Come Unto Him (A Sermon Series in 5 Parts), Part 3:
"A Tour of the Carpenter's Shop"

July 17, 2011

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

Matthew 11: 28-30


Jesus said,

8 "Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart

And you shall find rest for your soul.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."



Our title and our topic for today is: A Tour of the Carpenter Shop.


This is the third part of our sermon series entitled, Come Unto Him - an Exploration of Matthew 11: 28-30, that I will be sharing with you during the month of July. Over the next few weeks we will be taking a further look at this wonderful cornerstone of Scripture from Matthew 11.


8 "Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart

And you shall find rest for your soul.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."


Come with me on a tour of the carpenter’s shop - the carpenter's shop where Jesus worked. Let us go back to the time just before Jesus’s teaching and miracle working ministry when He was helping His earthly father, Joseph, with the chores in the carpenter shop. I believe that the Greek word for what Jesus did is Tekton. This was a construction worker, someone who worked with their hands and lifted heavy things. He was a carpenter helping His earthly father in the carpenter shop. Perhaps it was named "Joseph's Carpenter Shop." Let’s go inside.


What do we see inside the shop?


The first thing that strikes us is the fragrance of fresh-cut wood. Doesn’t wood have a marvelous perfume to it? When wood is being sawed and planed, its fragrance permeates the air. We see Joseph hard at work, perhaps building a table for one of the local residents of the community.  He works with careful dedication, making sure each feature is smooth, each connection is solid.


The table is beginning to take shape.  It will be the place where a family's meals are prepared, where evening meals will be shared, and where the weekly Sabbath meal will be celebrated. 

All around Joseph on the floor are the curled up shavings of wood from using the carpenter plane. There is also sawdust all around - sawdust that Jesus will sweep up later.   Jesus declined no humble task.


Perhaps one day Jesus will remember the tables He helped build in Joseph’s shop as He sits at the Last Supper. He may be reminded of the tables that He and Joseph worked on together.  As He touches the table, He may remember those happy golden days in Joseph’s carpenter shop.


Next we walk outside and see Jesus greeting a farmer. He shakes his hand. The farmer has brought oxen with him. Jesus looks at the oxen carefully and affectionately pats their heads. Jesus and the farmer talk for a bit. Then Jesus goes into the shop gets some measuring tools and also a sample yoke. The farmer has come by to purchase a new yoke for his oxen.


The farmer knows that he has come to the best carpenter shop in town. Jesus looks at the oxen and takes careful measurements. Step by step, Jesus takes a chisel, a saw and a plane and starts to smooth away the wood wherever it will it will touch the oxen.   He is going to make the yoke just right.  The yoke is the wooden harness that transfers the energy from the strength of the ox to the plow behind them. 


On the sign above the door of the shop, there is a replica of an oxen yoke. On the sign it says:

Joseph’s Carpenter Shop

My Yoke Is Easy


What does this mean?


What it means is at that this is a specialty shop.  There is no once size fits all yoke here. The yokes designed here are designed to fit each of the oxen well. Because the yoke is custom made, the job the oxen have to do is made "easier", not harder. The yoke that Joseph and Jesus make is easy because each "puller" is considered individually. It fits well.  The yoke is custom made.


The Message For Us Today

What does this mean for us today?  It means that Jesus has something special for all of us to do.  Yes, Jesus has work for us to do. But we each have different, unique work in the church, and in our everyday world. Jesus is so gracious and cares for us.  His plan is individualized for each of us.


The Uniqueness of Church Styles

I think this has a larger framework, too.  Uniqueness of expression is the hallmark of the Kingdom of God!  Individuality and diversity is what energizes the work of God!


I used to worry about all the extreme diversity of expression within the Christian Church. There are so many differences in Christianity - sometimes it makes me marvel to consider that we are all under one "umbrella" - the Christian faith.


There are the fire breathing Baptists, there are rock n rolling Bible churches, there are formal Episcopalians, even more formal Catholics, and there are us middle-of-the-road Methodists; but we are all claiming the same Lord, all claiming the same God, even if many of us can't imagine being part of another denomination. How can this be?


It used to really bother me. Sometimes I'd hear people say, "Pastor, there are so many different churches - Lutheran, Congregational, Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic - wouldn't it be great if there were only one Church?"  I'll admit, the concept puzzled me.


