"Reflections on Ordinary Time"

Although our Sunday bulletin no longer highlights the passing of time outside of special seasons, you may note on the worship page headings indicating each Sunday as being part of “Ordinary Time.” As I plug that into my template for the worship service, I remembered being asked once why we bother with such a heading, who really cares? I believe the idea being expressed was that while we might be interested in the special seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter, what is the point of marking the passage of “ordinary” time? That’s a good question, isn’t it? People get excited about Advent, Christmas, and Easter. There may even be a sense of expectation during Lent – Easter is coming – and we like that ecumenical soup. But really what is the point of celebrating (or even remembering) ordinary time? As we think about the special seasons of the church, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, we recognize that the Christian Faith celebrates the grace of God that allows us to move from birth to death to resurrection: Advent anticipates the in-breaking of God into our lives (centuries ago but also yet to come). Christmas proclaims Christ’s birth and the mystery of the incarnation. Epiphany celebrates the light of God present in Christ and still today. Lent follows our Lord to the cross and helps us focus on our spiritual journey. Easter follows Good Friday to proclaim Christ’s victory over death and assure us that we may share that victory. Pentecost celebrates the birth of the Church and the gift of God’s Spirit to all believers. But why Ordinary Time? Where does it fit in? Why count off 33 such Sundays each year (after special days like All Saint’s Day and Christ the King Sunday are taken out)? Although this may sound strange at first, I would suggest that perhaps Ordinary Time is the most important season of all. It is the season most of us live in (just as it is the season that dominates most of our worship) between birth, death, and resurrection. Ordinary Time reminds us that even when we are not in one of those special days or seasons that God’s grace is still present with us, we are called to worship, trust, and live our faith, and that all the promises and gifts proclaimed in the other seasons are still ours. “This is the day the Lord has made…” is the message of Ordinary Time. Where are you in life’s journey? What season are you celebrating in your daily life? Perhaps the greatest challenge we face is not to mournfully treasure the past or excitedly anticipate the future, but to treasure the present moment with all its potential. The season of Ordinary Time is a gift that reminds us of the challenge to live in the present. Ordinary Time reminds us that even when nothing momentous seems to be happening in our lives, all the gifts of the other seasons are still ours: departed loved ones are raised to new life in Ordinary Time, not just at Easter; the light of Christ and the Spirit of God are just as strong and present in us today as during Epiphany and Pentecost. Perhaps Ordinary Time should be our favorite season (I recognize that’s not going to happen) because O.T. assures us that all the love, grace, peace, and victory of the other seasons is present with us right now, in the ordinary times of our lives, on those days when it seems that nothing extraordinary is happening, as well as those times when we face great trials or mountaintops of joy. This reminds me of the message of the hymn, “God of Our Life, Through All the Circling Years.” God blesses each and every day – past, present, and future – in the special times and in all the ordinary times as well. September 1 is the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time; as we meet for worship and come to our Lord’s Table, let us really celebrate that God has brought us so far and blessed us so greatly.

David Hunter