Monday, 29 September 2008

Discovering Priesthood in Rubbish

When I was a student I used to spend the summer holidays with my parents in Milton Keynes. Lacking transport, and needing some exercise, I would often walk into town along the red ways - the cycle paths which criss-cross the city.

On one occasion I was walking along consciously trying to listen to God. I felt that he was telling me to pick up a piece of litter. I resisted for a while, thinking this was just my mind distracting me from the task in hand, but eventually I decided to do what I was told. I reached down and picked up a small chewing gum wrapper.

Holding this in my hand I sensed that God wanted me to pray, and so I prayed for those who produced the materials, those who manufactured the paper, wrapped the gum, transported it to the shop, sold it, unwrapped it, chewed it and then dropped it on the ground. This one tiny wrapper was linking me with a whole host of people that I had never met, and yet I knew that my prayers were meaningful. I didn't know anything about these people, but God did.

And so I spent an extremely valuable and productive afternoon, walking along the path, picking up litter and praying. Putting my pile of prayer-rubbish in a bin eventually had to be done with a certain amount of love and respect.

Looking back, I realise that this "prayer walk" was a form of priestly ministry. Each piece of litter provided a sacramental opportunity to connect heaven and earth, to do business with God and to bless a wide range of human beings. Priesthood is realised in the connections we make with the ordinary stuff of human existence, just as it is in the grandest of cathedrals. Whether we break bread and pour out wine, or lift up the crumbs of everyday life, we take what is normal and offer it to God, receiving it back transformed and enlivening.

Opportunities for genuine priesthood are strewn at our feet each day of our lives. The trick is to hear God's voice and to allow him to transform the lowliest of moments into the kingdom of heaven.

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