THE GOD WHO IS ORDINARY
By Jacob Loh
" ...he took bread ..." (Luke 24:30)
What could be more ordinary and plain than bread?
From Gardenia or Massimo, roti canai, chapati, naan, mantou, baguettes and so much more - many of us enjoy this basic, ordinary bread. Every culture has its own version of ordinary roti that is eaten daily.
In ordinary things such as bread, we reflect on how we can experience God through and ordinary things in daily life.
To begin with, let us consider our Lord lived an ordinary life in the hidden and obscure years before his public ministry. He was an ordinary worker, working with his hands, going about in his daily routine.
Just as the risen Lord experienced "that little life of Nazareth," so we too can experience the sacred in the ordinary, even in mundane and repetitious tasks.
Are we able to find God in the routine of washing dishes -- all of which were washed a few hours ago?
In the gospel, we see Jesus as both divine and human. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the very ordinary human Christ struggling just like all of us to do God's will. Is Jesus ordinary or extraordinary?
We may want to consider that he is our ordinary Saviour but his love toward us is extraordinary and extravagant. His death on the cross and his resurrection are extraordinary events in the life, work and teaching of Christ.
So: Were the two disciples on the Emmaus road expecting a superstar and a spectacular Messiah for Israel's salvation then?
Today if Jesus were to walk along Petaling Street, he would not look like a stunning, handsome, Korean superstar. He would probably look like one of us, melting into the urban poor - perhaps as a foreign worker, or someone standing at a soup kitchen. No one would take notice of his physical appearance.
"He had no special beauty or form to make us notice him," insisted the prophet Isaiah. "There was nothing in his appearance to make us desire him. He was hated and rejected by people. He had much pain and suffering. People would not even look at him. He was hated, and we didn't even notice him" (Isaiah 53:2-3).
Dear friends, we do not need a superstar and a spectacular Messiah. But we need a Saviour who walks with us in our life's journey. And we can experience a Saviour who cares and understands our struggles and bears our sins through his sacrificial love for us.
The Bible (Isaiah 53:3) further tells us our Saviour is no superhero incapable of tears or weakness. We can be encouraged today because Jesus is a man of sorrow, who is familiar with the griefs and pains in our lives especially in these challenging times.
It's hard to associate God with the ordinary. We are more likely to chase after a spectacular Messiah and the next big thing in church. We talk excitedly about radical change, breakthroughs, miracles, epic stories, revolutionary movements, paradigm shifts, and so on. We seek God in such big things. And indeed, there are times to talk about such things.
But most of life is about our daily bread. In the ordinary, we can connect with Jesus, the Bread of Life, who breaks through our lives, day by day.
Today, we believe that we can find and know God...
in our ordinary homes, workplaces, and neighbourhood
in the ordinary means of grace such as the faithful preaching of the Word, the sacraments, worship and prayer
in our ordinary Covenant Groups
in our ordinary parents who provide pastoral care
in our ordinary body of Christ, expressing God's love in a practical way
As Jesus handled something so ordinary and familiar in his hands, the two disciples in Emmaus experienced something extraordinary: the presence of the living Christ breaking through their ordinary meal that evening.
Had they seen him break bread for the five thousand, for the four thousand, for the twelve in the upper room? Maybe. But perhaps they saw something not strange but familiar, the familiar hands going through the familiar motions of eating together with them day by day, for three years.
An ordinary meal. Nothing spectacular. But through this ordinary encounter, their spiritual eyes were opened.
It is said that familiarity breeds contempt. But in the village of Emmaus, the two disciples saw, literally, that familiarity breeds...recognition.
Jesus, the Bread of Life, is known to us in the breaking of ordinary bread.
Lord, help us not to look into the next big thing in our lives or even expect a spectacular Messiah to show up in our lives or country. Rather, grant us grace to experience your presence in the ordinariness of our daily life and to encounter you, not as a superhero but as our suffering Saviour who understands our joy and pain in our life's journey. Amen.