Making the ordinary extraordinary

From the beginning, Scripture points to those things which,
in the opinion of the authors,
gained God’s approval:
Take Creation:
“very good”, says God,
leaving us to wonder what God’s approval looks like…
or more appropriately, sounds like.

We are assured, in Scripture,
that God has laid the path for us to experience the best and most excellent things;
all we need do is willingly follow.
We live in fervent hope that our pursuit of the things of God will not be in vain
– that by God’s grace (or plain good luck)
we might experience the joy of knowing – really knowing
that God smiles upon our endeavours –
that we have found that glorious place of approval in the eyes of the almighty.
If only we could hear that voice…

You know the voice I mean – the voice that no one else seems to hear.
The voice that causes others on the road to say; “was that thunder?”
The voice that settles gently on the ear, and says
“well done – good job – you’ve made me proud”
The voice that, “like a dove”, marks those things that God calls good.

For our part, we’re too sophisticated to think that God would stoop to speak;
to awestruck to think that God would mark us for such singular attention.
And yet – look at what the Scriptures say about the things that bring joy to God.

From Genesis – the ordering, naming, and discovery that is the first chapter of the story.
The early writers recognized that the evidence before them
– of orderly seasons, of massive works of wonder;
the mountains and seas – the vast canvass of the night sky –
The many miracles of life in us and around us that arouse our curiosity
bear the marks of a justly proud Creator.
“Look and see”, God seems to say through all we see -“ isn’t this fantastic?”
Not  that God is vain or somehow needs our approval –
but the wonder of it all must take even God’s breath away…

Awesome and magnificent, those first creative acts –
but out of those come all the ordinary things of life
– things we too often take for granted –
things which, in our forgetfulness or frenzy,
we count as only  average.

And what about  John?
Born under extraordinary circumstances, sure
– but stumbling out of the desert in a most ordinary fashion.

John is Baptizing – a Greek word which, according to my Greek dictionary, means:
1) to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
– 2) to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe
or – 3) to overwhelm
Among those attracted by John’s work
is another whose birth was marked by extraordinary events.
Jesus comes to be baptized –
to be “overwhelmed” by what God is doing through John
and John promises that Jesus will overwhelm us too –
though not with water, with the very Spirit of God.

So Jesus is baptized by John – an ordinary event in an ordinary day
(for John has been doing this for who knows how long) –
and suddenly, the ordinary is revealed as extraordinary…
“the heavens open…a voice declares…”
What was so special, we wonder,
that a heavenly voice should declare God’s pleasure?

Jesus is singled out by this heavenly voice – not simply because of who he is,
but because of what he has chosen to do.
And in this simple act Jesus has shown that all who seek – all who come –
all who desire to know God better,     and to honour God with their living
stand to be honoured by God for their choices and their actions
– however simple; however ordinary

I tell those who seek baptism in these churches
that it is a simple thing, really
– just water and words –
until we place ourselves in the way of God.

On this day that celebrates Jesus’ baptism –
I urge you, in the words of the Baptismal liturgy,
to “remember your baptism
– your moment of being overwhelmed by God –
and give thanks.”

Admit that the ordinary things in our lives  might have incredible significance.
Let’s allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by what God wants for us –
by what Christ can be for us
So may we discover what God’s approval is like,
and find ourselves a part of something God calls “very good”.

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