Spotlight: Ordinary Time

Summer!

Dear friends,

At last, we turn to summer. For six months now, we’ve been moving through the big seasons of the church year, hearing a sort of “highlights reel” of the story of Jesus on Sunday mornings as the readings jumped around to illustrate the big themes. Beginning in Advent, when we explored the ancient longing for God to enter the world as Messiah, through our celebration of the Messiah’s birth at Christmas and his shining out in Epiphany, our preparation in Lent to experience Holy Week, the new life of Easter, and finally the company  of the Spirit at Pentecost, the church has patiently led us through our annual course in new creation and life in the Body of Christ.

churchyearBut now all that changes. The season we’re just now entering is really no season at all; it’s called “Ordinary Time,” and I like it because ordinary time is where I spend most of my life. It’s always a relief to turn this corner: ordinary is a great time in the church year.

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The Road to Emmaus, Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)

Because, if you think about it, the highlights reel only tells part of any story. Think of your own life. When you look back, the first things you remember are probably the big moments: Christmases, birthdays, graduations, and all the rest. But actually most of our growing up time was spent not in these big moments, but in the moments we’ve long since forgotten: chatting with friends, eating with family, reading, talking, arguing, making up. It’s in these smaller moments that we grow and are formed as people: we discover who we are and make and strengthen important relationships and commitments.

The big moments were presumably only a small part of the story of the disciples’ lives with Jesus, too. Most of their time was spent like ours, in small moments. They followed Jesus, listened to him, ate with him, watched what he did, and reflected on all that they had seen and heard. This is when they were formed as disciples and discovered who they were. They made and deepened their relationships with Jesus and with each other and then, after Easter, found they had the strength to go out and change the world.

walking_with_jesusWe’re in Ordinary Time now. We’re done, for a while, with the fireworks. Each Sunday from now through the summer and well into the fall, we’ll simply follow Jesus along with the disciples. We’ll listen to what he says and watch what he does, understanding some of it, not understanding some of it, wondering what it all means for us. We’ll have time to make and deepen our relationships with Jesus and with each other, so that our lives can bear fruit when the time comes. There’s no pressure now, no high expectations. We don’t have to worry about “keeping Christ in Christmas” or “keeping a holy Lent.” We’re free simply to live week by week in Jesus’ company, to be formed by his presence.

The lazy days of summer can be an important time to let the Holy Spirit get on with its patient, vital work in us, both as individuals and as a community. The important thing is to listen together, to pay attention, to watch where it all leads. I hope you can join us.

Peace,

Mark.

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