Have any of you ever had the experience of reading a word so often that it becomes really silly and odd?
I encountered this with the word 'soap' just a few days ago. In the manse we're due to move into there is a hallway with 3 plain white doors off it. One will be a coat cupboard, one the cupboard where all manner of things will get hidden from view, and the third is a downstairs toilet. So I thought I'd try and find a bit of clip art to print off and put on the doors so visitors could identify which door was which. When you've looked at tens of images for 'soap' the word becomes very odd indeed, or at least it did for me. The commonplace became the very unusual.
My diary for this past week and the next couple of weeks is filled with services in various churches up and down the District. Starting with my own welcome service at Sidedoor in Grimsby I will be in Lincoln, Louth, the village of Timberland, and back to Sidedoor to greet and recognise new ministers and office holders in the Methodist Church. Alongside this there is a morning to help the new ministers get to know others in the District, and a District Synod amongst other things. These are all things I've done before but never in quite the way that I'm involved in them now as the new Chair of District. I've sat in the congregation at welcomes but never been the one doing the welcoming. I've sat at the back of Synod, and even been involved in it's planning, but I've never chaired it. The commonplace is somewhat unusual at the moment.
Even my laptop now has 2 separate log-ons, one as Angy and the other as Chair of District and I find myself flipping between the 2 as I gradually move files around to where they need to be for ease of access.
The Gospel is full of stories where the commonplace becomes the unusual. Water used for washing people's feet as they come in from the road becomes the best wine at the wedding banquet. A few fish and some bread becomes a meal which fills the bellies of thousands of hungry people. The journey away from Jerusalem full of sadness and worry becomes a moment where heaven appears and hope is re-born. And, conversely, the unusual can become almost commonplace too. Angels and dreams announcing God's presence in the world. The sick made well. The words of a wandering preacher that God's kingdom will turn the world upside down, made real through a wooden cross on which criminals and trouble-makers were executed.
For me these ponderings point me to the idea that God is everywhere, in the commonplace and in the unusual. God is not just to be found in the sacred hour on a Sunday in the sacred space of our church buildings, but in the shops and on the beaches and in the fields that surround us. And God is to be heard and seen not just in those we might somehow hold up as being holy or spiritual, but in every one of us, even in those who we least expect, or who would least expect it themselves.
At the beginning of a new Connexional year in the Methodist Church perhaps we should consider making a new year's resolution, to keep a look out for God in the commonplace and in the unusual. God will very probably surprise us by popping up in the most unexpected of place or people. Opening a door expecting to find a bathroom and instead finding a load of coats. Will we, Narnia-like, be brave enough to feel our way through the coat cupboard and into the new kingdom and all that it promises to hold?
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