Apr 26, 2011

Camel-lot

The Camel was my first “Rube Goldberg Machine”.  I had built the contraption in my bedroom and I thought it was really cool.  The camel hung on the wall attached to a string.  When the string was pulled, it lifted the camel off of the picture hanger allowing the camel to travel to the end of the string.  The end of the string was attached to a swivel chair which was attached to my bedroom door. The machine was quite amazing.  When someone opened my bedroom door, it moved the swivel chair which released the camel.  In theory, it would alert me if someone had opened my bedroom door.  In practice it never really worked.

According to the Webster definition, a Rube Goldberg Machine is any machine deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task.  It is named after the famous cartoonist, Rube Goldberg.  He sketched out all sorts of ridiculous machines.  They are amusing to look at because you can see how they just might work.  For example, one of his “machines” shows a process using a parrot and a cracker to wipe someone’s mouth after eating soup. 

Today, Rube Goldberg has gone big time.  Engineering schools across the country now compete in Rube Goldberg Competitions.  This year, teams had to design a machine that included at least twenty parts to water a plant.  The machines used all sorts of levers, gears and marbles to accomplish this task.  One exhibit shows a marble going through a graveyard with headstones popping up.  

In real life, machines are designed with as few moving parts as possible.  Fewer parts means fewer parts to break.  But as an engineering exercise, the contest helps students think outside of the box.  And they’re fun to build.  

Sometimes we treat sin like a Rube Goldberg Machine.  How many times have we made up all sorts of complicated ways to please God?  What gyrations have we come up with to atone for the bad things we’ve done?  

But God’s grace doesn’t require a complicated set of levers and pulleys.  You don’t have to wait until the end to see if He’s going to grant it.  God’s forgiveness is free and instantaneous.  And unlike my camel machine – it always works.

May God bless you this Easter.

Pastor David Hook