Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my assistant minister.
Doogie and I are in my third-floor study in the manse on Asbury Avenue in Winnetka. This is where we write our sermons. Doogie has this pillow in the corner and he will help me write my sermons.
When Kathy and I moved here six years ago, the church helped me turn this former children’s playroom into a minister’s library, and they did that by hiring this wonderful carpenter named Scott. I don’t think Scott was Amish, but he sure looked like it. He wore flannel shirts and bib overalls, and he had these serious steel-toed carpenter’s boots and a carpenter’s tool belt, and he had this wonderful full beard that wrapped right around under his chin, but his upper lip was clean shaven like you see on Amish men sometimes.
Scott built me this wonderful workstation here and the bookshelves lining all four walls of this room. And when I’m writing my sermon sometimes if I come to a fallow spot and I don’t know what I want to say next, I’ll take a pause and just admire the detailed fine-skilled craftsmanship that went into the construction of this fine piece of furniture. And so the veneers are flawless and the joints are tight and the design is clever, and Scott even installed these ingenious quiet-close desk drawers in my workstation. I love these things. It’s smooth as riding in a Tesla, these quiet close drawers.
One of the reasons I love being up here is Scott’s craftsmanship reminds me of carpenter Joseph. I’m preaching about carpenter Joseph on Sunday, Jesus’ adoptive father. Because Joseph made his living exactly how Scott does, by building kitchen tables and bookshelves and furniture for his customers.
When the Greeks talked about carpenters, the word they use is tekton. Matthew and Mark describe Joseph as a tekton, which meant a craftsman, a woodworker, a cabinet builder, even a stonemason or an engineer. Anybody who built objects for their customers. And when you hear the word tekton in Greek, you can tell the English cognates that we derive from that Greek word: words like technical and technique and technology, they all come from tekton, which means craftsman or artisan. And of course Matthew and Mark also tell us that Jesus inherited the trade of his adopted father, which was common in first-century Galilee.
Joseph the carpenter is one of my favorite characters in all of the bible, because he’s just this quiet, unassuming, loyal, faithful, blue-collar working man. Joseph never speaks a word in the bible. He has this internal dialogue with himself when he’s deciding if he ought to continue to take Mary as his wife, even after she becomes pregnant with this child who is so evidently not his own. So he has this internal conversation with himself, but he never speaks an audible word to another human being.
Joseph had nothing to do with Jesus’ procreation or his begetting, and yet Joseph the carpenter plays this absolutely critical role in God’s salvation history with God’s people. Joseph is the one that gets Mary and Jesus from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and then to Egypt, and eventually back to Nazareth again. Joseph is the one who gets Jesus from his birth to his adulthood by teaching him a lucrative trade that served Jesus very well till he decided to give the whole thing up to become a preacher at the age of 30. And so I guess it was a good thing that Joseph was already gone by that time.
Who knows what would have happened to Jesus and Mary if Joseph had decided to do what all of his friends were urging him to do: to abandon this apparently unfaithful woman, and this apparently illegitimate child, and just to move on.
Joseph the tekton, Joseph the carpenter, he inspires me to be faithful in my own quiet, unassuming, almost invisible ways. And who knows, if we too are faithful, even the likes of you and I might become critical players in God’s salvation history with God’s people.
God bless you, merry Christmas, see you soon.