds his Church out of wide swaths of souls from multiple languages, multiple cultures; from Pakistan to China, from Cameroon to Germany, from the Navajo Nation to Brazil, from Siberia to Vietnam, from Montreal, Quebec, to Casa Grande, Arizona.
The next time you hold a pencil in your hand, think beyond the pencil. Think about the breathtaking miracle that is the Church.
Lord Jesus, thank you for your gospel. Move me to remember that your gospel is for everyone. Everyone. Amen.
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