Friday, September 27, 2013

The Spirituality of Ordinary Life

The following was a talk, not a sermon or a homily, that I presented at a dinner in honor and thanksgiving for three nurses who responded to a man who had suffered cardiac arrest at a graduation ceremony. The man, Peter, is alive and well today due in large part to the actions of these three nurses who knew their vocation and responded in service of their neighbor. The purpose of my talk was to encourage them in their God-given vocations and to see the miracles that God is performing by them and through them each and every day.
You are probably aware that there is a war going on today. Ok, so you’re aware that there are many wars going on today. But, I’m not talking about Afghanistan, Egypt, or Syria. I’m not even talking about politics, education, healthcare, or the “culture war”. No, the war that I am talking about involves our understanding and expectations concerning the supernatural, the spiritual, the miraculous, and the divine. You see, there is a war going on here, in that belief in the spiritual is being attacked and undermined both from without, that is from naturalistic and materialistic philosophies and worldviews and the people who hold them, as much as it is being attacked and undermined from within, that is, from spiritual religions and denominations and the people who hold them. What I mean is that spirituality has come to be understood as something absolutely, unequivocably distinct and separate from the material and earthly stuff of which this world consists and from the mundane, day to day lives of the people who claim to believe in the supernatural, the spiritual, the miraculous, and the divine.
A quick Google search for the definition of the word miracle demonstrates my point. It reads: “A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” Did you catch the part about being “not being explicable [that is, explainable] by natural or scientific laws”? That’s a huge problem! Why is it necessary that the miraculous not be explicable by natural or scientific laws? Is it only those things and events that we cannot explain that are to be attributed to God? Well, that’s very convenient for atheists and for the contemporary breed of materialistic naturalist neo-Darwinian scientists and philosophers who consider belief in the supernatural, the spiritual, the miraculous, and the divine a form of insanity, a disease, and a moral evil. For such as these, this definition permits them to dismiss anything that they cannot explain as merely a gap in their scientific knowledge that will, in time, be bridged and the possibility of the divine eliminated.
However, too often those who consider themselves spiritual think in this same way: For something to count as a miracle, and possibly be attributed to God, it has to be unexplainable by nature and science. The result of this is, first, that we play directly into the hands of those who wish to discount and discredit spirituality altogether, and second, we often look for, and think that we find, God in the wrong places, and we too often fail to find Him working in the places He has promised to be.
But, what are those places where God has promised to be? Where is God working in this world? You see, what I’m talking about here is the spirituality, not of the extraordinary and the unnatural, but, rather, the spirituality of the ordinary, mundane, day to day lives that you and I lead in this world. I’m talking about how God works with you and through you for the benefit of your family, your friends, your neighbors, and, yes, even complete strangers. This is a spirituality that is rooted, not in the inexplicable, the unnatural, and the non-scientific, but in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh dwelling amongst us.
Perhaps, however, that is where the problem and the confusion lie: in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. For, surely, this was the miracle of all miracles! God became a man and made His dwelling with us, in our flesh, in the world that He had made. If the incarnation is true – and it most assuredly is – then, I hope that it is needless to say, that changes everything. Why does it change everything? The incarnation changes everything because God is not merely afar, outside of nature and time and everything that we know, live, and experience in our lives, but He has permanently penetrated, entered, and taken up flesh and blood, bone, in the material world of atoms and cells and gravitational forces, rays and particles of light, etc. In other words, the God who made all things permeates all things and sustains all things. God entered this world in the flesh and blood human body and soul of Jesus Christ. He lived in that body, was tempted in that body, suffered and died in that body, rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven in that body. Now, Jesus fills and permeates all things visible and invisible. Therefore, Jesus is in this world still. He is with you at all times. And you have become His hands, His heart, and His mouth to all His people whom He shed His precious blood to redeem from sin and death.
That means that the supernatural, the spiritual, the miraculous, and the divine are not merely those things and events that are inexplicable by nature and scientific laws. Miracles happen everyday, through everyday people in their everyday lives and vocations. You may ask, “When did the Lord perform a miracle through me?” Particularly to the Christian, Jesus promises “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Our God is not a watchmaker God who set the world in motion and then walked away having no further involvement in it, but our God is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all that He has made. He does not merely work outside of and upon His creation, but He works in and through His creation for the benefit of His creation to the glory of His Name.
Further, the ways in which God works in and through His creation are often decidedly unspectacular and seemingly unmiraculous to human eyes that cannot see the miraculous for what it is because of human minds bound in captivity to materialistic naturalist neo-Darwinian science and philosophy. Even those who truly believe in the spiritual and the divine, those who believe in miracles, are wont to think of them only as those extraordinary, inexplicable events that seemingly defy nature and the laws of science. The Lord would have you see, however, that such a view is severely limited, and is limiting of our limitless God who has penetrated His creation in order to redeem it and restore it and sustain it until its recreation is fulfilled. For, indeed, the miraculous is all around you every day, all the time!
Indeed, each of you is here tonight to celebrate many miracles that have surrounded our host Peter as the result of the cardiac arrest he suffered on June 22, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. Each of you were there Mary, Leigh Ann, and Mary – and not by chance. You were there to witness the graduation of your own children, your daughters, that is first and foremost why you were there. But, you were also there for a reason that you could never have suspected beforehand; you were there that day to be the hands, heart, and mouth of Jesus, to save Peter’s life. Here, human reason, which is captive to and blinded by a materialistic naturalist neo-Darwinian worldview, will say “It was just a coincidence.” But, it was not a coincidence, it was your vocation, your calling. For, you were there that day, not only as mothers, but you were there as nurses. You had the gifts and skills, and the heart and the mind to use them when they were needed, to help Peter, to save Peter. And, that is no coincidence. For, God has made each of you, and God has blessed each of you with gifts with which you serve others to His glory, and God has called you to service and given you the many and varied vocations that you hold. Don’t ever discount that or allow others to talk to you of coincidence. Though you may think that you were only doing what was right to do in a given situation, I say to you that you were doing what God has called you to do. One thing that is all but certain is that, if you were not there, we would not be here tonight, for Peter would not be here. And, that is nothing less than miraculous.
Of course, you are aware that the miracles did not end there. One of you received a text message from the ambulance containing one word, “Saved.” Those EMTs were living out their vocation too. Then, was it a coincidence that the cardiologist on the job that weekend just happened to be a specialist in electro-cardiology, able to provide precisely the specific care that Peter needed? And I know that there were several other unique experiences, events, and situations, each, alone, seemingly insignificant, but, taken together, showing the miracles that God was working through ordinary people doing their ordinary vocations without Hollywood special effects or awe-inspiring signs and wonders. The lack of signs and wonders does not make your work and the experiences you’ve had any less miraculous; in truth, when you see them with the eyes of faith, you see the richness and the depth of what God is doing all the time through the people He loves and has saved and purchased in the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. We live in a miraculous world filled with miraculous lives inhaling and exhaling the life-breath of God. You are His hands, His heart, and His mouth.
This is the spirituality of ordinary life, life that is sacred, holy, and precious to God, the Creator and giver of life. Mary, Leigh Ann, and Mary – this is your vocation, your calling. When you recognize in your vocation their Giver, you will find that miracles are happening through your hands, your heart, and your mouth every day. Thank you for faithfully living in your God-given vocations. Thank you being Jesus’ hands, heart, and mouth in saving Peter that day in June. To God be the glory in all things, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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