Ordinary People, Extraordinary God

Ordinary People, Extraordinary God

First Sunday after Trinity

Readings: Deuteronomy 5. 12-15; Psalm 81. 1-10; 2 Corinthians 4. 5-12, Mark 2.23 – 3.6 (view all)

I wonder whether you have a ‘claim to fame’ — a story of when you came across someone famous. My best story is about the time I had a kebab with Ed Sheeran, the singer songwriter. Some of my friends had met him at a gig in London and persuaded him to come to Newport and play for a gathering of friends in their living room. Afterwards, a few of us took him to Best Kebabs by the Cenotaph. And a few months later, he was signed by a record label and became famous.

We live in a culture obsessed with fame — the need to be recognised as special in some way, to stand out from those around us. But this could not be more different to what Paul says in our New Testament reading — that we are just like ordinary clay jars, made to point to the extraordinary good news of Jesus. 

How can this morning’s reading help us to realise that it’s okay to be ordinary? And what might that mean for the way we live our ordinary lives? 

Paul says to the Corinthian Christians, ‘we do not proclaim ourselves’ — as Christians the goal isn’t for everyone to see how amazing we are! Instead ‘we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord’, because it is Jesus and his good news for the world which is truly extraordinary. That, the good news of what Jesus has done for us, is the real treasure which we hold in our, very ordinary, clay jars. 

In Jesus’ time, the people thought that they were God’s special people, and everyone else just wasn’t as good. They had lots of rules — lots of good rules — but over time it had turned into a competition over who was the best. So some people, the Pharisees, would say, ‘I must really be special, because I keep the rules the best — everyone should do what I do!’ 

One of those rules was about keeping one day a week, the Sabbath holy, and the Pharisees would go around on the Sabbath making sure that no one broke their rules. And they didn’t like Jesus, because he started doing good things on the Sabbath like healing people. Which is why in our gospel reading, Jesus tells them that they’re wrong.

The point wasn’t to stop people doing good things on the Sabbath, it was to help them live the way God wanted by taking time to rest. But if they were stopping people from helping one another, then they’d missed the point of having the rules entirely. 

The thing is that when we get worked up and jumped up, and pursue our own reputation, we’re setting ourselves up for a huge fall. We aren’t perfect and we can’t pretend to be.

But if we see ourselves as ordinary people, whom God loves in an extraordinary way, and if we rely on God’s grace and power to help us in our lives, then we will always be able to pick ourselves up again from any fall. 

As one modern translation puts it, we can be ‘surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; … not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do…  thrown down, but we haven’t broken.’ 

So I wonder this morning: Will we lay down our need to be recognised, to be special, in order to serve and care for others? When we’re struggling, will we let ourselves off the hook and trust God to look after us? 

How can we, in very ordinary ways, live out the extraordinary good news of Jesus and his love for us? 

St Theresa of Calcutta, known as Mother Theresa, famously said:

‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’

God has taken us, ordinary people, and gifted us with the incredible riches of his grace. May we grow in his grace, as we place the needs of others before ourselves.

God, the strength of all those who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers
and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature
we can do no good thing without you,
grant us the help of your grace,
that in the keeping of your commandments
we may please you both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

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