This past week many of us heard in the news the story of an ordinary man used in an extraordinary situation. Zac Edwards and his bride Cindy were lingering for a bit after their seaside wedding taking photographs when they heard a cry for help 50 yards out. A young man had gotten a little too far out in the surf and was now fighting for his life in a rip tide. Lifeguards at the beach were busy saving other swimmers, so even though this was their wedding, Cindy urged Zac to respond. Zac, a member of the Coast Guard, tore off his shirt, grabbed a boogie board from a beach goer close at hand, and ran into the surf. He reached the young man, got him up on the board, and started for shore. At one point Zac admits, he became a little panicked when he realized the current was strong and they weren't making much headway. But his efforts were rewarded. Lifeguards arrived on Jet Skis and got both men to safety. Though the family of the young man (and Zac's new wife) credit Zac as a hero, Zac says he was just an ordinary guy doing what what he could to help. Though he wasn't the lifeguard on duty that day...just an "ordinary" bystander...God used Zac's knowledge and physical ability to make a difference that the family of this young man will never forget.
The Bible is full of real-life stories of ordinary people being used by God to accomplish extraordinary things. (I don't have to mention David, the king who started out as a shepherd boy, the youngest of his father's household...or Ruth, the woman who had lost her father-in-law, brother-in-law, and husband, but would, by God's hand, become an icon of faithfulness and second chances...or Esther who started out as an orphan, but would become a great leader to save her people. You've read lists like that before.) What we all know....but often forget...is that in the Gospel of John, things are exactly the opposite when we are introduced to Jesus. Jesus, the extraordinary Son of God, becomes "ordinary." Jesus has come from God's side but enters and shares human experience in such a way that to many he was merely "the son of Joseph" (6:42). Educated types of Jesus' day looked down on Him as an "unlearned" man (John 7:15). The biggest scandal of all, of course, is that such a man who claimed to be One with the Father would be executed as a common criminal and evil-doer. But it is in this extraordinary One who became ordinary for us that God makes the best and most lasting connection with humanity that could ever be made. Jesus, the extraordinary Son of God who became so ordinary (no, even less than "ordinary") as a condemned criminal, died and rose again. The cross where he died and sacrificed all would never again be just a symbol of failure...but of victory. And so, Jesus is the reason why the Biblical stories will always be better than superhero tales. God, out of love for a fallen world, gave up even God's own Son. The ordinary (and even less than ordinary) people of God have been used for truly extraordinary purposes ever since.
You don't have to be (and maybe shouldn't ever attempt to be) a hero like Zac Edwards to be extraordinary! In the weeks ahead we will be talking about how opportunities to serve at Trinity are opportunities to invite God to use us for God's own extraordinary purpose to rescue a world that yearns for something more than the ordinary. This Sunday I look forward to sharing with you how sometimes the most ordinary tasks among us have profound consequences for good. But perhaps there are some of you reading this who are wondering what you are able to do to serve or make a difference. I invite you to join us on September 9 as we introduce you to various forms of service options that are available to you...no matter how untrained or "ordinary" you might be! May our community be blessed by the Lord of the cross as we look for ways that each and every one of us, in ordinary--and extraordinary ways--might be used by our loving Savior to rescue a dying world.