In the Gospel passage today, Jesus shows how his project of overturning the status quo and the social structure as we know it is embedded in the most ordinary and commonplace of activities—in this case, eating and drinking. We know the growing anger of the powerful who are being called out for their prideful hopes that the seats they take at a dinner table will show them to be important, high-status, and the envy of all. But in addition to the proposed upheaval of society is another beautiful lesson: God is present in the most ordinary of activities and moments, which is why they are worthy of our attention and praise. One of my seminary professors would begin class with the words, “Let us take a moment to remember that we are always in God’s Holy Presence.”
I have loved reading the prayers of the ordinary that come from the Christian Celtic tradition, known for its homey and down-to-earth focus. Esther de Waal collected these prayers in her book Every Earthly Blessing (Fount Paperbacks, 1991). These prayers sanctify the most mundane human activities:
A woman starts the day by splashing her face with three palmfuls of water in the name of the Trinity.
The palmful of the God of Life
The palmful of the Christ of Love
The palmful of the Spirit of Peace
As she makes her bed she had made this prayerful invocation to the Trinity and a prayerful reflection on the span of life itself.
I make this bed
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
In the name of the night we were conceived,
In the name of the night we were born,
In the name of the night we were baptized,
In the name of each night, each day,
Each angel that is in the heavens.
De Waal continues with prayers for stoking the fire that cooks and warms the home, for the porridge placed on the table, and thanks for the pail of milk and the cow and the hand that does the milking:
Bless O God each teat
Bless O God each finger;
Bless Thou each drop
That goes into my pitcher, O God.
As we move between the final hot days of summer and the beginning of cool mornings and evenings of autumn, look for the small and ordinary in your life and make an intention to give blessings and prayer. We are immersed in God as fish are immersed in water; with quiet awareness and intention the most banal becomes sublime.