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Bishop's Monday Message: Ordinary Time

Posted: August 3 2020 at 08:15 AM
Author: Bishop Sally Dyck


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There are several moments that are, for want of a better word, “delicious.” It’s when you get home after the last day at work before you go on vacation. The whole vacation stretches before you. It just doesn’t get better than that! It’s that moment when you finish cleaning your house and there is a nanosecond when it’s clean. Don’t anyone move, walk, sit, or do anything else to muss it!

But when you hear these examples, they sound so ordinary. In light of all that is going on in the world, our nation, our own communities and lives, these are so mundane! They seem so pre-coronavirus: who can go on vacation or at least go far? And the luxury of time and energy to clean the house is limited or it just pales in comparison to all the weightier matters of the world, of our own lives. They’re so ordinary.

In the liturgical calendar, we are in Ordinary Time. I’ve always been puzzled by the term as well as the concept. I get it: we’re not in Advent preparing for Christmas and Epiphany, or Lent preparing for Easter and Pentecost. 

Ordinary Time stretches across summer and through the fall past Thanksgiving, depending upon when Advent starts. There are few feast days or holidays, at least for the Protestant Church; the closest thing that you get is All Saints Day.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Ordinary Time doesn’t mean ordinary in terms of mundane, but in terms of numbers! Ordinary comes from the root word for “ordinal” or “the counted weeks” and in this case, it is the counted weeks between Pentecost and Advent. 

Ordinary time doesn’t mean Normal Time but counted time, marking time. It’s not Normal Time, but I do believe that most of us are counting time in terms of when we can worship together again when we can leave our houses without a mask, when we can resume some “normal” activities like going to school with other students or having conferences (General, Jurisdictional, Annual, and even church conferences) without fear of becoming sick or our loved ones getting sick. Normal Time. I wish Ordinary Time was Normal Time!

But it’s not: it’s time we count like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, retirements, etc. How do you count time? I always think back to the musical Rent and my favorite song in it:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
Seasons of love…

We may be marking time for a year before it’s Normal Time again. But this song reminds us that we don’t just “mark” time, waste time, wish time (and therefore life) away, we make it count. Ordinary Time is making our life and faith count in between the seasons of Advent/Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter/Pentecost. We waste a lot of time, faith and energy if we just mark time.

And the song from Rent reminds us how it is we truly measure time: by love.  

You may no longer shelter in place but your world or sphere of friends, family, church, community and all relationships are probably still rather limited. The measure of this year (and it could be a whole year, at least) will be how we used this time for good, for others, for love, for the building up of the body of Christ. 

To wax a bit poetic, there may be a special page in all our eternal books of life specifically marked “COVID-19.” What will be written there? How have you and I made something of our lives and faith, not just in spite of it, but because of it? What new habits or practices? What relationships are better now than they were five months ago? How has your church been strengthened, or at least in what ways, that you hope will never go away when Normal Time resumes? Now is the time to assess these questions and make sure you’re on track to measure this time in love—love in action.

Yes, I too long for Normal Time, but Normal Time isn’t and never has been a part of the liturgical year.  It’s Ordinary Time, and Ordinary Time isn’t Normal Time:  it’s far more charged with the divine Spirit that calls us and also empowers us to go wider, longer, higher and deeper in faith and grace in order to experience the “fullness of God” in this Ordinary Time:

"I pray that, according to the riches of (God’s) glory, (God) may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through (God’s) Spirit and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)

And if we measure this time by the fullness or love of God, then God will work within us to “accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians3:20-21)

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