I smelt freshly cut grass the other day. I hadn't smelt freshly cut grass in a long time, but I was walking and all of a sudden I got the scent of freshly cut grass. At that same moment a flood of memories, experiences, and emotions rushed upon me. I became a bit nostalgic. I longed for the Spring and Summer. I became expectant that the season were about to change. I was excited about the possibilities of the future. It was an ordinary moment. Nothing special about it, no frills, no fuss, yet it had an extraordinary impact on me at that particular moment.
I am sure we can all point to those moments in our life, those ordinary little experiences that have outsized effects. Whether it be a song, a food, a smell, or an image, we can all point to those moments. Sometimes we don’t realize what that thing is until we experience it. This is why places like Disney World pump smells into their streets, so that you associate that smell with that experience into the future (I dare you to smell cotton candy being made and not think about going to the State or County Fair). There is something extraordinary about these ordinary things.
The funny thing is that so often we think that we need to manufacture extraordinary moments in our life, so that we will remember them. We try hard to produce those special moments, moments that we will remember and never forget. Yet inevitably, we forget them. I think this is why so often in the Scriptures we see the Lord command the remembrance of an event with some ordinary means. Lay a stone here. Eat this meal there. Blow this horn at this time. Read this text. All very ordinary, but the Lord knows us and in his hands they have an extraordinary impact.
All too often in the church we think we need more frill and fuss, yet as the Lord Jesus was ascending to the right hand of the Father we hear him say:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. - Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus has all authority and with it authorizes his church to do two very ordinary things: preach the word (teaching them to observe) and administer the sacraments (baptizing them). These don't seem glamorous. In fact, they are down right ordinary. How are these ordinary things going to work? Well, Jesus tells us.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
They work because Jesus is with us. He uses them. He blesses them. Through the work of the Spirit, Jesus shows up when the Gospel is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. These are ordinary things that have extraordinary effects.
It is easy to think we need to do more, we need more glitz and pizzazz to ‘attract’ people to the Gospel. However, what is amazing is that in our every day life, it is often the ordinary that produces an extraordinary impact. This same thing is true in the spiritual life. The Lord knows us and he knows that what is shiny and new will fade, but those ordinary means have the deepest impact.
So when we gather on Sunday, we gather to hear the word preached and to receive the sacraments. As we listen to the word, the Lord uses this very ordinary experience for an extraordinary end, beholding his glory (2 Cor 4:6). As we partake in the sacraments, we remember and believe. Ordinary things (words, bread, wine, water) are used for an extraordinary end. It isn’t fog machines and strobe lights, but in these ordinary means we are ushered into the heavenlies and we behold the glory of God. These are extraordinarily ordinary means that ordinarily are extraordinary.