When I was a kid, we had Wednesday night dinners in the church’s Fellowship Hall. We ate hamburgers or spaghetti, usually, ladled out generously by the senior adult Sunday School class. There was iced tea and sugar cookies on a table in the corner, past the buffet, and I was allowed to snag a couple if I finished my meal.
Last Sunday, I had a nostalgic moment at Restoration as we celebrated our birthday together with a potluck. The plastic tablemats and noisy kids (mine!) reminded me of the joy of spending our ordinary time together.
Maybe that’s my reflection for us this week: Ordinary Time.
Ok, so technically when we say that we are in the season of ‘Ordinary Time’ on our church calendar, we mean that the weeks are ‘ordinal’, or numbered, as opposed to the named feasts and fasts on our calendar.
But let’s pretend for a moment that it also means that we are in the midst of our plain old ordinary time as a church—isn’t that true, too? It’s not Christmas yet, not Lent or Easter or Pentecost. It’s not a red letter day that we have circled to make sure that we don’t miss church. This is the season of science projects and soccer practice, of rush hour and committee meetings.
And that makes this the perfect time to talk about fellowship, about how we live together as the body of Christ. Because we know what it means to be the church on those holy days—we step out of our regularly scheduled program and enter into church as a sort of alternative reality. There’s a deliberate ‘set-apartness’ because that’s what it means to be holy.
But we can’t only think of our lives together as removed and distinct from the lives we live in between Sundays. Think what a burden ‘fellowship’ would be if it meant dragging yourself away from your life with your friends and your responsibilities to go mix and mingle with these people you only know from hearing their off-key singing on Sunday mornings.
Fellowship doesn’t work if there is a firewall between your Ordinary Life and your Holy Life.
That’s why we need potlucks and play-dates, 9 to Dine and Tie Groups. We need to develop a concept of community that sees life as a church body not as something to work into our schedule, but as a family that draws us into its embrace. We need to invest time with each other that lets us get to know our less ‘put together’ selves.
When Restoration was brand new, and Emily and I didn’t know anyone, we discovered some folks went out to lunch after the service. Maybe it cost Emily and I an extra lazy hour or two on our own on Sunday afternoon, but we figured we’d try to get to know folks. Now, our week has a hole in it if we don’t eat with everybody after church. We turn restaurants into our own private Cheers, a place where everybody knows your name. Sure, having cranky or crazy (or both) kids with us now means it’s a circus. But it’s part of our Ordinary Life—it’s what we do.
That’s the feeling I got this Sunday as we sampled each other’s macaroni and meatballs. It was a moment to build the sort of fellowship that is load-bearing, rather than superficial. A time to build relationships that can handle the ordinary—the rides to the airport, the hand-me-down clothes, the got-a-minute-to-talk? texts.
A couple weeks back, I preached on that tricky phrase from Philippians 2 when Paul exhorts us to “work out” our salvation. That working out certainly happens during the Sunday service—liturgy is, after all, the work of the people. That is one way that our hearts are tuned to sing his praise. But we also need our hearts tuned to harmonize with one another, and that happens when we gather together around tables, eat too much birthday cake, and give our kids a slice even if they didn’t eat any veggies. In other words, it happens in the realm of the ordinary.