Ordinary Lives Can Be Holy
“Ordinary Lives Can be Holy”
March 6, 2022 Cobleskill United Methodist Church - Pastor Anna Blinn Cole
First Sunday in Lent
The Temptation of Jesus
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
This Lent we are exploring how truth, beauty, and meaning can be discovered in the midst of a less-than-perfect life. As the children have helped us see, we have a ladder beside our altar. But it’s not a ladder than can be climbed. Instead it’s a ladder garden, a place where plants are going to be nurtured and tended on the rungs instead of feet climbing higher and higher. I’ve chosen the symbolism of the ladder garden to represent the ways we can take this season of Lent to stop trying to reach for bigger and better things in our lives and, instead, nurture the ordinary life we have right in front of us. So often we can just muddle through our days distracted by thoughts of something better is coming. I know much of the pandemic felt that way. Yet when we stop to notice what’s happening right around us, even though it isn’t perfect, we can in fact find moments of true meaning, the sure presence that God dwells in the mundane and ordinary moments just as much, perhaps more, than in the extraordinary and perfect times.
In our scripture today we hear Jesus being offered one extraordinary experience after another. They are temptations. Jesus has intended to spend 40 days living a more simple life focused on the Spirit of God. He has left behind the comforts of home and has camped out in the wilderness. He has a hunch that God is there in the simple and uncomplicated world of ordinary life. But the one who wants to pry Jesus off his spiritual course tries to tempt him away from the ordinary with experiences of the extraordinary. Stones into bread! A horizon of kingdoms magically his! Angels swooping down to save him from a fall! It sounds so dramatic and exhilarating. Yet this was not where Jesus knew God could be found. God was waiting for him in the wilderness, in the quiet, in the simple, in the ordinary.
I could say more words about the ways ordinary life can be holy, but instead of hearing me talk about it, I’d rather let you hear a man named Volodymyr Prokip, the pastor of St. Johns UMC in Lviv, Ukraine.
Ordinary life- making beds, preparing meals, offering a refuge. These are not extraordinary acts. They are ordinary and basic aspects of living. Yet God shows up when they are done in our homes and God shows up when they are done in warzones. God is in the simple things. Can we see it or are we too busy waiting on a miracle?
Don’t discredit the potential of the here and now to be a place where God enters your life, embrace it and celebrate it.
The Latin “sacramentum” is a description of “holy” as the inbreaking of the Divine on or in something quite ordinary. Like bread and grapes or water (sacraments). Actually, all we have is the ordinary stuff of life to point toward the Divine presence. All we have is our ordinary lives to give witness to the sacramental nature of God’s action here and now. While we are waiting for something “spectacular” to happen (stones into bread, a million likes on social media, angels swooping down to catch us), we might just miss the real inbreaking in real time. If life is feeling like a wilderness wandering of ordinariness, we are in good company with the Israelites and Jesus who encountered the inbreaking of God in just such conditions.
Grace and Peace,