Gordon College Chapel, Fall 2010
“Holiness” is one of those words that seem to have fallen out of fashion even in Christian circles. Seldom do we speak about holiness: what it is, its presence or absence from a given situation, how to pursue it. Perhaps it is not seeker-friendly enough to fit comfortably in our daily conversation. I must admit that derogatory phrases like ‘holy-roller’ or ‘holier-than-thou’ come to mind pretty quickly when I hear the term.
"Holiness" also stirs up for me memories of my Grandparents. My Grandfather was a Wesleyan-Methodist preacher and together he and my Grandma spent their entire lives caring for small congregations of Jesus-followers in rural Michigan; faithful ones who were heirs of the Holiness Movement. As a young boy, I would spend a week or two of summer vacation in their home in towns like Cold Water or Lake Odessa, MI, or in their little cabin on the grounds of the Hastings Camp Meeting. I remember peering over the back of a living room sofa as my brother and I watched church members deliver bags of string beans and sweet corn to the steps of the parsonage. There was a certain reserve about those Christian, Michigan farmers; somehow young boys knew not to misbehave, use course language, or be disrespectful when the neighbors came to call. At the time, I imagined that holiness in that context had a lot to do with what one did not do: swear, drink, dance, watch movies, or smoke. I’ve since come to see, however, that it also had a lot to do with the normal routines that filled the lives of those rural believers: doing chores around the house, making pies, caring for ill or elderly neighbors, playing dominoes, tending to the animals, and gathering together as a family.
A tendency persists to imagine that holiness is something removed from the affairs of daily life; something far removed from the duties, desires, dirt, and dealings of domestic affairs. Such is not the biblical notion of holiness. Rather than being items or activities away from where we typically live, holiness has to do with the direction and purpose of the tasks and responsibilities that make up the moments of ordinary lives. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Romans 12:1 captures it nicely: “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."
This fall we will take up the theme of Everyday Holiness in chapel. We will look to scripture and to the lives of one another as we seek to hear what the Spirit has to say to us about placing our "everyday, ordinary lives" before God.
“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. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”