God Sightings

When I was in youth group we would sometimes go on retreats to the NC coast where the ELCA had a beachfront retreat center. While we were there we would do crafts, play games, engage in service projects with the local community, and at the end of the night we would gather on the deck for a devotional time called candle power. Carol, our youth director, would go around the circle and ask us a very simple question: “Where did you see God today?” As we shared our God Sightings what we learned was that God is present not just in life altering burning bush moments, but in mustard seed moments as well. Moments that are so ordinary that unless we pause to examine them, we run the risk of missing God’s presence in them. 

In our gospel text this morning we again encounter Jesus as he continues to share glimpses into what God’s beloved kin-dom is like. Instead of just one parable, however we get 5 back to back where the kin-dom of God is described as a tiny seed, a woman baking bread, a person who stumbles upon treasure in a field, a merchant who finds a pearl, and a net cast out into the sea. It’s not easy at first to see why Jesus is stringing all of these seemingly unrelated parables together. But in reading through them a couple of times was just how ordinary they are. Tiny seeds, bread and fishing nets don’t sound like a whole lot, yet Jesus declares that the extraordinary love of God’s kin-dom is found in the sheer ordinariness of these human experiences, that through these ordinary moments lives are changed forever. 

I remember baking bread for the first time. I was in 5th grade and we were gathered for a First Communion class. I remember vividly adding the water and flour and other ingredients together and mixing them together with my hands. It was the bread that would be served when we had our first communion that Maundy Thursday. Since that time I’ve used that same recipe for a sacraments project at Wake Div. where I sourced the ingredients locally and learned the stories of those who made them. I baked it for chapel services for the two years I worked as the sacristan there. I’ve preached sermons while kneading bread dough. Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” While researching this text a friend learned that a measure of flour is equivalent to about 16 pounds, which means that 3 measures is 48! Enough to feed bread to easily 100 people. But do you know how much yeast is needed to leaven that much bread? It could fit in the palm of your hand. Jesus declares that even a little faith, faith the size of a mustard seed, is enough to inspire change. 

In her book An Altar in the World Barbara Brown Taylor describes finding God beyond the walls of the church in this way:  “What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.” 

Where have you seen God in the ordinary this week? [Open Space for Sharing]

I posed this same question on social media earlier this week and was moved to tears by friends who shared that they saw God in a card from a friend that came in the mail, in the nature around them, in work testing covid patients or being a chaplain at a hospital. In communities who reached out in difficult times and for improved health of loved ones. God was seen this week in a client who had a breakthrough with a therapist friend and is on the road to healing…God was found in writing a letter when faith was breaking and found again in baking bread. I saw God this week in a friend sharing his new baby’s footprints on the hospital birth announcement. In Wednesday night’s thunderstorm. In being able to see a friend in Colorado get ordained. Like the parables Jesus shared these God sightings are all ordinary moments in which the extraordinary love of God is revealed. 

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