It’s not Easter anymore. We’ve past the observance of Pentecost. Just last Sunday, the table was laid out in celebratory white again for Trinity Sunday. But now…well, now it’s Ordinary Time.
Most children’s books are based on the idea of the extraordinary. Lucy hides in an ordinary wardrobe and discovers an extraordinary world. Harry was just an ordinary boy until he learned his extraordinary magical identity. Bilbo was such an ordinary little hobbit until that wizard came along with an extraordinary offer.
In these stories (and countless others) the ordinary time is seen as a prelude. It’s the established life that we anticipate will be shaken up shortly by the real adventure. Many of us are prone to viewing the ordinary time in our own lives in much the same way. It’s the colorless, monotonous string of days between the exciting moments, between our red letter days.
I’d like to offer you a counter-narrative as we enter into this long stretch of Ordinary Time together. This season, which runs from now until the end of the church year at the end of November, is called ‘ordinary’ because the Sundays are ‘ordinal’; they are numbered instead of named. So, yes, we might in that sense be tempted to think of them as unremarkable. We might be forgiven for letting these weeks simply blur together while we save our attention for a season that ‘really matters’, like Advent. We might be guilty of ‘Golden Age Thinking,’ longing for some other time, believing that’s when things were really ‘happening.’
But this misses the point precisely. When Jesus ascended, he left his people with a mission and a means. Our mission is to go and make disciples; our means is his indwelling Holy Spirit, present and abiding with us always. You are here. You are now. And these days have been ordered for the work you’ve been called to do. Not just you—us. This is the age of the Church, the time appointed and empowered by Jesus for God to be glorified by the redemption and restoration of his people in the world.
We were not saved so that we might look backwards toward some time that Jesus was physically present, pretending we would have been better or more faithful disciples if only we lived when he was here. And we were not saved so that we might run out the clock here on earth, throwing up our hands at the task before us and looking only toward a future kingdom. No. We exist here together in Ordinary Time, these numbered days, so that—following Christ who came before us and anticipating with great hope a final resurrection—we might embody Christ and show forth his kingdom.
To dismiss Ordinary Time as merely ordinary is to abandon our mission and diminish the work of the Spirit in and through us.
When we gather on these Ordinary Sundays, we aren’t trying to escape from our ordinary lives. We don’t come to the table hoping to pass through to some new magical world or to unlock extraordinary abilities. Instead, we come to encounter the God who chose to meet us in the midst of the ordinary to save us and empower us to live as his sons and daughters.
And that sounds like a pretty great adventure to me.