The Holy Ordinary


Pentecost + John 14

Pam (Beesley) Halpert, a fictional character on the TV show The Office, closed the series finale with this gem: “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”

Everyday my mom dropped me off at Jr. High. We lived further away than the buses would go, so she drove me into school on her way to work. I remember what she always said as I closed the car door to open the school door: “study hard, it’s important.” Those words have proven to be true and those words have stayed with me.

In High School and College, my dad attended every single basketball game he could. Traveling to Virginia, Minneapolis, Walker, Grand Rapids, Moorhead, and beyond. I can still remember the image of him sitting in the stands. While other parents yelled and hollered, he sat there, arms crossed, rocking, watching, supporting, smiling. It’s an image that has stayed with me.

Over many years, my grandma taught me how to play cribbage. 15-2, 15-4, pair is six, knobs are seven. She would whistle through her teeth just a little bit when she was thinking what to throw into her crib and what to keep out of mine. It was her rule to never, ever throw a seven. It was her practice to never, ever let me win. It was all the more sweet when I did. Across the table she was teaching me more than just card games. She was teaching me how to think, how to work at something, and most importantly, how to love: with patience and presence, in good and caring conversations. And her love has stayed with me.

“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”

In my internship year in southern Arizona, Colin was in Las Vegas. 8 hours away. It’s hard to be apart from the one that you love, especially when you’re in that cute and kind of new phase of love. So I stole his sweatshirt. His mangy old college sweatshirt. And when I got too homesick for him, I’d put it on, or smell it, and remember him in some way that phone calls or Facebook couldn’t do. The widows from grief group at church laughed at me when I confessed this over coffee one day. They did the same thing, of course, keeping pillows and clothing and other items around, but their love wasn’t just a few hours away. Yet love remained, love stayed with them.

“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”

There are things in this life that stay with us. Memories, stories, nicknames, people, events, places, etc. These shape who we have been, carry us into who we are, and create our future. These abide with us, stay with us, dwell with us, even after they are long gone.

Sometimes it’s words that we remember years later, or a picture that hangs on our mantle, or a card that we have stuck inside our bibles, or a shirt we have pulled from a closet. Vestiges of memories that will not let us go. Relics of our life that continue to cling. Sometimes like glue that binds a book together; other times like gum that sticks to a shoe.

Things stay with us. People remain with us. Words abide with us.

If this is true about life, then it must be especially true for the life of faith. Faith abides with us in our everyday, ordinary lives, in the holy ordinary and it is a thing of beauty.

We walk by faith and not by sight. We live by the Spirit in the hope of a reality we have never seen. We do not behold Christ face-to-face; we remember him. We have faith not because we have seen and can be certain, but because he abides in us and has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us forever.

Today in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that after he is physically gone, after he is crucified and dies and is raised and ascends to heaven, he will abide with them. He will remain with them. He will stay with them. In their bodies. Through the Spirit.

On this day that we remember the Pentecost, or the birth of the church, or the sending of the Spirit, we remember that the Spirit comes to us where we are, in a language we can understand, to abide with us, to stay with us, to remain in us.

Jesus’ words are also passed down to us. We have not seen Jesus, or touched him, and yet Jesus comes to us, and yet we have come to believe. That’s the power of the Spirit at work in our lives.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

What could this possibly mean?

I think this means that what we do here together on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings is only the beginning, only part of who we are as the church. I think the Holy Spirit bursts through the doors of this church and whooshes us into our lives, abiding with us, staying with us.

You see, we are gathered not just to do church, but we are gathered in order to be sent as the church, the body of Christ. We are gathered not only to receive grace and mercy and peace for ourselves, but we are gathered in order to be sent to live that grace and mercy and peace for others. We are gathered not only to be blessed, but we are gathered in order to be sent to be a blessing into this world that God so loves: in our homes, in our places of work, in our schools, in our relationships, in our rest. There, in the ordinary yet holy places, we work out love of God and love of one another.

“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”

But Lord knows, ordinary isn’t easy.

There are bills to paid and dinner to be made and laundry to cleaned and dishes to be washed and lawns to be mowed.

There is paperwork to be done and fires to be put out and students to teach and insurance claims to adjust and people to administer and patients to heal and studying to be done and people to be clothed and trucks to be hauled and crops to raise up and new technologies to be discovered and social work to be worked and people to be fed.

There are friends to be visited and granddaughters to care for and hands to be held and godchildren to be spoiled and laughter to be laughed and dogs to be walked and letters to be sent and games to be watched and cribbage to be played.

These ordinary things are the ways in which we love God and one another. The Holy Ordinary. Ordinary becomes downright extraordinary when you step back and look at life unfolding before your eyes. Ordinary is downright extraordinary when you step back and see the ways you are being the church in your everyday life. Loving God, loving one another. Ordinary life is lived in, with, and by the Spirit.

The church is out there, not just in here. Because the Spirit of God is out there, not just in here, remaining, abiding, staying with us in our everyday, extraordinary, ordinary life.

That isn’t to say what we do here isn’t important. It may be all too plain or all too ordinary or all too, well, churchy, but here we are shaped into who we need to be there. Worship leads us into service, faith changes the way we have life. Jesus sets us free to live and love and serve and soothe. Jesus is here. Jesus meets us there.

And so we come to church in order to learn how to be the church in our lives. We come first to worship God and then be formed in faith. We come to receive forgiveness, hear words of grace, come to deeper understanding of who we are and who God is, and find ourselves in a community of people trying to do the same, trying to love God and love one another.

We come to this place, and then we leave this place. And instead of leaving God behind the closed doors of this building, God the Spirit comes with us, abides with us and who we are in our everyday, ordinary lives. It may seem all to plain or all too ordinary, but then again:

“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”

May the Spirit of God, who abides with you, carry you into your life in this world with faith, hope and love of God and love of one another. Amen.


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