The value of the ordinary

536072_ebc486e20df2547b6e6b3c4be61b2017_large

Do not forget that
the value and interest of life
is not so much to do
with conspicuous things . . .
as to do ordinary things
with the perception of
their enormous value.

–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Gifts of grace

Musicians

For a Christian to say, “I will not have anything to do with the great and worthy works of artists whose lives were not good” is to fall into the impiety of questioning the wisdom of God in bestowing gifts of grace where He wills.

–Frank Gaebelein 
(1899-1983)

Published in: on 04/09/2014 at 11:08  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Living in a sacred world

autumn-fall-nature-tree-Favim.com-241774

The world is not God, of course, but the incarnation goes all the way down, and the Spirit indwells all that exists. Nothing is without a witness to the divine; everything that exists praises the Creator . . .

God’s creation is a revelation
of divine presence.

This is the genius of Christian theology: It radically reconfigures the human conception of the sacred. Nothing is inherently “profane.” It may be profaned by sin; but it is inherently an arena of divine activity and spiritual insight. The locus and focus of biblical theology is the world, not the heavens.

–Leonard Sweet

Two Conversions

It has well been said that everyone needs two conversions: first, from the natural to the supernatural; and the second, from the supernatural to the natural.

–Charles G. Trumbull (1872 – 1941)

The festivity of life

It was not a marriage only, but a marriage-feast to which Christ conducted His disciples. Now, we cannot get over this plain fact by saying that it was a religious ceremony: that would be mere sophistry.

It was an indulgence in the festivity of life;
as plainly as words can describe,
here was a banquet of human enjoyment.

The very language of the master of the feast about men who had well drunk, tells us that there had been, not excess, of course, but happiness there and merry-making.

Neither can we explain away the lesson by saying that it is no example to us, for Christ was there to do good, and that what was safe for Him might be unsafe for us. For if His life is no pattern for us here in this case of accepting an invitation, in what can we be sure it is a pattern? Besides, He took His disciples there, and His mother was there: they were not shielded, as He was, by immaculate purity. He was there as a guest at first, as Messiah only afterwards: thereby He declared the sacredness of natural enjoyments….

For Christianity does not destroy what is natural, but ennobles it.

To turn water into wine, and what is common into what is holy, is indeed the glory of Christianity.

–F. W. Robertson (1816 – 1853)

Down-to-earth spirituality

Our God is a down-to-earth deity.

Literally.

The Word became flesh. The very stuff our bodies are made of. He became “human”—a term which derives from the root “humus,” meaning earth. This was the raw material our Creator used to make us. “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground…” (Gn. 2:7)

The staggering miracle of the Incarnation means that not only is man made of dust—but now God is too! Deity took on “humus.” This is the ultimate circuit blower! God didn’t just visit our race; he became a part of it!

“Theos” and “anthropos”
were organically joined.

A member of the Trinity now has skin color, eye color, hair color and fingerprints. He has immersed himself in the physical realities of human existence, and his favorite self-description became: “Son of Man.”

Martin Luther rightly stated, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that he sunk himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.”

J. B. Phillips concludes that we need “to be shocked afresh by the audacious central Fact—that, as a sober matter of history, God became one of us.”

The foundational article of the Christian faith—”The Word became flesh”—is a bombshell for the Gnostic who affirms that the material world is illusory and evil. It also overturns the tables on Christians who subscribe to a world-denying spirituality.

The Incarnation forces us all to rethink our ideas
about nature and matter and the physical world.
It totally shipwrecks our dualistic separation
of “sacred” and “secular.”

This God become “humus” grew, breathed, walked, ate, drank, worked and wept. He enjoyed taking walks, working with wood, eating dried figs, basking in sunshine, cooking breakfast on the beach and laughing with friends. In the words of one writer, “Jesus . . . seemed as comfortable at a party as He was in the Temple.” The Creator, who at the beginning of time looked upon his creation and declared it to be good, now tasted, touched, smelled and felt its goodness.

“Time was when you could despise the body and love God, or despise God and love the body. One could be an ascetic or a hedonist.” says theologian Peter J. Leithart. “Then God got Himself a body . . . the incarnation made the ancient choice of ascetic or hedonist impossible. Since the incarnation the only choices are to love the body and God, or to despise both.”

It is often heard in wedding ceremonies that, by His presence in the wedding at Cana of Galilee, Christ blessed and sanctified marriage. However, a wedding was not the only place he showed up. He toiled at a carpenter’s bench, strolled through markets and meadows, went boating on a lake, enjoyed meals in friends homes and hiked up mountains. The unavoidable conclusion is this—Christ sanctified every sphere of human activity.

