Salvation is in the ordinary l Worship
Last updated 9/12/2019 at 12:32pm
Editor’s Note: Father Bill Mobley was a Worship columnist for The Beacon in the early- and mid-1990s until his death in 1996. A few times this year, we will be revisiting his columns. This column ran in 1993.
Jesus most often used ordinary stories about family life to make a point about human beings and salvation. Usually there is also the implication that salvation is offered to us ordinary folk in extraordinary ways.
Like an ordinary American family. Let’s say the father has had a bad day at work and heads home angry and depressed. Meanwhile, mother and child have had a glorious day at the Mukilteo State Park and can’t wait to tell Daddy. When the door opens and joy meets anger, things can go either way.
What if anger and hurt are so severe that he does not want to hear any good news – especially about parks? His family happiness is an intrusion on his own bad mood. His own life has been disturbed, so he will disturb other lives – partly because his misery wants company, partly because he wants to get even (but with the wrong people!).
The joyful environment is destroyed; fear and hostility take its place. And the family has learned something about joy and anger they may never forget. It is recorded in their memory banks. They have learned that an angry man is to be feared, that joy is not as important as rage, that power matters more than happiness.
But the whole incident could go a different way. What if their joy is so contagious and irresistible that Dad’s anger fades as soon as he sees the joy? He wants to pout, but he is sensitive to its influence, so he surrenders to the goodness.
The family learns things from this encounter that they may never forget. They learn that joy is stronger than anger, that anger can be cushioned by contentment, that exuberance is not out of order, and that gloom must justify itself. The family may reflect on the fact that the father is not the determining factor, that women have enormous resources to control the family environment.
Salvation happens in ordinary things or it doesn’t happen at all. But, either way, it has extraordinary effects. If the angry mood prevails, the children may carry it into their play and be aggressive; people phoning the house will be answered curtly; a planned visit to a lonely relative will be called off because no one now feels like it. There is no salvation there.
But if joy prevails, then there is an atmosphere where generosity flourishes and hostilities are dispelled. The family will favor mercy and forgiveness over vengeance. Salvation comes to that house.
But it does not stop there. Families take their joy or anger into their school, their workplaces, their neighborhoods. That is why some school atmospheres are relaxed while others are rigid, why neighborhoods are friendly or dangerous. All of them contain seeds of salvation or destruction.
Each of us works out our happiness and salvation in everyday ways. The universal atmosphere of good or evil is an accumulation of ordinary deeds. That is an awesome fact.
When Jesus spoke of life and its meaning, he focused on lost coins and straying sheep, a catch of fish, a widow’s small gift, sparrows and the lilies of the field, a child who ran to his arms, a woman who anointed his feet. There is an exquisite simplicity here: Everything counts; nothing is wasted.
When Jesus spoke of the end of the world and the value of our lives, he said judgment would be ordinary. It would concern simple things, like what parents do every day: Feeding hungry children, clothing and housing them. Jesus never suggested that his father will be impressed with heroic deeds or miraculous successes. On the last day of the world, he will remind us that human life is made up of earthly events that end up in heaven.
We should have known that from the way Jesus chose to come to us. A teenager’s womb housed him, and embryonic Baptist greeted him with kicking joy, the glauconic eyes of ancient Simeon were the first to recognize the savior.
Grace is everywhere. We are all full of grace. If that is true, how do we grow in grace? By allowing, inviting, begging grace to work its wonders through us. By being who we are: Simple, wonderful, ordinary people who have chosen to be the avenue of God’s love. How did we ever get the notion that grace is some extraordinary thing? Salvation is as common and humble as fingernail clippings.