Once again, we have celebrated the gift of God’s life giving Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. Now we’ve moved into the second half of the liturgical year called Ordinary Time.
Ordinary time is the longest liturgical season. It starts with Trinity Sunday and ends with Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent. At the start, Trinity Sunday reminds us that we (and the church) live, move and have our being within the life of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At the end, Christ the King Sunday puts the spotlight firmly on Christ who is the centerpiece and avenue through which God is bringing about wholeness and healing to the entire created order. (see Colossians 1:15-20)
Ordinary time is ordinary in the sense that the days are numbered. The word ordinary stems from the Latin word “ordo” which means order and the Latin word “ordinalis” which refers to numbers in a series. Simply, Ordinary time is numbered time.
But Ordinary time is not ordinary, nor is it merely “numbered time.” Some have noticed that the liturgical calendar can be divided into two distinct but connected parts: The story of Jesus and the story of the Church. The story of Jesus starts in Advent and transitions at Pentecost, when the ascended Jesus sends the Spirit to empower the church to be his hands and feet in the world – his body. Pentecost kicks off the second part of the liturgical year. In fact, Ordinary time could be called Pentecost time.
As the church goes into the world as the body of Christ (by the power of the Spirit), it’s important that the church remembers that its work is really the work of Christ. More specifically, it’s Trinitarian work – Father, Son, and Spirit all working to heal and bring about wholeness to a fracture and broken creation because of the devastating effects of sin. Through faith (by the power of the Spirit), the church participates in this good work.
Ordinary time is all about the various ways we participate in and through our ordinary lives. If you want a quick way to know if you are participating in the Trinitarian energy – then hold on to this: Whenever we love and allow ourselves to be loved… we find ourselves swept up in the divine dance.
EASTER REFLECTION 2021
As a way to live more deeply into the Easter story, I’ve been reading a book by John and Sarah Crossan called “Resurrecting Easter.” Part travel log and part theological investigation, the book chronicles the Crossan’s as they travel and visit multiple ancient Eastern churches and monasteries. In those places, they encounter historical images that reveal a completely different model for understanding Easter’s resurrection story. In the opening chapters, they make a rather startling observation. They state,
“The major events in Christ’s life and therefore the major feasts in the church’s liturgy – from the Annunciation to the Ascension – are described in the Gospel stories… but there is one exception to that overall sequence, one event in the life of Christ that is never described in any Gospel story. Furthermore, this is not some minor happening, but the most important and climactic one of them all… this is the moment of Christ’s Resurrection as it is actually happening.” (2)
Isn’t that odd? No one was there to witness the actual moment of Christ rising from the dead. The tomb was sealed. No one went in and no one went out. No cameras. No infrared sensors. No journalist with a computer ready to capture the moment in words. No breaking news TV crew ready to broadcast “LIVE – from the TOMB!”
This begs the question – why? I’ve been thinking about this over the past few weeks. Here is my best thought:
New Life is an act of faith. The spark of new life is always initially hidden from us. We have to trust that it is happening, even when we have no evidence. Let me give you a few examples to highlight my point.
Every spring, old “dead” seeds sit in the ground waiting for the rain and the warm sun. Long before the green delicate stem pushes and then pokes through the wet and dark ground, the dead seed casing has already broken open and given way to new life. Before green pushes through, you look at the ground and it looks like nothing is happening. New life has begun, but it’s hidden. We only notice it at a later point. With astonishment, we exclaim and point– “look at that!”
The same thing is true of human life. The beginnings of new life are hidden from us. We only see signs of new life as the baby grows in darkness. Then, after 9 long months, we see life – fully formed as it exits the womb.
So, long before we see signs of new life, we have to trust that it is happening. This is perhaps why “the moment” of Jesus resurrection had no eyewitnesses...
New life happens in the dark.
HOLY WEEK REFLECTION 2021
The journey of Lent is an exercise in trust. The days and weeks of this liturgical season culminate in an intense series of events called “Holy Week.” Holy means set apart for a special purpose. The main lesson of Lent that is condensed and amplified during Holy Week is simple, but hard –
If you want to live, then you have to die first. If there is one universal experience that I’ve witnessed in my years as a Care Pastor, it is this: Dying is hard. Nobody wants to die. There is something instinctual inside of us – a powerful survival mechanism. We resist death. We hold on to life. We don’t want to let go. Death is about letting go. In order to help us let go, we get a thousand “practice attempts” throughout our lives. We get a myriad of opportunities to practicing dying before we die so that when we stand before capital “D” death, we’ll know how to let go with confidence. Why do I say with confidence? When we practice letting go (dying) many times every day, we also experience mini-resurrections. We see that even we when “die” new life springs up. The more we practice the pattern of dying and life springing up (rising) the more confident we’ll be that right behind capital “D” death is capital “L” life. We’ll not only believe – but know deep in our bones what Jesus said about seeds in John 12:24 is really true:
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” The Lenten journey and the intensity of Holy Week is a 40-day lesson with one key takeaway – don’t be afraid to let go – God will be there to catch you.
LENT REFLECTION 2021
One of my favorite hymns was written over 250 years ago by Robert Robinson. One verse comes and goes so quickly that if we're not paying attention the melody will easily carry us into the next compelling stanza.
But if we pause for a moment on the lyric - prone to wander, Lord I feel it, we'll realize that these seven words summarize the inclination and journey of every human heart.
Sometimes strong, sometimes subtle, our hearts feel a strange pull to leave home and wander in foreign lands in search of something other. In response to all this wondering, the forty days of Lent can be summed up with one powerful word – Return. Many times over the course of our lives we leave the well-marked path of wisdom. We wander, we take short-cuts, we blaze our own trail and eventually without fail -
we get lost.
When the pain of our wandering forces us to be slow down, we can begin to sense a homing beacon inside of us. We listen and hear a compassionate voice whispering in the depths of our hearts.
Lent is an invitation to tune our ear and listen to that voice calling us home.