On Ordinary Canvas

Christ Carrying the Cross, early sketch by Rembrandt mid 1630s. Pen and wash, 14.5 x 26.0 cm. Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin.

“This portrait of Christ is to be painted again on the ordinary canvas of our lives.”                                    John Howard Yoder

Portraits of Christ are many and varied.  A review of the early works of an artist like Rembrandt gives us an interesting glimpse into his spiritual journey as Christ’s life intersected it. No doubt it is with an artist’s insight that Yoder recognizes the best medium on which to paint the extraordinary beauty of Jesus is the very ordinariness of our lives – for it is not the canvas that is the object of viewing… it is the art itself.

In this theme, Julie Canlis writes a remarkable little booklet titled, “A Theology of the Ordinary.” She notes at long last a cultural “weariness with the cult of extraordinariness.” She observes,

The Spirit’s primary ministry in us is an identity-forming ministry, calling us to trust in God’s fatherly goodness and allowing us to cease from perfectionism and performance. All the other miraculous things that the Spirit can and does work in us pale in comparison to this!…

No one wants to see someone on reality TV minding his own business, taking naps when he/she needs to, commuting to a boring job that pays the bills and keeps children in school, loving his neighbour, and helping manage the church finances. Ordinary life is… well, another synonym for mediocre? This is a suspicion lurking both within and without the church…

When we live our lives as ordinary persons, we become an extraordinary picture to the world of what we were intended to be: God and humanity united together in heart and purpose.

With this mind, it is helpful to see how The Message crafts the translation of Romans 12:1:

So here’s what I want you to do. God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

May this be the portrait of Christ painted on the ordinary canvas of our lives.

For more see “An Ordinary Grace,” or “To the God of my Daily Routine.”

About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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