The holy ordinary
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Thursday, March 4th: Exodus 19:1-9a; Psalm 19; and 1 Peter 2:4-10. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
There’s a pretty remarkable theme that begins in the Hebrew Bible and crosses the threshold into the New Testament. It is the idea that the holy pervades all of creation. It may be said no more beautifully than in the poetry of the Psalms: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
Looking at me as I type these words is a poster-sized Albert Einstein. The quote he shares is: “I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest are details.” Einstein did not believe in a personal god who you could pray to, but he looked at creation and he was filled with awe and wonder. There was such beauty and wisdom that Einstein needed to rely upon the language of religion. He saw in creation’s order and power the thoughts of God. Math and physics conveyed the how of creation – the details, but even Einstein’s genius turned to God-talk to convey their mystery.
I fear that it is an incomplete journey when I hear people tell me that they are moved by nature in a spiritual sense, not unlike Einstein’s “God’s thoughts.” The feeling is honest and authentic, but as the Psalmist writes, these nature inspired feelings “are telling the glory of God.” Nature is the messenger, but we need to reach further for the message, and it may have something to do with the holy that permeates creation, with the divine that reaches out and into everything.
At Sinai God tells Israel, “You shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” All of them, not only those who will be called to be priests at the tabernacle, but all of Israel will be a holy nation. In the New Testament, believers are encouraged with the words: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”
I think we can forget that the ordinary is holy. This is why the law at Sinai governed all aspects of Israel’s life because everything ordinary was holy. This is why the earliest Christian preachers reminded those ordinary folk that they were chosen, exalted and holy.
Lent is a season during which we are to meditate upon the death of Christ, and it is also a time to mediate upon why Christ was willing to live, suffer and die. It was for us. We matter. We are loved by God more than God loves Himself. This is made clear in the glories of creation and in the death of Christ. Think about how the holy pervades us, and see in that our intimate, personal connection with God. And use Lent to make that connection even stronger.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.macucc.org/lectionary.
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