Reborn into Ordinariness
“I was reborn into ordinariness, but what more could one ask for?”
The annual Christian celebration of Easter is over. Easter Sunday, even in the post-pandemic days, is one of the few times that people flock to church in unprecedented numbers (the other being Christmas Eve). Easter is an unusual celebration, in my opinion, with many different understandings of its significance. It is a time we celebrate the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. The empty tomb discovered by Mary Magdalene and other female followers of Jesus is an amazing story, and difficult for many to believe as a factual, historical account. And that is what makes it such a cause of celebration – no typical earthly occurrence would have manifested such a miracle, to raise a three-days-dead human body back to life. The story gives us hope that we, too, will be raised from sure annihilation at our deaths into a new life with a new body. It is fantastic! It is a miracle! It is extraordinary!
Unfortunately, the fantastic, miraculous, extraordinary stories of Christianity that used to bring masses flocking to churches in hopes of being touched by a miracle are the very stories that are driving masses of people away from those churches today, at least as I see it. Too many of today’s Christians are too focused on seeking after extraordinary miracles even as they ignore the miracles staring them in the face daily in the ordinary features of their lives. If Christianity is to be relevant to the masses living in perpetual ordinariness, it must teach people to find God in the ordinary and in the extraordinary. If one spends their entire life seeking God in empty tombs and virgin births, like seeking wealth through the purchase of lottery tickets, one is likely to die unfulfilled and deeply disappointed. I will not deny that God is capable of such miraculous work, but I also will point out that God typically does not deal in out-of-the-ordinary events. It is not that God does not deal in miracles – certainly, God does. It is that we are blind to God’s miraculous work because it is deeply embedded in the ordinariness of our day-to-day lives. We miss it because we do not know where to look. And few churches are teaching us how to do so. Instead, they are teaching, if indirectly, that God resides in the extraordinary.
As a long-time church musician it is interesting to compare the Easter crowds with the relative dearth of those in attendance at the services that commemorate the lead-up to Easter – Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Those services recognize the pain, suffering, and grotesque brutality leading up to the resurrection. Although we understand there can be no resurrection without the pain, suffering, and brutality of the crucifixion, it is much easier to skip over the nasty stuff. During the last several generations we have become increasingly proficient at hiding the weaker, less pleasant, and more vulnerable parts of our existence. Most of us could probably not pluck, clean, and cut up a chicken for dinner if our life depended on it (the obscure analogy being that the chicken is crucified and resurrected as dinner). Never mind catching, killing, and butchering a cow or a pig. Heck, few of us can even grow and harvest our own vegetables. We are mostly shielded from attending to the less attractive parts of death and dying, waiting to view the body until after it has been embalmed or admiring the attractive urn for the ashes. Certainly, somebody does the dirty work, but most of us do not.
The truth is that our lives are an on-going series of deaths and resurrections. Some deaths are disfiguring and brutal. Some are quick, some prolonged. Some are tragic, others bring relief that the suffering has ended. Easter is not just an event that happened 2000 years ago. Rather, it is a thread that transcends time. It runs through every life, every day. It is as necessary and present as the air we breathe. The road to resurrection is often littered with dreadful markers, however. We simply ignore it until it can be ignored no longer. It is not necessarily wrong to try to avoid the ugly parts, like a Good Friday service, but at some point it cannot be avoided – it must be endured.
And this is one of the harder messages of Easter – that there is suffering to endure before there can be resurrection. We cannot have the spectacular miracle without enduring the trials that makes the miracle seem, well, miraculous. Truthfully, however, if we want to experience the daily miracles of God’s presence on earth, we need only look in front of our noses. More next week.
 Kevin Kelly, radio interview with Ira Glass, https://www.thisamericanlife.org/50/shoulda-been-dead/act-one, accessed on April 16, 2022.