“’I will not take you out of the world.’ There are enormous implications here that I can so easily neglect. Christ was a carpenter for most of his life, and those years were not wasted ones…. Christianity does not isolate the sacred from the secular. Not only are material things good in themselves, they are also signs of God’s loving attention, and they can, if we let them, open up a way to him.”
-Esther de Waal,
My son stands outside his Sunday School class, a gym sectioned off into age groups by carpeted dividers. He’s in a line with all the four-year-olds. He’s got his classic moves going on so as to impress the “ladies” in line beside him. These moves include hitting himself in the head and making an “Oomph!” noise, then waving his arms in a circle, going “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Then he smiles as if to say, I’m that awesome, girls. It comes naturally.
His teacher asks him to be calm as he comes to the front of the line. “August,” she says, “Are you ready to worship God?”
He shakes his head yes. “Okay, you can go sit in the circle.”
And he walks to the circle where three boys are whispering various forms of “poop” to each other and cackling and two girls are digging in the carpet strands for treasures.
The teacher rolls out the sand table and tells a story about deserts and God’s people and how God loved them and made a way. At the end, the children are invited to wonder out loud about the story. They say, “I like to play with sand at the park” or sometimes they say nothing.
This is how four-year-olds worship. Yes, I said worship.
I pray big things for my sons. I pray for gentle spirits and for courage. I pray they will be men of conviction and mercy, justice and forgiveness. I pray they will grow to love the things that God loves.
And sometimes we have tender discussions about faith. We talk about God giving us new, soft hearts, especially on days when our hard hearts seem to be running the show. We talk about taking care of people who need care the most.
But most of my living with my boys is not “spiritual,” it’s physical. I am wiping snot. I am wiping rear ends. I am chopping vegetables; I am singing the praises of vegetables to the child who refuses to try new things. I am holding tools in my hands. I am tending ouchies. I am packing bags and packing snacks and packing my pockets with tissues because someone always has a cold. I am tying shoes and buckling seat belts.
And it is holy work. Yes, I said holy.
This Sunday begins the season of Pentecost in the Church calendar. Pentecost has been on my mind lately. On Sunday we celebrate Christ’s promise being a true one. He said he would send a and he did. He said God’s Spirit would fall on us, and it did.
There is much drama in the Pentecost story. Tongues loosened, gospel preached with reckless courage and received the same way. Wild comings to Jesus and all those souls folded in to something so profound it was incomprehensible. It still is.
Sometimes I long for that sort of wild Holy Spirit wind to blow firey into my small life: to light the ordinary and bring fearsome healing to the world around me.
Sometimes I lament the whole thing: My lack of spiritual drama. My small faithful moments and my small weak-willed faith.
And then I remember that there is no distinction in this sacred, this secular. Not really. There is a Holy Spirit renewing all of it, restoring the very foundations of the physical world. The Spirit has come and it has made all the beautiful things true. It is making all the true things beautiful. The Spirit has come to the physical world and the work of God is bright around us.
So the matted man who paces daily beside his packed red shopping cart next to the Walgreens, talking to the air but always looking right in my eyes, that man stands on holy ground at the corner of 9th and Clement. Will I bow before the Lord who made him? Will I recognize the face of Christ?
And the little boy crying for me to wipe the snot that has coated his lips, the boy wrecked without my hand to bring him life and hope and a clean face, his are the lips of Jesus.
And these groceries in my hands. These strawberries are signs of a good God, a God at work in the land and in the Church: planting, tending, creating, harvesting.
It is all Spirit work.
We in the Church are all worshippers, distracted by one another, distracted by ourselves. Digging in the carpet for treasures, guffawing at our own dorky slapstick. And yet, God says, “Church, are you ready to worship?”
And here we are in physical chairs holding physical books, chatting over physical donuts after the service. And that is when the Spirit breaks through. At our most ordinary, most human, most simplistic, there is power.
Yes, I said power.
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