司祭 スコット マーレー
The Rev. Scott Murray
Christmas this year has me thinking about Joseph, the man in Jesus' young life. It is interesting that some folks refer to Joseph as the stepfather to Jesus, perhaps emphasizing the non-blood connection which Matthew and Luke tell about in their incarnation stories. But to Jesus, Joseph was his father. And it gets me to tinking about this man, Joseph, so important to Jesus, yet has no speaking part in the gospels. Mary has lines, but not Joseph. Strong and silent, we might say.
Joseph plays a central part of the birth narrative in Matthew. And one gets the sense that this Joseph is patterned after the earlier Joseph. It cannot be coincidence that NT Joseph has dreams and goes to Egypt in a like fashion of the OT Joseph. Matthew is making a connection. Through the person of Joseph (Old and New), God's movement and action will be foreshadowed.
But for Mary's Joseph, we hear so little. Writers through the centuries have placed upon this silence of Joseph many of their own feelings and impressions. And that is not a bad thing. One can often (not always) read the parents through their offspring.
What can we take from Joseph then? Well, when I bring my own self to the story, I, of course, am drawn to the fact that he was carpenter. There has been some discussion of this; the only mention in the gospels is a person saying of Jesus, "Isn't that the son of the carpenter (tekton)?" For all we know, son of a carpenter might be a euphemism for something else! But to call a rose a rose, I like Joseph as a carpenter. and Jesus as well, because it was common, very common, for the son to follow in the trade of his father. So what would have Jesus have learned from Joseph the carpenter? What life skills does one learn from working wood? Here I place myself into the picture as one who also builds furniture.
One of the first things you learn is to "measure twice, cut once." This is the opposite of the old story "I've cut it three times now and it's still too short!" Wood is precious, and probably even more so in Palestine. Best to keep mistakes at a minimum. One thought that always brings a smile to my face is the thought of Jesus cutting that last board too short and having to walk 5 miles back to the shop to get another one. Like me when I've done that, I doubt he was singing praise songs all the way back. He was human, you know.
This also means, think before you act. Measure your reaction before reacting. Take a breath before speaking back under pressure. Once the board is cut, it's tough to glue it back up. (this speaks to another famous carpenter's adage: The difference between an average carpenter and a good one is that the good one knows how to hide his mistakes)
Secondly, every task has the proper tool. Chisels are not paint can opening devices. Each task in our life has a corresponding tool. A person in tune with her spirit will always build someone up at the right time, and call down appropriate chastisement when needed. Jesus showed love and he showed anger. Emotion is good. Own it. Use it wisely.
Finally, tools need to be cared for, looked after. Carpenters in Japan say "dougu wa inochi" (tools are life). A carpenter's life depends upon his tools. The things we have been given by God in this life need to be looked after carefully. the concept of stewardship means that nothing is truly our own, but ours to care for a time. The tools we keep sharp, oiled, and ready are the ones which will last a lifetime. What tools has God given you? How are you taking care of them?