Monday, October 8, 2007

Ordinary Time

Yesterday when I was putting on my alb (the white robe) before church, I reflected, a little disappointedly, on the service to come. I confess that I had the thought, "It's kind of a boring Sunday." There were no baptisms, no special recognitions, I wasn't preaching... so nothing new, just the same, same, same service that happens all the time.

The service began with announcements as usual, the confession and forgiveness and then a hymn, etc. You know how it goes. Yet it was somewhere around the children's sermon that I felt that thrill of ecclesial excitement. It's hard to describe, but it's like the Holy Spirit blowing up my spine and saying, "Wake up! Look, look! Here's something else!" (In my mind, the HS has to use Dick and Jane syntax- otherwise we might miss the point. See the sunrise! Taste the bread! Grace is good! Count the blessings- 1, 2, 3.)

Back to the church service and my tingling spine, as I heard about the words of the children's sermon (Scott was preaching), I thought about the idea of "ordinary time" (which is what some denominations call the Sundays between Pentecost and Advent) and the ordinariness of a church service. In Ordinary Time, we receive the most challenging gospel texts. Not the stories about the life of Jesus, but the heart of his teachings- about money, faith, prayer, and neighbor love. We wrestle with the parables, rather than floating in the details of the baptism or the walk to Jerusalem before the crucifixion. We hear the confusing predictions about the end of time. Ordinary time does not provide liturgical holiday breaks and is only accented by baptisms or other special services that vary from year to year and in different congregations.

Yet ordinary time is no less miraculous than Easter or Christmas. In fact, I daresay, ordinary time is more miraculous. In those two big holidays, or even lesser commemorations, we are remembering the events of Christ's life and what they mean for our faith. Christ's coming, death and resurrection are part of the mysteries of our faith. Ordinary time offers, constantly, the miracles of our faith: that God promises to come to us in the sacraments of communion and baptism. That God always forgives our sins and, through Jesus, accepts us as children. That we are able to gather and worship without fear and hearing the good news in our own languages.

The celebrations of the liturgical year can seem more important because they are big, but we must remember that the greatest portion of the year is devoted to ordinary time and to the miracles that happen during any ordinary worship service.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Doesn't "Ordinary Time" come from the word "ordinal," numbered? You know, X days after Pentecost, etc. To me, it has kind of a countdown feel to it, which makes it kinda neat - although I suppose that in and of itself misses your point. Alas, I have much to learn.