David McCullough is an American author and historian. He is a two-time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner for his historical works 1776, John Adams, and Truman. His most recent work, The Wright Brothers, is an engaging study of the birth of aviation from the viewpoint of its two most famous contributors, Orville and Wilbur Wright, and their family. Of their amazing accomplishments and focused dedication to powered manned flight, their nephew stated years later, “History was happening in those moments, there in their shop and in their home, but I didn’t realize it at the time because it seemed so commonplace.”
I like this quote because it says something to me about the way God works in our world and our purpose. Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost wrote in The Shaping of Things to Come, “The fact that God became flesh and blood and lived in the neighborhood for thirty years, and nobody noticed, say’s a lot about how God works.” This is a powerful image of the purpose, pace, and intentionality of God. Jesus worked within the everyday context of his setting. He engaged in the commonplace. He invited the working class and the religious elite to his table to break bread with him. He walked from town to town with his followers, talking about the fields he saw along the way. He observed and gave advice to fisherman. He invited himself to dinner. He went to synagogues and read scripture and taught.
Yet, in the midst of the ordinary, something very extraordinary was taking place. Something similar to the Wright brothers’ nephew’s realization dawned on those around Jesus. “History was happening in those moments … [but] it seemed so commonplace.” Jesus took bread and transformed our understanding of community and sacrifice. Jesus used the dinner table to demonstrate hospitality, forgiveness, and community. Jesus pointed to the ordinary field and revealed how it was like the kingdom of heaven. Jesus took the common job of fishing and turned it into a powerful reality of God’s presence on earth. Jesus took the reading of scripture and made it a reading about himself.
God has a purpose for the world around us. But this purpose is not revealed in dramatic ways. Instead, God reveals himself in the slow and ordinarily commonplace avenues of reality. If we are not careful we will be like the Wright brothers’ nephew, only realizing it after it is all over and done.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How is God moving in the commonplace all around you? Do you overlook the simple, everyday elements of life where God is moving?
PRAYER: Lord, open our eyes that we may see you in the commonplace. Help us to see you in the breaking of bread around our dinner tables, in the voice of good council from friends, in the laughter of children, in the vocations we pursue, and in scriptures that shape our lives. Help us not to miss your extraordinary presence in the commonplace. Amen.