Posted by: jaimemwsanders | March 19, 2020

Jesus Was A Carpenter

Today, March 19th, The Episcopal Church commemorates St. Joseph, the worldly father of Jesus. Joseph is said in scripture to have been a tekton, or builder, commonly translated, “carpenter.” Justin Martyr, who was born in Palestine around 100 C.E., wrote that he had seen plows and ox-yokes still in use that had been made in Joseph’s shop in Nazareth. (This fact courtesy of James Kiefer, writing on http://www.missionstclare.com.) Tradition says that Jesus learned carpentry from Joseph, and pursued that trade until the beginning of his public ministry when he was around 30 years old. Hence the song, “Jesus Was a Carpenter.”

We often think of Jesus’ identity as a carpenter as, in this song, emblematic of his humble birth and lack of social power and status. But I would like to invite us to think of another aspect.

One of the characteristics of Jesus’ teaching was his encouragement of people to see. “Consider the lilies of the field,” for example. This emphasis on learning from close observation of everyday life is typical of the Jewish wisdom tradition. But I wonder if it isn’t also something Jesus learned in carpentry.

From my husband’s grandmother, we inherited the Windsor chair in the photo above. Eva was born in 1898, and this chair was made by hand by methods passed down for generations. The craftsman had to have an eye for wood, for its grain and characteristics, as well as skill and patience. If you hurry in using an adze, you can wreck the piece you are making – and wood was not common in Israel!

As I write these words, restaurants and many stores are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all being encouraged to stay at home unless it is really necessary to go out. Perhaps it is a time to cultivate the art of seeing. To appreciate the grain of wood. To have patience, and learn a skill. To remember that Jesus was a carpenter.


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