All of us who followed the misadventures of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer know that Seinfeld was “a show about nothing.” The everyday experiences of the Seinfeld characters portrayed a world of superficiality–of banality and vapidity. Based on the observational comedy of Jerry Seinfeld, the ordinary becomes the absurd and all you can do is laugh. Seinfeld is a modern day version of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, all is vanity,” minus the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” part.
The world of Rochester University is full of the ordinary as well. We show up for classes, advise students, keep Moodle running, recruit potential students, provide financial aid, and countless other things. We have the capacity to poke fun at ourselves and can recognize the difficulties of our jobs. But the ordinary for us is far from superficial or absurd. Rather, the daily work we do brims with meaning.
We believe the ordinary is meaningful in part because it’s connected to our notions of Christian education. God is the focus of what we do.
This focus can, however, get lost in the details of doing our job. Sometimes processing student aid forms or cleaning a dorm or grading papers can lower our sights and drag us into the mundane. Part of this loss of perspective might be due to the fact that we’re accustomed to considering some things “sacred” and some things “ordinary.”
The thing is, though, we believe God took on human flesh and was immersed in the ordinary. For those of us who follow Jesus, the ordinary now always bears the possibility of the sacred.
Here’s one way to think of the ordinary that might tie it to God’s meaningful presence in the world. When we process forms and provide timely feedback on student assignments, or respond to helpdesk tickets and fix the air conditioning, we are contributing to the making of a trustworthy world.
I like the term “trustworthy world” as a way to characterize God’s desire for creation. It resonates with the creation story where things are called “good” and all creation flourishes and gives life. It also corresponds to the imagery of the end of the story–the new creation–where all things are made new. Everyone has “their own vine and their own fig.” Life is shared and plentiful. Nations no longer practice war, beating their swords into plowshares, and they seek the Lord for instruction. The lion even lies down with the lamb. You get the idea. The story ends where it begins, with pictures of a trustworthy world.
The term trustworthy also carries some pretty important biblical vocabulary related to God. In the Old Testament, God is revealed as righteous and full of steadfast love. God’s rule results in shalom, or well-being. God is trustworthy. In the NT, God’s righteousness is confirmed in the person of Jesus who shows us the full extent of God’s love in his death on a shameful Roman cross. We now know the reach of God’s love, it’s length and breadth, and know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Talk about something you can trust!
So, God is interested in a trustworthy world for the sake of the flourishing of all creation. When we work together, then, at RU for the sake of a trustworthy space, we participate in the ongoing work of God in the world. Far from being superficial or absurd, our ordinary work bears the potential of participation in the mission of God.
We think this business of a trustworthy world is a significant part of RU’s vocation, or calling. This blog site will be dedicated to exploring the various dimensions of our shared journey of vocation. Welcome to the journey.