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You have probably never heard of Joseph Priestley. If you have ever made a mistake in writing, you owe him a bit of thanks because he is the man who invented the eraser.
Priestley lived in the 1700s in England and was the son of a minister. As an adult, he came to America and was, for a time, a Unitarian minister. He seemed more interested in chemistry than theology, however, and the invention of the eraser came to Priestley when he studied the sap of a South American tree newly introduced to Europe.
He discovered that the sticky substance from the tree, which the Native Americans call caoutchouc or “weeping wood,” could be used to remove writing. He described this material as “excellently adapted to the purpose of wiping from paper the marks of black lead pencils.”
Priestley even gave it the name rubber, not because it was made of rubber, which it was not, but because the removal of pencil marks resulted from rubbing the hardened sap against the page. Thus Priestley, father of the eraser, was obviously an individual who understood the human condition. Maybe his being a minister, also, helped him on that.
Our faith in Christ also gives us an eraser, a forgiveness that remembers our mistakes and sins no more.
The black marks of the past can be rubbed out by God’s mercy and grace, and what’s more, we can be strengthened by that grace. That is the message of the Gospel.
We are not judged in the game of life by our errors, we are justified by our faith.
The Rev. Clifford P. Sparks is pastor of Carrollton United Methodist Church in Carrollton, Ky.