I don’t mean to suggest that there is no wonder in the familiar. Wonder and novelty are certainly not the same and shouldn’t be confused. But wonder is harder to spot in the familiar because . . . well, it’s familiar. And that leads us to something that is generally not associated at all with wonder but is absolutely essential to it—discipline.
Whatever else we might think about discipline, most of us are certain it has absolutely nothing to do with wonder. The word invokes images of hard work, tedious routine, and boring regimentation. While some or all of these things are often involved, there is also a paradox to discipline that we must appreciate. For all of its negative perceptions, it’s also true that few things of significance are accomplished apart from discipline. No great novel has ever been written or beautiful symphony composed without it. No one, from Einstein to Edison, just “happened” on their amazing discoveries and inventions. Musicians and athletes who perform with such marvelous grace do so only because they have spent untold hours mastering what they do. If discipline is involved in the production of such things, it really shouldn’t surprise us that it has an important and vital connection to wonder. Its connection is this: discipline enables us to focus our minds to see the wonder around us that the unfocused pass right by.
Think about how this applies to something like communion. If you look at communion from a minimalist, unfocused perspective, there’s little wonder involved—a group of people eating small pieces of unleavened bread and drinking grape juice from tiny cups. Indeed, it looks more strange than wondrous, like an adult version of a child’s tea party and even this quickly vanishes when you take the Supper weekly.
But to the believer (and that’s the key), so much more is happening. The disciple understands the bread and juice to be associated with the body and blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:26ff). Through His sacrifice on the cross (and subsequent resurrection), fellowship and intimacy with the Father has been opened to all in a new and ultimate way—unlike anything before (Hebrews 10:19ff). Therefore, any observance of the Supper is not only an acknowledgement and celebration of the fact that God is reconciling people, but a recognition that in the process He is bringing them together as one in the church, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). This being so, there is an incredible richness and depth to this simple ceremony that is inexhaustible. Nonetheless it takes the tool of discipline to mine the wonder that resides in this memorial. That’s why words like remembrance, examine, and discerning, are used. They underscore the role discipline plays in focusing our minds to see the wonder that is everywhere in the Supper.
Of course, this approach spills over into all of life. Discipline helps us to see that a sunset is more than an atmospheric phenomenon resulting from our planet’s rotation —it is part of the work of God in our daily world. Discipline enables us to understand babies are more than a blending of two people’s DNA—they are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14). A rainbow is more than the refraction of light by the sun’s rays, it is the promise of our Father (Genesis 9:12ff).There’s glory in the ordinary if we’ll train ourselves to see it!