Encountering God in the Ordinary
“When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” -John 21: 9-13 (NIV)
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” -Exodus 3:5 (NIV)
Perhaps for me it began in junior high with the morning routine of a bowl of cereal with my Mom, as she was preparing to leave for her nursing job at the hospital and I was preparing to deliver the papers before school.
Or maybe it was in college when I would sit down with the breakfast cook, the security guard, and the waitresses at the hotel where I worked midnights to have some coffee, two eggs over easy mushed up in some hash-browns, bacon and toast. Even more important, there was lots of conversation about these ordinary folk’s lives, dreams and aspirations….sharing our lives with one another.
During seminary, it was most often during the skipped chapel services where I and some colleagues went down the road to the local Burger King and shared a bite and conversation. The irony that we had to skip chapel to experience this was not missed on us.
Then, in my first full time pastorate it was at the breakfast table at “The Ranch” with two high-school boys. This was also where it became a Sunday Morning routine… not with anyone else… but with me and my mildly introverted self alone… as a way of preparing for the busyness of the coming day. I am thankful for a wife and family that has understood that over the years.
But then there were the many morning meals we shared together as a family in which we experience this. It might have been over waffles at Grandma’s or even in the car as we began a long drive to visit family or travel to one of the kid’s activities. In recent years, it has been going out to nicer places as a family on those rare occasions when all five of us can be together.
In one pastorate, it was morning coffee with the staff before office hours. We gathered in fellowship hall, me, our associate pastor, the secretary, the custodians and occasionally even some of the volunteers of the church to drink coffee and to share someone’s banana bread or other treats. When my elementary aged daughter joined us we would stop to get her chocolate milk and donuts while I got a Blimpie sandwich to take along.
And then later, when I began denominational work it was a weekly breakfast at Perkins with my pastor and friends.
And today….Well it is breakfast meetings with staff, colleagues, board members, pastors and others. Sometimes these meetings are arranged and others are part of the routine of bigger meetings and conventions.
But in all of these places, it is a time where I regularly…on occasion…unexpectedly meet God. It is not the meal so much, as the ordinary suddenly becoming holy. Places where God breaks into our everyday life through the sharing, the fellowship and the common bonds we share. And in all these situations, mentally, if not physically, I slip off my shoes… remembering that I am on holy ground.
Prayer: Lord, help us to recognize those holy moments in our lives…routine, ordinary moments where you want to break in and bless us as you did with Peter and the disciples on the shore in Galilee and with Moses in the desert. And help us in those moments to realize that what makes it holy is your presence in our lives. Amen.
Reverend Dr. Steve Van Ostran
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