Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Sanctification of the Common.

In 1880 Bishop Westcott wrote; "There was a time when it was usual to draw a sharp line between religious and worldly things. That time has happily gone by. We all at last acknowledge more or less that all life is one... as citizens and workers we take our share in public business, we labour to fulfil our appointed task, because the love of Christ constrains us" (The Historic Faith P. 11). At around the same time Horatius Bonar wrote:

Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy being and Thy ways.

Praise in the common things of life,
Its goings out and in;
Praise in each duty and each deed,
However small and mean.

And further back George Herbert taught us to sing:

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see;
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room as, for Thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.
This is that famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own,
Cannot for less be told.

R.W. Dale of Birmingham wrote: "There is no occupation in which man can be lawfully engaged, in which he may not see God... He meant us to employ our hands in honest labour, as well as our lips in thankful praise" (Week-Day Sermons Pp3-4).

Dr. W.E. Orchard, in one of his sublimest prayers, writes:
"Teach us not to despise the life we are called to live, since it was given us by Thee. Teach us not to neglect the task of to-day because we cannot see its eternal effect. Teach us not to neglect the little duties which are training us for a great stewardship. May we remember that this life of ours has been divinely lived, that this robe of flesh and strange infirmity has been Thy garment..." (The Temple P. 51).

Let none despise the 'common things of life'. It has become fashionable for men to say that the Christian has to be a man of 'audacious faith', and that we should all seek to be famous. No, we should all seek that Christ should increase and we decrease. Westcott, Bonar, Herbert, Dale and Orchard have it right; Christ has sanctified for us the "common things of life"; the carpenter of Galilee served that rural population, and I am glad of it. Simon the Tanner was as necessary for the Gospel's spread as Simon Peter the Apostle; for Simon Peter needed shoes made with the product of that tanner's labour! And we have a whole book in the Bible, the Book of Ruth, that is about ordinary country folk doing what ordinary country folk do! I am so glad we do, for we need the ordinary country folk; and the ordinary town folk as well!

God's ways are not our ways, and the things that man values are not those God values; we look at "the rich man in his castle" and see not "the poor man at his gate," yet God may value the poor man at the gate far higher than the rich. Our culture lionises the idle celebrity, the vulgar and the profane, and despises the poor and the pious; but God sees things as they truly are. Oh that we might see things more as God does, and less as the world:

"We ask for no far-off vision which shall set us dreaming while opportunities around us slip by; for no enchantment which shall make our hands to slack and our spirits to sleep, but for the vision of Thyself in common things for every day; that we may find a Divine calling in the claims of life, and see a heavenly reward in work well done. We ask Thee not to left us out of life, but to prove Thy power within it; not for tasks more suited to our strength, but for strength more suited to our tasks. Give to us the vision that moves, the strength that endures, the grace of Jesus Christ, who wore our flesh like a monarch's robe and walked our earthly life like a conqueror in triumph. Amen." (Orchard, The Temple P. 121)

That is a true perspective on life from a man who worked on the railways and whose father worked on the railways; a working man turned pastor who knows the value of the working man, of the ordinary men who keep our world going.

So if someone should suggest that somehow Christians should not live ordinary lives, they are sorely mistaken; and I would suggest teetering on the brink of heresy. May we pray for them Orchard's prayer, "Teach us not to despise the life we are called to live..."

1 comment:

Valeria said...

Wonderful! Our sermon this morning touched on this.