One of God’s favorite tricks seems to be the hiding of certain Kingdom of Heaven treasures in unsuspecting places. Insert extraordinary objects into ordinary surroundings and you are bound to create surprise. It’s a play right out of the playbook of those who hide jewelry in their underwear drawer.
I once hid a computer back-up drive behind the paint cans in my garage until I realized it gets cold out there in February.
Jesus speaks of yeast buried in a bowl of flour, a mustard seed small enough to be lost in the spice cupboard’s dust, and a valuable coin planted in the middle of a barley field. We listen closely to his words, intrigued by the mystery of the odd juxtaposition of extraordinary to ordinary.
I recently came across a poem by Yehuda Amichai, a longtime Jerusalemite who loved to write about his city. In this excerpt from “Tourists,” Amichai draws attention to where we place our focal energies. You get the impression we easily overlook important things.
“Once I sat on the steps by a gate at David’s Tower. I placed my two heavy baskets at my side. A group of tourists was standing around their guide and I became their target marker. ‘You see that man with the baskets? Just right of his head there’s an arch from the Roman period. Just right of his head.’ ‘But he’s moving, he’s moving!’ I said to myself: ‘Redemption will come only if their guide tells them, ‘You see that arch from the Roman period? It’s not important: but next to it, left, down, and a bit, there sits a man who’s bought fruit and vegetables for his family.’”
I don’t know what drives your fancy in matters of faith, or how your eyes perceive the world on an average day. But amidst all of the things you think you’re supposed to see, or revere, or swear loyalty to, do not miss the ordinary people just trying to make life work. Many of them are aiming to make life better for someone else as well.
They’re usually just left, and down a bit, from the sale sign that has your eye. Or, they’re to the right and just up the sidewalk from the new office building rising up next to McDonalds. Look. There’s a man there right now. He’s got two grocery bags in hand, heading for his car to go home and get supper on the table for his parents. They’re not doing so well.
That man is a target marker. You bet he is. A perfect one for including in whatever prayers you offer at the end of today.
Peter W. Marty, senior pastor