Does Everything in This World Point to the Next?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.
After wisely and thoughtfully writing 1,400 of these High Calling Reflections, my good friend, Mark Roberts, has passed the baton to me. A brief version of my bio is printed below, but I thought that it might be helpful if I added a few details to orient you to why I do what I do. People say that when I speak or write I tell a lot of stories, and it’s true that I do. I’ve spent most of my life feeling somewhat embarrassed about this, as though telling stories was a substitute for content. So I was relieved to read Peter Gruber’s comment in Psychology Today, “Telling stories is not just the oldest form of entertainment, it’s the highest form of consciousness … ”
Just for the sake of clarity, I’ve come to think of myself as more of an illustrator than a storyteller. Garrison Keillor is a story teller. A story is self-contained. It points to itself. But an illustration, like a parable, points beyond itself to another truth. My hope in writing these reflections is to use the ordinary things of this world to point to the extraordinary things of God’s greater world that exists all around us. As Jesus was fond of saying, “If when I tell you earthly things you do not believe, how will you believe when I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:12). That’s why “Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing” (Matthew 13:34).
I am working on the conviction that absolutely everything that exists in this world is designed to point us to the next world. If we can train ourselves to recognize the ordinary and everyday events of our lives as signs of God’s everyday and anything-but-ordinary work in our lives, then we will truly be experiencing The High Calling.
I think a lot about imitating Jesus and that got me curious about tracing paper. After a little research I discovered that the “white” we see in ordinary paper is really tiny bubbles of air. So to make tracing paper, the pulp is beaten and burned until the bubbles are gone. The paper becomes transparent—and more than that, it is stronger and more stain resistant. My hope is that these reflections will make the life you live, with all of its bubbling joys and sorrows, more transparent to the presence of Jesus.
So tomorrow we’ll begin. We’ll wade out into the waters of Jesus’ luminous Sermon on the Mount as it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew to see what we can see.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What do you think of the title of this reflection? Do you believe everything in this world points to the next? When has God shown up unexpectedly in your daily life?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me learn to see you in everything around me. You are there, of course, whether I see you or not, but what an encouragement it is when I realize your presence. I know what we do matters, and I take comfort that my daily activities can be small acts of worship. Remind me that our High Calling is not to work for you but to live as your faithful children. Thank you for loving me and all of the readers of The High Calling, and help us live in a way that shows our gratitude. Amen.
P.S. from Mark Roberts: Now that I’m focusing my full attention on my commentary on Ephesians, I’m delighted to hand the pen (well, the keyboard) to my friend, the Rev. Dr. Dave Peterson. He will provide biblically-based, open-hearted reflections under the editorial leadership of Marcus Goodyear. As a subscriber with you, I look forward to being guided by Dave as he helps us seek to live each day as a disciple of Jesus.
Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren. Send a note to Dave.
God at Work
Where is God? Does he inhabit only the sanctuaries and monasteries and seminaries of the earth? Or, is God with you in your cubicle, your classroom, your kitchen, your conference call? What about the carpool lane? And if God is there with you, what does that mean? Join us for this series, God at Work, where we explore what it means that God is not only at work in you, but also, quite literally, with you. It may be difficult to see the Kingdom of God through the deadlines and reports and meetings and evaluations and budgets, but be encouraged: he is there. Together, let’s find him in the ordinary places you work, and let’s consider how his presence makes a difference for good.