God Is in the Ordinary
Friday, January 13, 2017
One great idea of the biblical revelation is that God is manifest in the ordinary, in the actual, in the daily, in the now, in the concrete incarnations of life. Our experiences of ordinary life will transform us if we are willing to experience them fully. This is quite different than much of religion’s emphasis on being pure, perfect, or correct to find God. Jesus stands religion on its head! In fact, some historians of religion claim that Jesus proclaimed the end of religion. (Of course, we quickly undid this mistake!)
We see this “ordinariness” reflected in the seemingly laborious and boring books of Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Leviticus, and Numbers. We hear in these books about sin and war, adultery and affairs, kings and killings, intrigues and deceit, and the ordinary, wonderful, and sad events of human life. Those books, documenting the life of real communities, of concrete ordinary people, are barely “religious” at all, which is one excuse Catholics used not to read the Bible.
God’s revelations are through the concrete and specific. Spirituality is not a Platonic world of ideas and theories about which you can be right or wrong. Revelation is not something you measure, but something—or Someone—you meet! This pattern of incarnation reaches its fullness in one small place on the planet, in one short period of history, in one very ordinary man named Jesus. Walter Brueggemann calls this the “scandal of the particular.”  From this necessary shock, our job is to universalize! Unfortunately, most people just stay with the shock and call it a one-time miracle, which they can then argue about. Or they refuse to accept the shock at all, which is most of our contemporary society.
The biblical revelation is saying that we are already spiritual beings; we just don’t know it yet, and we have to be shocked into it. The Bible tries to let us in on the secret, by revealing God in ordinary human affairs and conflicts. That’s why so much of the text seems so mundane, practical, specific, and frankly unspiritual!
We have created an artificial divide or dualism between the spiritual and the so-called non-spiritual. This dualism is precisely what Jesus came to reveal as a lie. The Incarnation proclaims that matter and spirit have never been separate. Jesus came to tell us that these two seemingly different worlds are—and always have been—one. We couldn’t even imagine it until God put all of this together in one body (see Ephesians 2:11-22), one life (1 John 1:1-2), and one shocking epiphany. I think this would be the fourth level of midrash—the “hidden” but full meaning.
Gateway to Silence:
Your word is a light for my path. —Psalms 119:105
 Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), 162.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 16-17.