"If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out patience
I'd hammer out justice
I'd hammer out the love between
My brothers and my sisters
All, all over this land…"
- adaptation of Peter Seeger's classic
Okay, so we've had Joe the Plumber, Tito the Builder, and even Christine the Hairdresser…but I'm sticking with the counsel and experience of Jesus the Carpenter….whose dad, by the way, was named Joe(seph). Hence, "If I Had a Hammer."
Doubts about "Barack the Senator" becoming "Barack the President" based on a lack of experience in handling a national crisis - should his presidency be "tested" within those first few months after taking office - have plunged me deeply into the heart of prayer...and the pages of the Bible. And in part, I've found my peace in reading the Gospel account of Jesus' own transition from humble carpenter to spiritual leader.
He too was tested within the first historic moments of "taking office".
Let's revisit the "scene". Jesus, at the age of thirty, arrives on the shores of the river Jordan to be baptized of John. John sees immediately that this is "the one"…not "that one" (sorry..I couldn't resist), but the one they have been waiting for. At first he recoils from Jesus' request to be baptized on the grounds that he, John, should be asking this clearly extraordinary spiritual thought-leader to be baptizing him. But when Jesus urges him to "suffer it to be so now…" he acquiesces and Jesus, "coming up out of the water. sees the Spirit descending on him like a dove and a voice from heaven saying, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased."
Now, before you go off on a rant about my comparison of Barack Obama (or any other candidate) to Jesus Christ, let me explain that this is NOT what I am inferring. I am simply saying that we can use Jesus' experience as a metaphor for contemporary choices, decisions, and, as even Mary Baker Eddy says, in speaking of her own example: "follow me, only as I follow Christ." We all have the footsteps of Christ Jesus' life to follow in charting our own course…and in examining the course of history.
Okay, that said, back to my ramblings. So here is this humble thirty year old carpenter who is thrown into the spotlight by divine anointing, and one might think that, as a spiritual thinker…regardless of your faith tradition….it can't get any better than this. This would clearly have been the highlight of a very young man's "glorious career"…a spiritual leader divinely launched. But what comes next is what astounds, sobers, and inspires me.
Right on the heels of God's proclamation that Jesus is His beloved son…and that He, God, is well pleased with him, comes this next statement:
"Then was Jesus led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted…" THEN!!!
Now my dictionary says that word, "then", means "at that time, immediately, next"
So here he is, having just been anointed...in front of John the Baptist and all who might have been at the river, waiting for baptism...as the son of God. The Spirit has descended upon him, the Holy Ghost speaks to him and he is told that God is well-pleased with him….by Him, by God!
But then…right then…the next thing that happens...he is led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted…again, my dictionary says of the word tempted: "tried, tested"…and how does he fare. Well, we know that he reasons...calmly and rationally...with the tempter. We know that he is neither flustered or irrational. We know that this young well-read Hebrew student, invokes Scripture…spiritual law…authoritatively. We know that eventually he, with calm poise and certain strength, dismisses the tempter's demand, and his right to a "voice".
He is thirty years old, he is a former carpenter in a new career…but he is ready.
Being tested in the first few moments of taking office didn't undermine his unfaltering poise or wise execution of new duties. Perhaps he had been inspired by the path of young David who defeated Goliath, or Solomon who was "but a child' and yet ruled fairly and faithfully. Perhaps he had learned from his own dad, that a young carpenter can hear the voice of God and trust His hand in wisely guiding his path in all things. Each of his Old Testament servant-leader role models had governed tribes, nations, and families with humility, grace, moral courage, and an unflinching trust in God's ability to govern their own hearts and the hearts of their constituents:
"I can of mine own self do nothing, but what I seeth the Father do"
Rather than seeing the temptations….the trying of his appointment, the testing of his ability…as a challenge, an imposition, an indication of his inexperience…perhaps we could see it as an opportunity to prove how valuable humility, innocence, and poise are in choosing servant-leaders of any age…and in every age. I believe that whoever becomes our president, will be guided by a divine hand and if tested, will not be found wanting.
Just a thought,
photo credit: Karlin Krishnaswami