CS Lewis, correcting the idea that desires are inherently sinful, once said that the problem with our desires is not that they are too strong, but too weak. He said, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory, pg. 26) Our desires are not wrong, they are just misguided. They are never satisfied because they are ignorant of all that God has offered to us in Christ Jesus.
I completely agree with Lewis on this point. However, it does strike me that, though great and glorious are the works and the promises of God, they are not always offered in ways that we find great and glorious. The promise of the “holiday at sea” comes in a ratty, brown envelope. And that is not very appealing. If we are going to get a promise from God, we assume it should be accompanied by angels and fireworks! But God has not seen fit to deliver His gifts in this way. The glorious, almighty, everlasting God, before whom the angels cower, and nations fall has decided to show up to work in the mundane and every day. And that is far from pleasing to us.
I was struck by this the other day when working through the account of Jacob’s flight from his murderous brother Esau. (Genesis 28-29) Jacob, you will recall, had deceptively taken the family birthright and blessing from Esau. His mother Rebekah catches wind that Esau is going to kill Jacob for this, so she sends him to her brother Laban for safety and to find a wife. On his way there, Jacob has a vision of God! An angelic staircase appears to Jacob while he sleeps, and there he encounters the pre-incarnate Christ who renews all the promises made to Abraham and Isaac. A vision of God! The appearance of angels! A stairway to heaven! There is no doubt why such an account is recorded in Israel’s history. It is all glory and beauty and splendor!
Then we come to the next chapter in Genesis, where Jacob comes to the shepherds working in the region of Haran. Here, the Holy Spirit records an incredibly mundane back-and-forth between Jacob and the shepherds concerning where they are, the nature of their work, and what they were doing as they awaited the time to water their flocks. He then sees Rachel, his cousin, and rejoices in having finally arrived at his destination. Not really much to get excited about here. Luther goes so far as to call this record “foolish and carnal.” That is, in the eyes of a glory-hungry world, this looks pretty unimpressive.
It is my guess that many of you have heard the story of “Jacob’s Ladder” but have spent precious little time on the conversation between Jacob and the shepherds. Why is that? Because there is nothing thrilling or exciting there. It is, well, mundane. Boring. It isn’t very sexy. And yet, God is just as present and at work in that account as He is in the account of the vision. He is hidden in the shepherds who pointed Jacob to Rachel. He is working through the normal avenues of this world to accomplish his purposes.
But that’s not what we want to hear. We want a God who is going to rescue us from the mundane and the boring. We want a God who will take us out of this world, entertain and thrill us. We want visions, not scriptures. We want prophets, not pastors. We want angels and not neighbors. We want experiences, not baptism. To use what has now become a cliché, we want glory, and not the cross.
But God won’t do what we want. He, instead, comes as a Jewish rabbi to be crucified. “God chose what is foolish in world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,” promises St. Paul. (I Cor. 1:27) The God who gloriously makes the promise to Jacob in a glorious vision carries out his plan for Jacob in a normal nine-to-five job under a rather heartless boss. But God is no less there working for, through, and in Jacob, fulfilling his promise to bring forth the Savior. (Genesis 3:16, Galatians 3:16)
That God chooses to show up in the regular, mundane flesh of Jesus changes the way we view the world. It is this work of God in creation, literally enfleshed, incarnated, that puts the creation back to rights. He justifies it. And, He helps us see it for what it is – His arena to work and play and love – even if we are not all the impressed by it. In this creation, God has given you gifts that may look mundane, but provide you with all you need for life and salvation! You don’t need angels to appear to you to see God more clearly, God has located Himself in your neighbors to be loved. You don’t need voices from heaven, God has given you the Scriptures, so you know what He has to say. You don’t need a prophet to give you spiritual insight into the future, you have been given a pastor to deliver God’s Word to you, to forgive your sins, and promise you Christ. You don’t need a glorious revelation, you have been given a crucified and risen Lord. How gloriously mundane!