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Ordinary people: Amazing treasure

July 25, 2015

I love visiting museums and especially the British Museum. I don’t like the thought of missing a great exhibition so I now get emails from the British Museum telling me what is coming up. Even when there’s nothing new that catches my eye I still love going. I try to drop in whenever I’m in London. There’s always something that I’ve missed and old favourites to revisit. There are pieces of real beauty like gold ornaments thousands of years old that could have been made yesterday but many of the archaeological finds that are the greatest treasures are from ordinary people. They say nothing about kings and rulers, they tell us about the lives of the ordinary people.

I particularly love it when I can touch a piece of history at one of the museum’s ‘Hands on Desks‘. One such highlight was a piece of ancient British pottery. It was plain and heavy by today’s standards. It was just a fragment of a jug. But holding it sent shivers down my spine. This little pot was a direct link to an ordinary farming family, getting on with their lives in this country over 1,000 years ago. It spoke of a way of life not entirely different from mine. I felt connected with those long gone people by a common bond of humanity. God had given the same breath of life to them and their potter as he gives to me. That pot was at least as precious as all the gold and jewellery in that museum – I just needed to get past the human obsession with wealth to see its true worth.

That pot was a link to the lives of ordinary people – but no less precious for that. Like that pot, I’m not rich or famous. I’m not a celebrity (thank God!), I won’t be recorded in history books. But I know that I’m loved and valued by my creator God. Despite all appearances to the contrary, I know that I am precious to God: Not because I work hard and shine like gold; no I’m precious simply because God wants it that way. It’s like Paul says, “We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4.7).

If you are anything like me it’s a real comfort to know that I’m loved and precious simply because of who God is:. I can’t earn it, it just is. I can though let God’s generosity inspire me. It’s like good old James whom we remember today. He and his brother John were just fishermen – very plain pots! They weren’t wealthy or powerful but Jesus saw their worth and called them to be among his first followers.

James came from very humble beginnings to be one of Jesus’ special 12. Famously, James and John were pushed forward by their mother to be the most important of Jesus’ followers when she said asked Jesus to, “‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom’” (Matthew 20.21). Their mother had completely misunderstood the sort of king Jesus was. Her sons were already special and precious. There was nothing more that Jesus could give them that they were not going to inherit anyway. I can’t be too hard on her though, because no one seems to have grasped the sort of treasure Jesus was offering; not until he showed the world through his death.

Like the 12, and the very lowly early Christians, we too have an immense treasure in very earthly vessels. Every time I walk around, this very ordinary human body is a vessel for something very precious: Not my life, but the life of the Spirit in me. Every time you or any one of Jesus’ followers walks around it’s true for you too. Whether pretty or plain, healthy or sick, these earthen jars contain just as much divine treasure. Also like most jars our purpose isn’t to hold on to our precious contents. No, my purpose is clear, to pour out all the good things that I’m given so that others may share the blessing. Paul put it like this, “All of this has been done for you, so that more and more people will know how kind God is and will praise and honour him” (2 Corinthians 4.15).

Going back to my experience with that plain bit of pot in the British Museum – I mustn’t forget the importance and preciousness of ordinary things: Ordinary things like me and the people of God I see around me. The early Christians like James, John and Paul were no different. They were special not because they were wealthy or powerful: They were special because they allowed themselves to be like Jesus and for ‘their’ treasure to be poured out for the people they met. I am all too aware that I’m nothing special but even so it’s now my turn to recognise the wonderful treasure poured into me. Now it is my turn to be poured out so that the Spirit’s treasure may shine and glitter, and God’s love be shown.

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