June 08 A Life Most Ordinary

A life most ordinary

I was admiring my new aquarium…….

I should pause here and confess that I am aware of the considerable debate within the congregation as to how many children’s addresses can be based upon the setting up of my new marine tropical aquarium. The answer? Probably more than you think!! Here is a pastoral letter to add to the tally.

Back to my admiration…. I was watching the few fish that I have now introduced and contemplating the simplicity and ‘naturalness’ of their existence. To date, I have two clown fish, two blue damselfish, two snails and a dazzling red cleaner shrimp. Early days on the reef!
So what is there to watch? They just swim around, explore my reef of live rock, search out the various caves and nooks and crannies, eat, chase and so on. Yet, there is a mesmerising beauty about their simple, ordinary existence.

It is all too easy to despise the ordinary, and, in so doing, fail to even begin to come close to grasping how our Lord delights in the ordinary; how completely at home our Lord was with the simple rhythms of life. In the Gospels we find Him thoroughly engaged and involved with the routines of life (which we often, and wrongly, despise as the ‘dull’ routine). He could snooze in a boat, delight to be with His friends in Bethany for a meal, cook breakfast for His friends. Whatever else is undoubtedly significant in these events, whatever additional lessons we may learn, don’t miss the fact that they portray our Lord as being happily immersed in the common activities of daily life.

I wonder if we sometimes harbour pagan views about the world around us as we falsely divide the world into ‘spiritual’ and ‘material’. This is reflected in the idea that only the ‘soul’ has value and that the body and material things are to be despised. This is thoroughly non-Christian and arises from a wrong view of Creation, which was repeatedly pronounced by God to be ‘good’ (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25) (Incidentally, this blessing was not negated by the Fall, for it is repeated in the covenant with Noah in chapter 9 of Genesis, and it is clear from Romans 8:21 that Creation has great value to God as it too enjoys deliverance – think on that when the new bins arrive for recycling!!!)

When God made the fish of the sea, He delighted in the life He had given them (so should we!). Living as they were designed to live, in all the simplicity of their aquatic life before God, is integral to the sheer joy of His creative purpose.

Human beings were designed to live in fellowship with God. When we exercise faith, the Bible tells us that we believe ‘into’ Jesus, and our fellowship with Him is restored. He becomes part of my life and I become part of His. In repentance and faith my life is bent back from its self-centred waywardness, in order that God becomes the centre of my life. Then my life begins to be restored to the equilibrium it was first intended to bear.

Thereafter, I live out my ordinary life, with its eating and sleeping, its catching buses and trains, its washing dishes and washing clothes; its taxi service for children….. When these are done in shared life with Christ, this ordinary life delights our Lord.

George Herbert caught the truth of this in his hymn:

Teach me, my God and King, in all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything, to do it as for thee.

All may of thee partake: nothing can be so mean,
Which with this tincture, 'For thy sake' will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws, makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone, that turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own, cannot for less be told.

I recently spoke to someone about a Christian event they had attended. Their language was full of superlatives. It was ‘astonishing’, ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’, and ‘marvelous’. I’m sure it was. Then came the give-away line, ‘It was such an anti-climax to come back to my home church on Sunday’.

Since we can enter God’s presence both at the ‘amazing’ meeting and at home church on Sunday, what this individual had really said was disturbing, because it clearly wasn’t the Lord who was ‘astonishing’, ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’, ‘marvelous’.

It is what we make of the ordinary, in fellowship with Christ, that is key.

Your ordinary minister,
Martin Thomson

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