Jesus of Nazareth
is our most compelling evidence
that “spiritual” and “material”
cannot be separated,
that supernatural and natural
belong together.

In one of his poems, William Wordsworth speaks of “the light of common day,” to which G. K. Chesterton reacted angrily and in effect said, “Don’t you dare call it common—that’s blasphemous!” A similar rebuke was given to the apostle Peter, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

A Gnostic view of spirituality has led many to believe that only that which is explicitly “Christian” is truly glorifying to God. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that true holiness requires one to wear Christian shoes, eat Christian food, sleep in a Christian bed, listen to Christian music, drive a Christian car and breathe Christian air. Obviously this is absolutely absurd! And such thinking is inconceivable for anyone who seriously believes in the Incarnation.

The fact that Holiness took on humanity forces us to reconstruct our understanding of “spiritual.”

No longer can we view the secular as unsacred. No field of human endeavor is out of bounds. “For everything belongs to you—be it Paul or Apollos or Peter, the world or life or death, things present or future—everything belongs to you; and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor. 3:22,23).

“Everything belongs to you” moves the goalposts of spirituality to the ends of the earth! It’s all encompassing. The only thing to avoid is that which contradicts who we are in Christ. The rest is ours!

We can honor our Creator, not only in prayer and worship, but also in farming, medicine, business, music, landscaping and computer programming. Through work we enrich one another and cultivate and care for the created world that God made, sustains and loves.

A musician serves God by composing great music, and not just by writing songs about Jesus. An architect honors his Maker by bringing beauty and excellence into his work, and not solely by designing cathedrals. Human activities do not require a Bible verse added on to make them valid.

When asked whether the world needs more Christian writers, C. S. Lewis replied, “No, we need more writers who are Christian.”

We can cook, paint, dance, write novels, compose music, fly kites and grow orchids to the glory of God. The duties and delights of daily human life are not obstacles, but opportunities for spirituality. In Christ the joys, pains, pleasures and struggles of earthly living are the very context of godly living and worship. We are not called to take flight into some spiritual stratosphere of mystical experience. We are called to live in a physical body in a physical world—to the glory of God.

“Christianity,” affirms Brian Zahnd,
“is a flesh and blood faith.”

It is perfectly fine to have a human body. As a matter of fact, God now possesses one Himself—and will do so forever.

The God of heaven is deeply involved in gritty activities such as creation, incarnation, redemption, resurrection and re-creation. Evidently matter matters. And when He writes the last chapter, it will not be about an eternal, ethereal, disembodied existence. It will be about new heavens and a new earth where we will live in perfected, human bodies in a physical, renewed world.

We are called to deny sin—not life.

Christian spirituality is not an other-worldly affair. It is about becoming truly human—like Jesus. It entails embracing the miracle of God’s real presence in our life and in our world. It involves celebrating sunsets, roses, coffee, family and all of God’s good gifts with gratitude and joy.

The reformer, John Calvin stated, “There is not
one blade of grass, there is no color in this world
that is not intended to make us rejoice.”

So slow down. Stop. Look. And, like Moses, take off your shoes because holy is all around us in the common stuff of everyday life. Spirituality is a down-to-earth matter.

If God truly became “humos”—how could it be otherwise?

–Jurgen Schulz

The Maker of matter

The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God . . . I do not worship matter. I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! I honor it, but not as God. Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with his grace and power. Through it my salvation has come to me.

–St. John of Damascus (675-749)

Seeing God in the mundane

The challenge before us today is for God’s people to recapture the apostolic worldview that begins with removing the hard dichotomy of sacred and secular. As we move out into the world our prayer should be for God to open our eyes to see Him in big and small ways within the “mundane.”

We need to enlarge our understanding
of what really is spiritual.

If God can speak through donkeys and drop food from ravens and heal people who dip in dirty rivers and pursue reluctant prophets with large fish, if God can appear in a desert bush or show up on a mountain top or take a ride in a fisherman’s boat or speak to a fear-filled man in a cave, God can be seen and experienced at your place of work, school, home or wherever you live life during the other six days of His creation week.

–Darrow Miller

Let’s get on with life

Some time ago, my friend Brenda flew to Chicago for a visit with her daughter’s family, and especially with her granddaughter, Charity. Charity is five years old—a plump, cute, highly verbal little girl. Charity’s paternal grandmother had been visiting the previous week. She is a devout woman who takes her spiritual grandmothering duties very seriously, and she had just left.

