Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Time is Now

When I was listening to the Sermon Brainwave podcast today, I heard Prof. Matt Skinner say that "ordinary time" was his favorite time of the church year. He went on, "Without ordinary time, the rest of the church year is just nostalgia."

It's true. Ordinary time is the space between Pentecost/Holy Trinity and Reformation/All Saints. Without this time, we would be caught up in the holiday cycle and constantly trying to outdo the year before or stuck in the "dazzle" of the festivals.

In Wuthering Heights, Catherine tells Nelly, "My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods; time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath--a source of little visible delight, but necessary." Without getting into the plot of the book, I think of ordinary time like Heathcliff - it's not always pretty, but it's necessary. Our feelings about festivals can change because of the non-liturgical traditions that we attach to them. Ordinary time remains, year after year, to feed our faith, to expand our understanding of God, to challenge our notions of Jesus the Christ, to remind us of the presence of the Spirit. Ordinary time forms the bedrock of our faith.

I wrote about ordinary time here a couple years ago during my internship, but here's an excerpt from that post:

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

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