Saturday, February 08, 2014

Discipling the Ordinary

Discipling the Ordinary

Steve is from Barbados, where one of the main soup ingredients is flour or cornmeal dumplings. One day, Betty, who is also from Barbados, invited some friends – Steve included - to her home for dinner, where, of course, soup was on the menu. The soup was filled with chunks of potatoes and vegetables, but dumplings were nowhere in sight. The moment Steve noticed the lack of dumplings he complained profusely to Betty and then teasingly questioned her ethnicity.  To Steve, soup was incomplete without dumplings.  To his way of thinking, dumplings in soup were as important as the water.  Yet, no one would call a dry meal soup; likewise, no one would call just hot water soup.  Water along with other ingredients must be present to make soup. 

In relation to water – and this same principle holds true at any level - it is composed of three atoms: two hydrogen and one oxygen. Important to note, is that neither element itself becomes water neither do both elements stop being hydrogen and oxygen. Even though their chemical properties remain the same when these components bind together, interestingly, they do act differently when separate (unbound).

Now, since water dissolves other substances, it is great for soup. It is not that water becomes whatever it dissolves, but rather that the water molecules surround the other molecules. Let’s consider salted water. Although, the two molecules are combined they still retain its separate/individual properties: salt remains salt and water remains as water. Imagine a red balloon surrounded by white balloons; where the red balloon is the salt molecule and the white balloons are the water molecules. Since salted water requires both water and salt, we can conclude that both water and salt must be present to form salted water. 

What about juice, then? Typically, juice comes from fruit and fruit is far more complex than salt.  Therefore, it is not just one molecule but a series of molecules of different substances. Take grape juice, for example: freshly expressed grape juice consists of 70 to 80% water and many dissolved solids. These soluble solids include numerous organic and inorganic compounds. The water molecules surround all these chemicals from the fruit. This implies that water and the solids from the fruit must be present to form juice. 

It is then obvious that water does not transform into grape juice (bear with me).  Yet, when we read the story in John 2:1–11 it seems to say exactly that. Let us read the passage,

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

 How did Christ make juice appear where only water was present?  Remember, we have concluded that for water to form grape juice there had to be grapes present.  And, according to the story there were no grapes present.  So, this is definitely a miracle.  Christ must have made grapes appear where there were none.  Christ spoke and something happened: what was not present appeared by the Word of God (Psalm 33: 9; Hebrew 11: 6).  Yes, Christ was not recorded saying, ‘let there be grape juice.”  But, we can safely assume that the thought did cross His mind in prayer. 

 In the context of our lesson, we could also state that compared to juice, water is ordinary in that it is everywhere and it has a more simple molecular structure.  This would make juice not ordinary, but as our lesson would call it: extraordinary.   The idea is to equate ordinary people with water and extraordinary people with grape juice.  The implication is that grape juice (extraordinary) people are former (ordinary) water people transformed by the grace - or creative power - of God into grape juice people.  Jesus specialized in transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.  That was, whether Jesus was changing water into unfermented wine from the fruit of the vine, or turning fishermen into preachers (Mark 1:16–18),

Now, what transformed the water into grape juice was the Word of God.  In the same way, what transforms ordinary people into extraordinary people is also the Word of God.  The Word sanctifies (John 17:17). It is through the hearing of the Word that faith is produced (Romans 10:17) as well as through the believing of the Word that righteousness is produced (Romans 4: 3). Peter says that we are, “…born again … by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).  For the ordinary to become extraordinary the Word must be present and abiding in the believer. Ellen White gives insight into how the Word of God works in us to transform us from ordinary to extraordinary. Let us read the passage,

             “In the Bible the will of God is revealed. The truths of the Word of God are the utterances of the Most High. He who makes these truths a part of his life becomes in every sense a new creature. He is not given new mental powers, but the darkness that through ignorance and sin has clouded the understanding is removed. The words, “A new heart also will I give you,” mean, “A new mind will I give you.” A change of heart is always attended by a clear conviction of Christian duty, an understanding of truth. He who gives the Scriptures close, prayerful attention will gain clear comprehension and sound judgment, as if in turning to God he had reached a higher plane of intelligence. The Bible contains the principles that lie at the foundation of all true greatness, all true prosperity, whether for the individual or for the nation” (Our Father Cares, 41).

Are we allowing the Word to abide in us and transform us into extraordinary - grape juice -Christians?