Ordinary to Extraordinary

Photo Credit: Ryan Hatton

Photo Credit: Ryan Hatton

Ordinary to Extraordinary: Giving thanks for the Fruit of Ordinary Life and Ministry

We live in an Instagram society.  Snap a photo, post it, and display what appears to be an extraordinary moment in the midst of ordinary life.  This often makes us assume that life should be full of the incredible, the fanciful, the extraordinary.

In reality, life and ministry is a series of normal, mundane, ordinary and repetitive moments that sometimes bear fruit in extraordinary ways.  Day-to-day life for most of us is full of the repetitive cadence of waking up, eating meals, washing dishes, cleaning a home, driving to and from work, grocery shopping, taking care of family obligations, paying bills, checking e-mail and social media, watching television, going to bed, getting up the next morning, and repeat.  Yet once-in-a-while the faithful living-out of the ordinary moments of life gives way to something extraordinary: new relationships blossom, new opportunities fall in our laps, we graduate from school, awards come our way, a pay raise relieves financial pressure, a vacation breathes new life into our lungs, retirement gives a new perspective on life, our children embrace Jesus, we have a moment of clarity years-in-the-making.

In order to rightly put in perspective these ordinary-to-extraordinary moments, one of the great gifts God has given to His people is the gift of gratitude, which happens when we stop and reflect with thanksgiving on what God has done.

Last Sunday at Calvary was, for me, one of those extraordinary moments, the fruit of many ordinary days of life and ministry.  As I have reflected this week in my own heart and in conversations with others, I have been reminded that this extraordinary day was just that – extraordinary.  The days, weeks and years ahead will be filled with more ordinary Sundays than extraordinary ones, requiring a church faithfully gathering week-by-week to worship, partaking of the sacraments, engaging one another in community, and reaching out to neighbors and friends to make disciples where we are and where we are sent.

But rather than create an unhealthy longing for those extraordinary moments, I want to take time to chronicle 10 things I observed Sunday for which I am grateful.  Below include evidence of fruit, arising from the ordinary, giving way to an extraordinary day:

10 Causes of Gratitude (in no particular order):
  1. Worship – In Psalm 122:1, David proclaims, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” I am grateful for the joy of gathering with God’s people in worship and extending the invitation to friends, family, and neighbors to turn to the one who came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). My heart rejoices in the many who joined us to worship our great God, but most of all I rejoice in His gracious invitation to His people to “Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly…Praise the Lord” (Psalm 149:1, 9).
  2. Weather – Few realities make me more aware of my lack of control than the weather. God sends rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous, and he shines the sun on all (Mt. 5:45). He alone controls the wind and the waves.  That He saw fit to enable us to hold our community party on a day of gorgeous weather brings me great joy.
  3. Community – There are 59 “one another” passages in the New Testament, revealing that the Christian faith is to be lived out together and not in isolation. As I walked around Sunday afternoon, I was struck by the evidence of the community the Lord is building in this place, made up of people who have been here for 20+ years and those who have been here for fewer than 5 and some in between. In a season of transition, I pray that we will continue to pursue obedience to the greatest of all “one another” commands, given by Jesus in John 13:34-25, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
  4. Service – In Romans 12:1, the apostle Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” I was profoundly encouraged to see many sacrifice their time, talents and treasures to serve the Lord by serving one another and this community on Sunday. Without complaint, many people served joyfully, so that others could play, rest, eat, and fellowship.  I am grateful for the heart of service evidenced through the many hands and feet moving about to care for others.
  5. Gifts – In Romans 12:6, Paul acknowledges that God has given a variety of gifts to his church. I was overjoyed to see so many gifts on display, from those who read, sang, prayed and offered support in the worship service, to those who greeted, organized, planned, listened, encouraged, took photos, painted faces and simply came as a faithful presence. God’s tapestry of gifts, entrusted to the care of His people, was beautifully exhibited throughout the day.
  6. Hospitality – Biblical hospitality is more than putting on a great spread on a well-decorated table. It is showing kindness to strangers, making room, and providing a home for the lonely and disconnected (Hebrews 12:3). I was deeply encouraged to see the members of Calvary welcoming people from this local community, as they stepped into a strange place, filled with people they did not know.  God worked through you to welcome guests and make them feel at home.
  7. Relationships – With few exceptions the many guests who joined us on Sunday received a personal invitation from you, the members of Calvary. I am so grateful that many of our members stepped outside of their comfort zones to invite people with whom they have built relationships over time. This was a wonderful illustration of how God often works through personal relationships to draw men and women into His Kingdom.  May we be a people who “make known his deeds among the peoples” (Psalm 105:1).
  8. Laughter – My heart is full, reflecting on the sounds of laughter that filled the lawn at Calvary. Laughter is a sign of joy that comes from a spirit renewed in the Lord. Psalm 126:2-3 says of a renewed people, “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then (the nations said), ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’”  The laughter of God’s people is a testimony to the world of God’s faithfulness.
  9. Diversity – Revelation 7:9 describes the great diversity of Christ’s people gathered together from every tongue tribe and nation, crying out with one voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:10). My heart was overjoyed to see even a tiny glimpse of a diversity that better reflects the community in which we have been planted. It is a reminder that our unity in Jesus is far greater than that which divides.
  10. Generations – Some of the memories emblazoned in my mind include watching adults and children playing badminton together, seeing a photo of a grandfather gleefully going down the waterslide with his grandchild, observing adults taking time in their afternoon to lead games and activities for kids, and hearing conversations that transcend the years and reflect the heart of a Savior who says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:14).

My heart is full, and as we move forward together into ordinary weeks, months, and years and the occasional extraordinary day, may our heart’s cry be that of the apostle Paul, “To Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).