That morning after Brenda’s arrival, Charity came into her grandmother’s bedroom at five o’clock, crawled into bed, and said, “Grandmother, let’s not have any Godtalk, okay? I believe God is everywhere. Let’s just get on with life.”

I like Charity. I think she is on to something.

“Let’s get on with life” can serve as a kind of subtext for our pursuit of spiritual formation and how easily and frequently the spiritual gets disconnected from our actual daily lives, leaving us with empty Godtalk.

It’s not that the Godtalk is untrue, but when it is disconnected from the ordinary behaviour and conversation that make up the fabric of our lives, the truth leaks out.

A phrase from Psalm 116:9 “I walk before the Lord in the land of the living”—clears the ground and gives some perspective on Charity and “let’s just get on with life.”

–Eugene Peterson

World-affirming spirituality

[There should be] grateful celebration . . . among us, uninhibited by our lingering evangelical asceticism.  For the truth is that a world-denying Gnosticism has not yet been altogether eradicated from our theology and practice.

Instead, we pride ourselves on our super-spirituality, which is detached from the natural order, and we look forward to an ethereal heaven, forgetting the promise of a new earth…

We should determine, then, to recognize and acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate, all the gifts of the Creator: the glory of the heavens and the earth, of mountain, of river and sea, of forest and flowers, of birds, beasts and butterflies, and of the intricate balance of the natural environment; the unique privileges of our humanness (rational, moral, social, and spiritual), as we were created in God’s image and appointed his stewards; the joys of

gender, marriage, sex, children, parenthood and family life, and of our extended family and friends; the rhythm of work and rest, of daily work  as a means to cooperate with God and serve the common good, and of the Lord’s day when we exchange work for worship; the blessing of peace, freedom, justice and good government, and of food and drink, clothing and shelter; and our human creativity expressed in music, literature, painting, sculpture and drama, and in the skills and strengths displayed in sport.

–John R. Stott

Becoming fully human

The Kingdom of God has to do not only with the God of creation, but also with the creation of God . . .

Making a difference in our world – Kingdom living – implies that there is a duality to be acknowledged. Jesus said: “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). There is light and darkness, right and wrong, good and evil. But what has happened is that all that is light, right and good has been identified with one side of ‘reality’ (= the church) and all that is dark, wrong and evil with the other side of ‘reality’ (= the ‘world’). The result is that many Christians have adopted a ‘siege mentality’, hauling up the drawbridge so that there is little real intercourse between the church and the world.

Instead of celebrating all that is good in the world, some Christians view the secular world as unspiritual, even to be avoided.

Early on in the life of the church all sorts of wrong ideas about the world in which we live began to take root. It’s called dualism, and it has a lot to do with Plato, whose ideas have infiltrated the church over the centuries.

Dualism has robbed many people – and
many Christians – of the joy of life
in God’s good creation.

Simply put, dualism says that life is divided into two compartments, the holy and the unholy, or the sacred and the profane: for one compartment – obviously ‘holy’! – read ‘church’, and for the other (‘unholy’) read the ‘world’…

We so easily divide life up into two realms, with a whole lot of false opposites. We pit sacred against secular, faith against works, church against world, soul against body, heaven against earth, prayer against politics, creeds against deeds, and so we could go on.

Some sections of the church need to repent of the narrow dualism that avoids any form of genuine contact with the world, a suffocating dualism that can treat God’s creation as intrinsically contaminating rather than intrinsically wholesome and good . . .

Hans Kung, the well-known Catholic theologian,
was once asked why we should
embrace Christianity. His reply was:
“So that we can be fully human.”

Spirituality and humanity go together – they are not to be pulled apart – in fact, I would go so far as to say that our Christian maturity could be measured not by how ‘spiritual’ we are, but how fully human we allow ourselves to be! What is our ultimate destination, as Christians? …

Our ultimate destination is not heaven – it is the new earth that will represent the final act in God’s great redemptive purposes.

–Graham Buxton (adapted)

Lord of pots and pans

Lord of all pots and pans and things,

Since I’ve no time to be a saint by doing lovely things,

Or watching late with Thee,

Or dreaming in the dawn-light, or storming Heaven’s gates,

Make me a saint by getting meals

And washing up the plates.

Although I must have Martha’s hands, I have a Mary mind,

And when I black the boots and shoes,

Thy sandals, Lord, I find.

I think of how they trod the earth,

What time I scrub the floor:

Accept this meditation, Lord, I haven’t time for more.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy love,

And light it with Thy peace;

Forgive me all my worrying, and make my grumbling cease.