But here, in this scripture, is the answer!  Even as we love our own family and generally fit well into it, there are many different families!  Praise God and thank heaven!  Do you remember that wonderful passage in Acts 2 when the different peoples gathered together in Jerusalem wondered how it was that they all heard in their own languages?  This is a symbol of the diversity of Churches!  This diversity is a gift of God!  What a considerate gift it is.


I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church. I bless it, I love it still and I certainly love all my brothers and sisters who are part of the Roman Catholic Church. However, I came to realize that it didn’t quite fit me, it wasn’t quite right for me for a variety of personal reasons. And then I found the Methodist church!  I am very happy to worship Jesus in the Methodist church. I thank God for the uniqueness of it.


I feel blessed by the Methodist Church. The people at the Conference level have wisely chosen not to put me on the committee for finance and administration. They are so smart not to put me on that committee! (laughter from the congregation)  I start crunching numbers and I start to shake! But praise God there are people in our church who are wonderful at crunching numbers. The Conference leaders do ask me to conduct the Bishop Songfest at the Ocean Grove Auditorium. I am then in my element. 


God has something important for you to do in the church. God has something important for you to do in the world.  Be open to it!  Say, "Lord, what are the special works you are calling me to do?  And know this, my friend - the task will just right for you.


The Work That Fits Just Right

Did you ever hold a pen in your hand that felt just right? The work of the Lord is like that. Jesus has a task and work for you that is just right for you. What is it?  Teaching?  Sharing your faith?  Being a welcomer?  Being a contributor to the cause of Christ?  Being an usher?  A greeter?  A worship attender, and thereby a witness for the Lord?  A singer?  There is so much that needs to be done!


Jesus has something special for you to do.


For example: let me tell you about two people.


Dr. Robert Gange

 I was given a gift of a book, Origins and Destiny, A Scientist Examines God's Handiwork,  written by Dr. Robert Gange.  He is an extremely bright man, a scientist who lives in our community. The book is a heavy read but very interesting. He is a witness for the Lord.


Dr. Gange wrote,

  “The sun is 92,900,000 miles from the earth, and yet its 12,000 degree surface temperature radiates precisely the correct amount of energy for the proper intensity to reach this planet.5 Moreover, it arrives with the right "color" distribution for the gases through which it must pass. …The importance of this lies in the fact that the more or less stable temperature we enjoy essentially all over the earth is determined by the difference between the amount of heat the earth catches from outer space and the amount it loses due to radiation and reflection from the cover of its outer atmosphere.9

(Gange, Robert. Origins and Destiny, A Scientist Examines God's Handiwork, Chapter 8 Did Intelligence Design the Earth? )


 How was that temperature balance ever achieved? He concurs that it is because of God. Is there a place for Robert Gange in the kingdom? Yes, there is.  The yoke of this work of evangelism fits him well. 


Henry Cramer

 I knew Henry when he was in his mid 60’s. He was at the first church I served as a pastor, the Springdale United Methodist Church in Warren, NJ, some 34 years ago.   Henry was challenged; he had certain psychological and emotional limitations. He was a rather simple gentleman, who loved to come to church every Sunday, rain or shine - and had come to Springdale UMC since he was a child.


Henry was an usher -and the Church's chief bell ringer.  He loved to ring the bell ten times at 10 o’clock to call the people into the church to worship. He was so happy to do it, he was doing his best for the Lord. Does Henry Cramer have a place in the kingdom? You bet he does.  His yoke fit perfectly.


I have a minister friend who once showed me a gift he had been given by a member of his church.  It was a colorful quilt with the images of many different animals on it - all singing.  The title read, "All God's Creatures Have a Place in God's Choir."  What a delight! 


There is a place for you in the kingdom. My challenge for you this week is to ask God about it. Dear God, what do you have for me to do, that will please you? I know that it will be unique to me and I know that it will fit me well. Everyone’s answer will be different, but that is the glory of following Christ and wearing His yoke. For His yoke is easy.   His yoke fits well.  His yoke is custom made.  Your part in the Kingdom is unique to you, and will bring you joy and satisfaction.


God loves you; I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.

 © 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski