Again noting: this is a "get ahead" column for the Easter weekend; you should have just gotten the 4-8-17 column for this Saturday.
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Faith Works 4-15-17
A beggar boy and his goods
Their Iesou died a few hundred years ago, but they kept coming. His mother had died when he was a boy, and the beggar child just thought of himself as "Boy" (if anyone noticed him at all, that's what they called him, too), but they all knew HIS name.
Since the emperor's mother had come to Jerusalem a few years ago, the Roman wealthy showed up regularly, in groups from ships down at Caesar's harbor making the long walk up into the hills from the Middle Sea to this, the Holy City.
All the boy knew that was holy to him tended to be gold, but he wouldn't hesitate to take silver, or copper if such was all that was at hand. A gold coin could feed him for a week; depending on whose face was on it, a month, and he was good at judging from faces of shopkeepers which caesar's face he had.
In the heaps of rubble near where a church was slowly going up, massive limestone block by massive hoisted stone, the boy was still small enough to squirm down into the ruins of the temple that had been here before, and into stones that felt, in the darkness, older even than those foundations.
Questing fingers could find the particular cold of iron, and the long iron Roman nails were what he sought: for today's Roman visitors would pay, and pay well, for these corroded pieces of metal. The tale was told that their Iesou had been nailed, hand and foot, to timbers which Empress Helena had already taken away, around the well of which the church was being built. But they did not find all the nails.
The key, of course, was to be not quite clever, and not to show your hand too quickly. He had learned long ago, in his own terms as a child himself, that if you just walked up to a gold-trimmed gown wearing Roman tourist and pulled out a long, thin iron nail and said "here's one of the nails they used to crucify Iesou" they'd give you the back of their hand, hard, and no coins at all.
But if you approached them nervously, hesitantly, and whispered that you thought, you might, a friend could have . . . and if you could get them to leave their friends behind and follow you down streets and turns and alleys and lanes, the farther they went with you, the more they believed that what you had was what they sought, and the more they would pay.
You'd sold dozens of these Roman nails to willing purchasers, always (well, since the unsuccessful beginnings) saying you didn't know for sure, but it had been found very near the Calvary rock, deep in the ruins of the earlier church, and who knows . . .
And who did know? He had been so deep in the rubble pile, down to country rock itself, and found oddly curved and twisted nails that seemed exactly as if they'd been pounded deep into timber and pried out with great effort later. Those, he thought with a chuckle, were the ones people paid the least for, and might be most likely to be what was said of them. It was the long, straight, dark ones that got the gold.
Why did they want these nails? He assumed they wanted to own a piece of the story, the legends, the amazing reports they said again and again to each other about this man: that he was who he said he was, that God Most High spoke through him, and that his death on a cross was, for him, not an ending, but a new beginning.
If he could sell a few more nails, he would relax a bit. Perhaps when Helena's new church was built around the tomb they said he rose from, he would get a new robe, wash his face, and attend one of their services, and learn more about this Iesou. For now, there was work to do, and visitors to greet. Could it be? Who knows.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him your story at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.