Thou who didst love to give men food,

In room or by the sea,

Accept this service that I do — I do it unto Thee.

–Cecily Halleck

Published in: on 11/21/2011 at 7:29  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Let’s get on with life

Some time ago, my friend Brenda flew to Chicago for a visit with her daughter’s family, and especially with her granddaughter, Charity. Charity is five years old—a plump, cute, highly verbal little girl. Charity’s paternal grandmother had been visiting the previous week. She is a devout woman who takes her spiritual grandmothering duties very seriously, and she had just left.

That morning after Brenda’s arrival, Charity came into her grandmother’s bedroom at five o’clock, crawled into bed, and said, “Grandmother, let’s not have any Godtalk, okay? I believe God is everywhere. Let’s just get on with life.”

I like Charity. I think she is on to something.

“Let’s get on with life” can serve as a kind of subtext for our pursuit of spiritual formation and how easily and frequently the spiritual gets disconnected from our actual daily lives, leaving us with empty Godtalk. It’s not that the Godtalk is untrue, but when it is disconnected from the ordinary behaviour and conversation that make up the fabric of our lives, the truth leaks out. A phrase from Psalm 116:9 “I walk before the Lord in the land of the living”—clears the ground and gives some perspective on Charity and “let’s just get on with life.”

–Eugene Peterson

Baseball, sunsets and romance

We long to share in the life of the Triune God.  We cannot do that alone, without others, without things like baseball, sunsets and romance, motherhood and music and work.  This is the way the Triune God has set up the kingdom.  The life and joy, the fullness and delight of the Trinity meet us in our humanity—through our relationships, through our motherhood and fatherhood, in our playing and working, in our gardening and cooking and cleaning and painting.  If we fail to see this, then we leave marriage and romance behind, we leave work and baseball, cooking and sunsets at the door, and wander off into an abstract, non-relational world to find God beyond our humanity . . . When the life of the Trinity is separated from creation, our pursuit of spiritual life then leads us to discount ordinary things, to look over ordinary people and beyond ordinary events in our quest for God.  While the great dance of the Trinity is not to be reduced to creation; we have no access to it without it.  The life of the Triune God permeates creation and it is within creation that we experience it.

–C. Baxter Kruger

Published in: on 11/17/2011 at 8:06  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Bringing every part of ourselves

The Psalms defy our notions of profane and sacred, proving that everything we feel, witness, do unto others, and have done to us is acceptable subject matter for conversing with the Divine. They invite us to bring every part of ourselves into our houses of worship. If we omit expressions of faith lost, of rage, of disdain, and of the desire for revenge, we leave parts of ourselves at the door.

–Kari Jo Verhulst

Published in: on 11/16/2011 at 8:38  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

All of life is sacred

Must we then have strange music… unlike the world’s music, and a special language with an imagery that illuminates the minds only of the religious? Or dare we do what our Lord did, and see the Name hallowed in all life that is real and honest and good? Indeed, it was a scandal to the religious men of Jesus’ day when they saw what He did with sacred things. With Jesus all life was sacred and nothing was profane until sin entered in. And so it was that the word “common,” which used to mean profane and unclean, became the New-Testament word for the Communion of Saints and for the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

–Howard Hewlett Clark 

The apparent dichotomy

Is God absent when I play Scrabble, get a haircut, toss a Frisbee, make love, vote, walk the dog, see a movie, make a living, wash the car, or bury my nose in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? While baking a cake, do I have to listen to a tape of Gordon MacDonald to feel that I am pleasing God? The apparent dichotomy, engineered by the prince of darkness, between spiritual life and the quotidian, often mundane activities that consitute the woof and warp of life banish Jesus within us to the savannahs of heaven. The journey becomes prosaic rather than poetic, speech rather than song, and tangibles, visibles, and perishables become an adequate substitute for Paul’s ringing affirmation, “Life to me . . . is Christ” (Phillippians 1:21).

–Brennan Manning

The value of ordinary things

Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things . . . as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.

–Teilhard de Chardin

A symphonic piety

The discovery of God lies in the daily and the ordinary, not in the spectacular and the heroic. If we cannot find God in the routines of home and shop, then we will not find him at all. Ours is to be a symphonic piety in which all the activities of work and play and family and worship and sex and sleep are the holy habitats of the eternal. Thomas Merton urges us to have an “unspeakable reverence for the holiness of created things.”

–Richard Foster

Published in: on 08/12/2010 at 16:00  Leave a Comment  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 85 other followers

%d bloggers like this: