The Miraculous in the Everyday

In this Sunday’s 10:00 a.m. worship service we will commission our Middle School Mission Team to New York City (July 8-12) and our High School Mission Team to Mexico City (July 22-28). I am reminded of a brief prayer by John Phillip Newell as our teams prepare to disembark:

Bless to me O God
My soul that comes from on high.
Bless to me O God
My body that is of earth.
Bless to me O God
Each thing my eye sees
Each sound my ear hears.
Bless to me O God
Each scent that goes to my nostrils
Each taste that goes to my lips
Each ray that guides my way.

This short petition is grounded in a belief that there is a deep-seated connection between the heavenly and the earthly. It evokes a holistic vision of human life in which both the soul from on high and the body that is of earth find their source and fulfillment in God. 

The bodily senses - sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch - are chaperones that guide prayerful hearts into common and everyday experiences, where the miraculous awaits discovery. Travelers on life’s road are invited to catch a glimpse of the divine lurking in every moment. A promise underlies the prayer; the blessings we seek from God are present on busy streets and in towering sanctuaries. They are tangible at soup kitchens and around communion tables, visible at home and abroad.

Short-term mission trips provide an opportunity for people of all ages to live out their faith in tangible and transformative ways. Participants encounter new expressions of life and faith. Cross-cultural experiences help to put a face on social ills that once seemed distant or theoretical. It is important to have lofty goals for missional endeavors, but it may come as a surprise that participants often recall most fondly the last-minute schedule changes, corny jokes and late-night conversations with new friends. They reflect upon the common experience of sleeping in a new place, tending sore muscles, and resting exhausted hands. It is the commonplace and the embodied experiences that have the most lasting impact.

I invite all of you to incorporate Newell’s simple prayer into your daily practice over the next several weeks. Pray that our mission teams might be guided by their bodily experiences into a deeper understanding of God’s presence and power in their lives. Pray for yourselves, that you too might find new opportunities to encounter the miraculous in the everyday.