“Humbled By the Ordinary”~ The 4th Sunday in Creation
Philippians 2: 1-13, Exodus 16 1-7 ~ Northwood UC ~ October 1, 2023
Earlier this month, iPhone released the iPhone 15, their newest model and many swarmed to attain this prized new gadget. In addition, the NFL started a new football season, and eager football fans were elated as their teams took to the field. Looking ahead to next month, the NHL prepares to open a new hockey season and Tesla prepares to release their newest supercar before Christmas. Extraordinary technology, extraordinary athleticism. So much that is new! And, as wonderful and entertaining as these all might be, they will soon all be forgotten for (as we know) the ‘next best thing’ will surely along. What is extraordinary today usually does not stand the test of time, and is soon long forgotten into the winds tomorrow.
This morning we don’t focus on the newest, or the latest or the greatest…this morning we focus on the ordinary. The ordinary which has stood the test of time, somehow becoming…extraordinary. I wonder what it is that is (seemingly) ordinary that is actually extraordinary to YOU? Perhaps it is that special person’s name popping up on your phone or arriving in your mailbox. Or doing something nice for someone else…extraordinary! Or seeing or feeling the sun on your face; the smell and touch of the rain. Or taking in the beauty of nature...extraordinary! Or finding the solitude of time alone, and the solitude of time with those special to you. Or checking items off your ‘to do’ list. Or spending time with your pet, or any friendly animal (for that matter), hearing laughter, mastering that perfectly golden-crusted grilled cheese sandwich. The feeling of clean sheets, a warm shower, driving with the window down. Coming home to your church family and other places of welcome and peace. What is extraordinary to you? My guess is that the answers coming to mind are those ordinary parts of life, that (as we think about them) are extraordinary.
We commenced the season of Creation in September, and we have been pondering the wonder of God found before us. Something which we intuitively do. And we all have this our own feelings of ‘awe’…the awesomeness of God when we take in stunning vistas of sea and sky. We feel in ‘awe’ when we experience the warmth of the sun and the movement of the breeze. We feel in ‘awe’ when we smell the fresh clean evidence of Creation surrounding us. It is extraordinary, isn’t it?
Yet, on this Sunday, I wanted to shift 180 degrees and look at Creation from an entirely different angle. I wanted to consider Creation from the perspective of the ordinary. The Oxford dictionary defines ordinary as “that which is commonplace or standard”. And the Creation that we are describing is frankly that. Long before iPhones or Tesla or sporting teams were invented, the Creation which we behold was here. The Creation we are in awe over has been the standard long before humans arrived to begin to appreciate it. The mountains and waters formed over billions of years. Plant and animal species evolved. And each day the sun rose upon it all and the sun set marking each new day. A symphony of Creation unfolding God’s wonder was imprinted upon sea and sky, upon flora and fauna, upon all Creation…and God said upon it, that: “it is good.”
Perhaps it is just human nature to look to the new and novel when we seek the extraordinary? Yet, this morning, we consider how we continue to be humbled by the ordinary…the ordinary that allows us to see God. We gather this morning as a local congregation…fairly ordinary…something we do every week. Yet we consider how are somehow part of the worldwide body of Christ…a rainbow of colours, varied expressions of our humanity, younger and older…united across the globe on World Communion Sunday. We will unite at the table, reenacting a humble meal that Jesus shared, a loaf of common bread broken that we can all share. One cup that is passed among siblings, all shared. We don’t follow a Saviour that gave us the newest delicacies of the day. We follow one who taught us that in the ordinary, the extraordinariness of God is experienced. That bread broken allows us to come together in unity. That wine poured out allows us to taste the Kingdom where all are included.
Turning to this morning’s readings, the letter to the church community in Philippi is one that would have been very ordinary to the listeners of the letter. It was a beloved hymn that they sang, perhaps, week in and week out. Think, “Amazing Grace” or “Jesus Loves Me” or whatever your favourite hymn that you know by heart is. Paul quotes the words of the hymn, perhaps words that they had been singing by rote, and forgetting the extraordinary nature of God that they saw in the ordinary peasant Rabbi they worshipped. The one they worship is sung about, not as a powerful ruler, but as more ‘ordinary’. He is one they remember who emptied himself and presented his life as that of an ordinary slave. There is no selfish ambition or conceit, but rather they sing of Jesus’ ordinary humility. And, of this self-less saviour, of this compassionate-Christ, of this one who empties himself to be filled with the shining light of God…we see the extraordinary nature of God, reflected in the ordinary humble way of Jesus Christ. If someone asked you to describe this Jesus, whose Way you follow. Much of his life was spent in the humble ways that are, seemingly, ordinary. A manger birth with no crib for a bed and a life among the everyday people. Wandering by the seashore, not paved Roman roads, speaking about God. Dining, not with the Roman elite, but with women and tax collectors and sinners. We find that God’s extraordinary ways are found among the ordinary…in the everyday. Calling his closest friends up for an upper room meal the night before he is executed as an ordinary criminal. There is something extraordinary about the way God is present in the humble ordinary ways of Christ.
The Exodus reading is another example of the ordinary being made extraordinary by God. How many of us give thanks when we sip a glass of water? While we are so privileged to draw clean water from the tap, the Centre for Disease control reports that 2 billion people do not have that luxury. In our country, many continue to raise this concern as a reality in some areas of the Indigenous community. For the Israelites, they had did have the access to food and water during their time in Egypt. Now that they are in the wilderness, they find themselves in a time when they are parched and thirsty. They are in desperate need of water for their survival. This ordinary item that they had free access, suddenly was of extraordinary importance. And as Moses took his staff that he held at the parting of the sea, the rock was severed and the extraordinary waters of life gushed towards the heavens…and they drank!
A humble resource, like water, revealing the extraordinary ways of God. A humble saviour, revealing the extraordinary way of God. I wonder if we might find ways to rethink that which we call “ordinary” and experience the ordinary in our day to day living? What if the water you sip is realized as an extraordinary gift nourishing your life? What is the holy stories of the humble Christ are cherished as God’s amazing story? What if we stop wasting our life pursuing the fleeting things that don’t matter, and pursue those things that bring extraordinary life to the world? What if we looked upon this brief life we are given as an opportunity to experience the extraordinariness of God?