Breaking Open the Ordinary

Homily, Breaking Open the Ordinary
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
Tequesta, FL

The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF

Today’s Lectionary Readings:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Ordinary Time

This past week my family took down our Christmas decorations. Yes, I know we’re a bit late, but you know traditionally the decorations stay up for all 12 days of Christmas and then come down on January 6th on the Feast of the Epiphany. And I had COVID on the Feast of the Epiphany so we’re still doing alright I think. 

Anyway, we took down our Christmas decorations, which to us always feels like such a solemn occasion. My wife, LauraAnn, hates it. The tree, the lights, the garland, the Christmas village, everything comes down and in her mind all that’s left is a very plain, boring, ordinary house. Anyone ever feel like that when the Christmas decorations come down?

Now me, being the religious nerd I am, am less bothered by it because the church season we move into after the Feast of the Epiphany is often called Ordinary Time (we have ordinary time after Pentecost and ordinary time after Epiphany), and if we’re in ordinary time, perhaps its not that bad for our home to look somewhat ordinary. 

Here in the Episcopal Church we tend to call this season, the Season After the Epiphany. Which is different than the season of Epiphany. Look at the front of your bulletin. In Lent we’ll say, “The Second Sunday in Lent.” In Easter we’ll say, “The Second Sunday of Easter,” but here in ordinary time we say, “The Second Sunday After the Epiphany.” So we’re living in the time after. The time after something special. The time after all the festivities. The time after the celebration. When everything is just ordinary again.

And yet this Season After the Epiphany does teach us something powerfully important. I believe that the Season After the Epiphany—teaches us that hidden within every ordinary thing is the sacred. Hidden within every ordinary thing is something extraordinary. Here in Ordinary Time week after week we hear stories of the ordinary breaking open to reveal something holy surprising. 

And so last week at the beginning of the season we heard the story of Jesus’ baptism and how an ordinary sky broke open with a booming voice from heaven saying, “This is my son and I love him.” And in a few weeks at the end of the season we’ll hear a story about Jesus on an ordinary mountain hiking trip with his buddies when his ordinary clothes suddenly shown extravagantly bright. And today we hear the story of another ordinary thing breaking open to reveal something extraordinary. 

An Ordinary Wedding

It’s the story of an ordinary wedding. We don’t know whose wedding and so perhaps it was one of those weddings you attend because you’re friends or coworkers with the bride but don’t really know anyone else. And it was in an ordinary location. Cana of Galilee. We know very little about the location. It’s not Jerusalem. It’s not Rome. Just Cana. And here at this ordinary wedding in Cana an ordinary problem takes place. Someone miscalculated when they ordered the wine. It’s an easy thing to do. It’s sort of a big problem when you have a seven day long wedding celebration like they often did in first century Israel, but not unheard of. 

And Jesus, at the urging of his mother, decides to intervene not in a big showy way—he doesn’t become the party entertainment—but quietly in the background asks the servants to take some ordinary jugs and fill them with ordinary water. Ah, but suddenly the ordinary has broken open to reveal the jugs are now full of wine! And not just any wine, but the best tasting wine of the party so far! In Jesus’ hands, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary.

Our Ordinary Lives

It’s a classic Bible story. One that many of us love and know well. And I think perhaps it resonates with us so much because of just how ordinary the aspects of the story are. It’s relatable. We know what weddings are like. We know what its like to run out of food or drink. We recognize the ordinary in this story. And many of us recognize the ordinary in this story because we ourselves think of ourselves as ordinary.

Anyone feel ordinary here? Maybe you feel like your life at the moment isn’t particularly significant or special. You do this. You do that. Pretty ordinary. You scroll down on Social Media and see how all these people are doing all these amazing things and maybe feel a bit left out? Maybe you even feel like you don’t have much to offer the world. Not because you have little or don’t want to offer the world something but because all the things you have to offer are simply ordinary. Nothing particularly special or important. Can ordinary make a difference? I certainly feel like that sometimes. In fact, personally I feel like that a lot.

Ordinary Servants

And it’s for that reason that my favorite characters in our story today are the servants, who by far are the most ordinary ones at the party. They’re not the ones getting married—it’s not their special day. They’re not the chief steward—the party planner. They’re not Jesus and his mother—part of the holy family. They’re not even Jesus’ disciples. They’re just servants doing their job and living their ordinary lives. And when the wine runs out, there’s not exactly anything they can do about it. It’s not their party. They didn’t buy the wine. They don’t have the money to go buy more. It seems like they don’t have much to offer at all. Just their service and some ordinary water and jugs. Butin Jesus’ hands the ordinary breaks open and something extraordinary happens. 

Offering the Ordinary

That’s what happens when we offer our ordinary lives in service to God’s kingdom. God loves the ordinary. God loves to take things that seem small and insignificant and turn them into the centerpiece— the location of transformation. The ordinary is exactly where God loves to show up. Everything that God does, God does with the ordinary. 

And like the servants in our story today, who, unlike the chief steward and bridegroom, witnessed and participated in a miracle, we are being invited to participate in the breaking open of the ordinary. We are being invited to offer our ordinary lives and our ordinary service to the hands of Jesus where it can become the means for continued joy and celebration at the wedding feast of God’s mission in the world. Whatever you have to offer, however ordinary or mundane, in Jesus’ hands holds the  capacity for something extraordinary. 

Father Doug and I like to call this ‘practicing the incarnation’. Whenever we offer the very ordinary material aspects of our lives to God and see it as a vessel for God’s presence, we are practicing the incarnation. The incarnation becomes for us not some one-time historical event of Jesus coming to earth as a baby, but a moment-by-moment reality when every ordinary things is pregnant with possibility—when every ordinary thing becomes a location for an act of God. Practicing the incarnation is when ordinary bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. Practicing the incarnation is when a walk on the beach becomes a prayer. Practicing incarnation is when grocery shopping becomes God giving us our daily bread. It’s all about seeing God at work in the ordinary. 

So this morning if you are feeling ordinary. If you’re feeling like you have nothing special to offer. If you’re feeling like that empty house after all the decorations have come down. I invite you to offer yourself anyway—take the leap. Open your eyes and see what God can do with the ordinary.

The season of ordinary time is every bit a time for celebration as Christmas. For it is in the ordinary that God loves to act in the world. Amen.