Alex Horwitz owned two house coal mines. A house coal mine is one which is started behind your house. In your yard. Your back yard or the back of your property. You dig it by hand. Shovels and picks. When you get in deep enough you put down narrow rail tracks so that you can put a miniature coal bin car on the tracks and pull it in and out by hand. A house coal mine is a lot of work. Day after day. Mike (Alex’s nephew) helped Alex with those mines.
Alex was a generous man, and kind man, and an inventive man. A joyful man. And, a God fearing man.
What Alex is known for is his craftsmanship. He was a cabinet maker early in his life and later he made stringed instruments. He crafted violins, banjoes, mandolins. He carved from spruce or pine. Mike and Yevonne made sure that Alex had a constant supply of Mother of Pearl. With this he made intricate inlays on his instruments. The scrolls of his violins were sculptures, and sometimes of the Head of Jesus.
I went to Alex’s house to pray with him before he passed. Prayed with him for a peaceful passing. After I prayed with him, I asked Mike to show me Alex’s workshop. Mike said he would take me down there but added, “There’s really not much to it.” I was looking for little planes of various sizes, for files and chisels. Some years ago I was in a violin makers shop in downtown Pittsburgh. There were planes and chisels lined up neatly and of many various sizes. It was then that Mike explained to me that Alex didn’t use planes and chisels. Alex carved every one of his instruments from pieces of broken glass. Alex shaved every piece of wood by hand with these broken pieces of glass. Window glass. Then he would inlay, in intricate detail, the Mother of Pearl. Every straight line, every curved line was shaved bit by bit by pieces of broken glass.
Two years ago Alex came to the church that I am serving now to present the church with one of his mandolins. It is an exquisite instrument with stunning craftsmanship.
Alex not only made these instruments, but he could play them too. He was a true master of his craft. A man who lived in a small house, outside of a small town, who not many people knew. Alex was a master craftsman of beautiful instruments. Made with wood of straight even grain (the master violin makers of old only used wood with a narrow straight grain that grew on the north side of cold mountains).
There was another man from a small town. Nearly no one knew of him outside of his small town. He was a carpenter. Learned from his dad. His name is Jesus. Why was He a carpenter?
We don’t know. The Bible never addresses why.
Yet, I will tell you why I believe He was a carpenter. Carpenters shape things — like Alex shaped wood to become violins. Jesus had shaped the universe. He shaped trees, hills, oceans, lakes, lizards, and birds, and clouds. See, Jesus’ Father in heaven sent Him to earth to shape people.
People had tried to shape themselves. For over two thousand or more years. Shaping their own lives and they made a mess of them.
Jesus was a carpenter — carpenters shape things. Jesus learned to shape wood which taught Him how to shape people. In God’s image. The Bible says we are made in God’s image. Jesus was in God’s image and He was sent to shape people into God’s image. Jesus comes to shape people into His image, into His Love, into His character, into His love for His Father, and into His love for other people.
Jesus had learned to shape the wood into this and into that. Now, some wood refused to get shaped. And some wood was difficult to shape. Other wood quickly conformed to the master’s hand.
I was difficult to shape. I wanted to decide my own shape, my own decisions. The master had to work very hard to get me closer to His image. To shape me with His own hand, without my will getting in the way. Because I wanted to decide what I would be like. I didn’t want The Master of the Universe to decide for me. To shape me.
Later, later in life, I saw the light. I asked The master shaper, Jesus Christ, into my life to shape me into His image.
Some of you, probably, are difficult to shape. You want to decide. Some others of you allow the Master Carpenter of The Universe to shape some of your life, but not all of it. Yet, when He can shape all of you, you will become an amazing instrument. An instrument of God’s perfect will. Of the Master’s perfect purpose for you.
Jesus is Lord!