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ORDINARY PEOPLE, EXTRAORDINARY GOD (Views from the Abbey 18)

It may come as a surprise to many of us, but ‘God’s ways are not our ways nor are God’s thoughts our thoughts,’ so the Prophet Isaiah tells us (Isaiah 55:8). God doesn’t think the way we think or work the way we work.

The positive spin on this for us is that it means that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things for the sake of his Kingdom. God chooses people like you and me with all our faults and failings, weaknesses, and flaws to carry out his extraordinary plans for the world. As the Apostle Paul tells us, God chooses ‘things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chooses things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chooses things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and uses them to bring to nothing what the world considers important’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NLT).

What the world thinks of as important and significant is often not so in God’s kingdom and vice versa. This is illustrated by the simple, and seemingly insignificant, yet utterly delightful, episode at a wedding party in Cana in Galilee recorded in John 2:1-11. The Apostle John records that right at the start of his ministry, Jesus turns water into wine (John 2:8), the first of his miraculous signs whereby the disciples glimpsed something of his glory and believed in him. As Sister Vandana (an Indian theological writer) reminds us: ‘Water! An ordinary, everyday, familiar thing, usually taking for granted and unnoticed – except when found absent and needed. This the Lord used as an instrument to “manifest his glory … and his disciples believed in him.”’ God often uses very ordinary things and lets his glory shine out through them.’

We hear the words ‘God’s ways are not our ways’ and we decry our weakness. God, however, considers it strength because it means we are more dependent and trusting in his strength and ability to bring about what we, in our weakness and frailty, cannot (2 Corinthians 12:10). In this way his glory is revealed. What is impossible for us is possible for God (Matthew 19:26). What is totally impossible for us to do in our own strength is possible for us to do in God’s strength (Philippians 4:13). In and of ourselves we have nothing to boast about. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, ‘God deliberately chooses men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chooses these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies?” That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything we have – right thinking and right living, a clean slate, and a fresh start – comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “if you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God!”’ (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 The Message).

It is good for us to know that we are nobodies. To have a right perspective of ourselves, but also to have a full and profound appreciation and understanding of what God can do with a bunch of nobodies – like us! It is said of Moses (who lived to be 120 years old) spent the first forty years of his life thinking he was a somebody, the next forty years of his life thinking he was a nobody, and the last forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody!

So how do you see yourself? Do you think you are a nobody?  Good, because that means that God can use you! Not necessarily in anything spectacular but, by being strengthened and equipped by the Holy Spirit, doing ordinary things extraordinarily well, and by being enabled to see our extraordinary God in all the ordinary things of life. Jesus, the perfect party guest, did not change the water in the ceremonial jars into cheap plonk but into a wine of classic vintage (John 2:10)! So, let us trust and pray that in our lives, and in the life of our church, God has ‘saved the best wine until now’ (John 2:10)!

~ Julia Binney

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