January 26, 2020, Miracles Clothed In Commonplace, by Pastor David Tatgenhorst
In a moment of silence, we notice and recall how God shows up in our lives- sometimes in the simplest of places and most ordinary occurrences.
January 26, 2020
Miracles Clothed In The Commonplace
We opened our retreat this weekend with this quote. “Prayer is not a request for God’s favors…Genuine prayer is based on recognizing the Origin of all that exists, and opening ourselves to it.” ~Cynthia Bourgeault. If that is true, and I believe it is, then we can find God in a stone. We can recognize the Origin of all that exists at just about any time and any place if we open ourselves to that presence.
We opened ourselves to God’s presence in each other this weekend, as we chose words that we felt would guide us on our journey through 2020, words that might help us on our path with the divine this year. We opened ourselves to God’s presence in good food, in a beautiful place, in glimpses of deer, in acknowledging pain and supporting each other. We could feel it. We noticed.
I asked the participants to bring stones that they painted with a word that they discerned. Do any of you want to say the word that you chose or that God chose with you, and a bit about what it means to you?
Our anthem for this morning came with serendipity for our retreat weekend. Geodes is a song I love from one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Carrie Newcomer. She is a Quaker musician from Indiana – good Midwestern roots like mine, which might be part of what I am drawn to her. The song we sang, you may have noticed, glories in the ordinary rocks you can find in Indiana soil called geodes.
The geodes look totally ordinary on the outside, but when you crack them open, you can find amazing crystal formations, as we are seeing on the screens all through this service. At the retreat we painted God’s message on the outside of the stone. These geodes have God’s message on the inside. Either way, I think the stones fit well with the message of our scripture for this morning.
The scripture from Matthew that Fred Vivino read for us this morning, begins with Jesus following John the Baptist, beginning his ministry echoing the prophet: proclaiming the message, “Change your hearts and minds, for the kin-dom of heaven is at hand!” Do you know why, by the way, Matthew used the phrase “Kingdom of heaven” instead of “Kingdom of God” as the other gospels do? Matthew is the most Jewish of the four gospels and Jewish people do not say the name of God, so saying the kingdom of heaven is not about some other world; its simply a way to not say the name of God.
Anyway Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God – or heaven- is coming true now, in this place, in their presence, if they will pay attention. And then he continues to call disciples to follow him. There’s kind of a big build-up here at the beginning of the gospel of Matthew, light and voices from the sky at Jesus’ baptism and a sense of anticipation that leads to what? a few fisher-folk being called from their work to become followers.
It might be a let down if you don’t have Carrie Newcomer’s sense of God’s magnificence in ordinary things. She sings: "and you’ll see if you try, in the next stranger’s eyes, that God walks ‘round in muddy boots, sometimes rags and that’s the truth."
You can’t always tell but sometimes you just know.
God’s Incarnation is happening into pain and loss, into the ordinary, into the real, not into the big shots who have all the power, God is with all the regular folks at regular times. And we might see God in these ordinary things, when we are cracked open or when we just quiet ourselves down enough to notice – even with the pain and loss, even within the messiness of ordinary lives.
Last weekend celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday was a beautiful set of reminders of a vision of what the kingdom of God might look like. In my Bible study on Wednesday, we are blessed to have a participant who is an older man who knew Dr. Martin Luther King. We asked him what it was like to be with him. He said, “Oh, he was a very shy man. He was just an ordinary guy, really.” We had to laugh, just an ordinary guy, called and cracked open to show the crystals inside.
King had a vision of a different kind of community and we sometimes think of that what we are trying to do is to become more diverse. But I heard somebody this week correct that way of thinking. They said, “We are not a homogeneous community struggling to become diverse; we are an incomplete community struggling to become whole.”
We are just an ordinary community striving to become whole, trying to let the cracks shine forth the crystals, the light of God’s new realm from within our ordinary lives. The word I chose for my stone is the word “hungry” because I am hungry for God’s community, for us to become whole, with regular ordinary people of all kinds showing forth the beauty of God’s realm.
In our retreat, we shared some of the cracks in our lives. We noticed the light shining from the crystals inside, some of the God energy that we would never claim, but that God claims and God uses. Our community, our world right now, is full of cracks, that discourage us and make us feel hopeless. We are hungry for an easier time, but this is just the kind of time that God is using for new life and new possibilities. May we be hungry for God’s action, open to God’s call, and hopeful for God’s shining forth. This is God’s good news.
Responsive hymn 148 Many and Great, O God