The Work of the People

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Ordinary

6/26/2013

or·di·nar·y?

With no special or distinctive features, normal.  What is common place or standard. 

A couple of years ago I found my schedule packed.  I was the pastor of a church, the father of 4, the administrator of a Christian school, and the Chairman of the board of a compassionate ministry center.  I was busy, and I was coming out of the Christmas season, one of the busiest times of the year for the church, the school, the center, and my own family.  For whatever reason, I thought I would take a break from it all, to fly to Chicago from Alaska to work on my post-graduate work.

Before leaving, I preached the morning service, had lunch with a new family, kissed my family goodbye, rushed to the airport, rushed through security (that’s another story) and rushed to my plane, then to my seat, just in time.  When I sat down, I was done.  I was exhausted.  No sooner than I buckled my seatbelt than the flight crew began their spiel about seat flotation devices, oxygen masks, and instructions on how to work a seat belt.  To be honest I wasn’t paying attention at all.  I wasn’t even trying to pay attention.  I was too tired to care.  I pulled out my book and started to read, figuring if the plane went down in the middle of winter in Alaska I would be a popsicle long before my seat, aka flotation device, had a chance to hit the water. 

I hadn’t even finished the first page when the stewardess tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Sir, do you have any idea what it’s like to stand in front of hundreds of people and share with them information that could save their lives only to have them ignore you?” 

I responded, “Mam, I’m a preacher, I know exactly what it’s like.”

We both laughed, I apologized, and she brought me an extra bag of peanuts.  All in all it was a good flight.

Later that week I was sitting with a group of Pastors when our instructor asked the question, “If someone were to ask you to explain the term “Ordinary Time” what would you tell them?  One pastor responded, “it is the time in the church year when you get to recover from Easter, before you have to start planning for Christmas.” 

We all laughed because even though we all knew that’s not what it was supposed to be, for too many us (both pastors and lay people), that is exactly what it was.  For half of the year, from the first Sunday of Advent until the last Sunday of Pentecost the church year is pretty well defined.   “In approximately six months the church is carried through all the saving events of God-his incarnation, manifestation to the world, life, death, resurrection, and ascension as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit. All these crucial events form faith and the spiritual life...In a clear, directed, and evangelical practice of the Christian year, there is no missing of the point."[1]

Compared to that, everything is going to seems so ordinary.   Even though the term “Ordinary Time” is technically accurate, it really is confusing.  “Ordinary Time, implies no mundaneness, as if more than half the year were dull and unexciting, it refers to the fact that  in the original Lectionary system the Sundays outside Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter were simply designated by ordinal numbers:  First Sunday, Second Sunday, and on through the Thirty-fourth Sunday.[2]

 So what do we, as Pastors, worship leaders, lay people do with “Ordinary Time?” 

We treasure it.  We linger in it.  We celebrate it.  We recognize that Christ has sanctified all time. 

As I got on the plane to head home I took the time to listen to the flight attendants and as I buckled my seat belt (like I had just been taught) I couldn’t wait to see my family to spend some time with my kids.  I couldn’t wait to get up early and make them breakfast, to gather round the table and listen to them share what was going on in our lives.  To hear them talk about their favorite parts of their days.  To hear them dream about what they wanted to be some day.  It was in that moment I realized that as special as the special times are, the ordinary times are pretty special too.  To have the time to slow down, drink deep, explore seldom traveled trails. 

As a pastor and as a father ordinary time and “Ordinary Time” are sacred times.  In this day and age it is anything but ordinary to have time to listen, to linger, to explore new territories and expand our horizons.  Maybe it’s time to refocus on what is that is important to us as the family of God.  Maybe it’s time to gather at the waters and remember our baptisms and share our stories.  Maybe it’s time to gather around the table for several weeks mining the richness of what Jesus meant when he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Maybe it’s time to gather the family together and learn what it means to wash feet in our 21st century communities.  Maybe it’s taking the time to learn to dream God dreams again or maybe it’s simply taking the time to understand that if we spent as much time talking to Him as we do about Him we would have a better relationship with Him.   Regardless of what you choose to do, choose to do more that recover from Easter before beginning to plan for Christmas and remember: God is Good  . . .All the Time . . .All the Time . . .God is Good!

Rev. Brian R. Thomas, D. Min.

Husband to Jean

Father of Anna, Daniel, Nathaniel, & Moriah

Lead Pastor Ridgefield Church of the Nazarene, Ridgefield, WA



[1] Webber, Robert E.  Ancient-Future Time:  Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year      (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books, 2003), 163.

[2] Stookey, Laurence Hull.  Calendar:  Christ’s Time for the Church. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 133.