A blog post for Pilgrim Church (2016)
The year has begun. Christmas is finished. New Year is over. The New Year's Test is well under way. What now? Just more of the same old same old?
In a sense, yes! Life is lived as much in the small details as anywhere else. The test of our aspirations and ideals lies in how consistently we uphold them in the ordinary, routine, and boring weekdays of our lives. Our happiness and sense of fulfilment about life will be formed in the also-ran days more than in the occasional high moments. Ordinary is where we live. If we cannot find a life in the ordinary, we will be forever dissatisfied.
But what is ordinary?
Our culture tells us ordinary is to get more, to have more, to be promoted. When it's put as bluntly as that, we rebel. We remember love, family, and the spiritual edge of dusk walks at the beach. But every advertisement thrust into our vision on the way to work, and as we seek to unwind in the evening, says we will find ourselves by having and, preferably, by having more. We tolerate demeaning work practices to allow us to keep things we already have, and consider betraying our ideals in order to get more. The foundations of this ordinary system in which we live are notions of scarcity, lingering anxiety, and plain greed, so deeply buried that we can barely see them. When we do, we deny them. We want to be better than this.
One way to describe what we are about at Pilgrim, is to say that we are seeking to rediscover the real ordinary. It's a different vision of the ordinary which claims, paradoxically, that life is not founded in scarcity, but is given as a "land of milk and honey." This old biblical symbol used images of milk and honey because only a land of great plenty can "flow with milk and honey."
The real ordinary claims that life is not based in anxiety, but that we may find grace which, at base, is the notion that God… Providence… the universe— call it what you will— is not ultimately hostile, but beneficent. God is "on our side."
And the real ordinary claims that greed does not win. Neither greed nor power define what is successful about life, and much less do they define reality. The biblical texts talk about this as The Promised Land and The Kingdom of God. These are ways of living which have compassion, justice, and equality, at their base. Perhaps they are best summed up in the Jesus statement that "you shall love your neighbour— who turns out to be everybody— as yourself." Seek no privilege or advantage that you will not also seek for others. Hold no privilege which cannot be held by others.
This is a very different ordinary! It is more hope and vision, than present reality. Corporations and governments are powers greater than the people within them, and they seek to define the ordinary— our present reality— by the establishment of their own kingdoms, privileging themselves and their systems over the people within them, and over the planet.
So this new ordinary sails into head winds. It is often a vision hard to hold. Church is about protecting the vision of the real ordinary— remembering it week by week. It is about nurturing the vision— finding new ways to live a real ordinary life in the shadows of the corporations closest to us, and dodging around the other powers. In one sense, there is nothing ordinary about this, at all. It is profoundly subversive, not because it seeks to betray, but because it seeks to empower all the ordinary people of the planet to live a life of fulfilment. But it is also ordinary. We live one day at a time, with bills to pay, work to do, and places to be. The only question is, why?
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