I travelled to Romania for two weeks recently. Out of all my many remarkable experiences, the most amazing was walking into the home of a stranger and seeing at the kitchen table a young woman eating a bowl of soup. Just sitting there, calmly, spoon in hand, slurping soup! Though my heart was pounding at the sight, I held it together in that moment—saving tears of gratitude for later.
Today is Easter Sunday, so I’m writing in celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. No, a software glitch didn’t mess up the timing of this blog post. In the Eastern liturgical calendar, Easter often falls a week later than in the West. Some years I’ve attended Easter services in both USA and Romania on consecutive weeks. Of course in the Christian tradition, every Sunday commemorates the resurrection—celebrated from the early times as “the Lord’s Day.”
So today is simply an ordinary Easter, especially here in the West where it now falls in that long stretch of the liturgical calendar known as Ordinary Time. I’m reminded of Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances that were evidently quite ordinary in nature, according to Gospel accounts. Often he wasn’t even recognized as anyone notable, even by friends. Outside the tomb, Mary Magdalene took him to be the landscape guy. Emmaus travelers mistook him for a fellow pedestrian. Though he performed many spectacular wonders before his death, afterward he typically shared himself with simple touch, a meal, or tender conversation.
I’m not denying or dismissing the spectacular. As a recreational fisherman, I’d be thrilled with the help Jesus gave the disciples in the boat after the resurrection. And I’d welcome the miracles of the apostles in Acts. But I do have a growing awareness of the addiction we might have to the “amazing.” Some observers have even suggested we ban this word. We watch SportsCenter for the Blake Griffin poster jam, not the Steve Nash pick-and-roll play. (Non-sports fans, please resume reading.)
The overwhelming majority of our lived experiences are not the slightest bit amazing. Like Martha Stewart, though, maybe we need to pretend they are, just to keep the viewers tuned in—and we religious people might be worst offenders. Maybe worst of all are religious people who do nonprofit work with the poor. On the plane on the way home from Romania, I found myself starting to think of what amazing stories I was going to tell or write about—for those who generously support our work. The best material I had to work with was my young woman friend and her soup.
Our un-amazing lived experiences have deep significance only as they take their place in a larger narrative. That is surely true of my soup-slurping gal. I’d have to tell you a LOT more of our story for you to start to get it. (Ask me and I will.) For a few people now who’ve followed the narrative over time, their hearts have truly “burned within them” to recognize the depth of what was going on at the kitchen table. Some have shared a tear or two as well. But the beauty of leaning into resurrection ordinariness is that it’s still just soup, made holy the way most everything is made holy—God sharing it with us every plain ol’ day in context of a story that takes a long time to live and tell.
We don’t need to stand up and yell “Amazing!” or “Hallelujah” today, though I don’t want to begrudge anyone genuine enthusiasm. We just don’t need to fuel our amazing-addiction every minute of our lives, even our religious lives. Living into resurrection, “getting” the arc of the long story, allows us to relax into the holy ordinariness that marks most of our days.
Scott Dewey is a CTM Training Associate, a member of the Street Psalms Community and works with Mile High Ministries in Denver, Colorado USA. Scott shares his thoughts at Seeing from Below - where he explores transformational ways of “seeing” in places not usually recognized as filled with light – and where this post was first published on 4/15/2012