By NEMS Daily Journal
Churches that follow the Christian liturgical calendar have entered into the period known as “ordinary time,” the long stretch between Pentecost, which ends the Easter season, and the start of a new year with Advent.
Advent begins the preparation and anticipation of Christ’s birth and the Christmas season, and then the story of his life and ministry is chronicled through the passion and resurrection. Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit, the “birthday” of the church – ushers in the roughly half of the year that is about what Christians do with what they’ve heard the rest of the time.
“Ordinary” is a word that on the face of it seems to promise only the humdrum. Nothing exciting, just the dull routine.
But our lives are lived primarily in ordinary circumstances, ordinary days and ordinary activities. The word derives from the Latin ordo, or order, so it’s about the usual rhythms of life.
The peaks and valleys of life often bring people close to God, while ordinariness tends to have a separating effect. Somehow it seems less “sacred.”
But the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation – that God became flesh and blood in Jesus Christ – is first of all a statement about the holiness of the ordinary. And it is there, as well as in the unordinary moments, that God can always be found if we seek him.
Martha Sterne, in her book “Alive and Loose in the Ordinary,” points to the gifts of grace available in the day-to-day routines of our lives, and how we so often fail to see or appreciate them.
“Very few of us can name what we seek,” Sterne writes. “Occasionally, I know what I’m looking for, but more often I am not able to name it. Faith? Peace? Personhood? Courage? Belonging? Calm? Jesus? Home?
“So what amazes me day-in and day-out is the what-I-need gifts that show up in the parade of the day. It seems to me that what I am seeking can often be found by looking back over my shoulder at what was a nothing moment, even an irritating moment or a boring lull or a baffling misunderstanding. Or an oddly tender encounter. What looked like a waste of time has often been to me a blessing in hiding.
“Except for once, I have never heard the voice of Jesus without some person or place in the creation doing the talking for him. So I want to witness the power of the Incarnation alive and loose in the ordinariness of the world for us and through us and among us.”
As Sterne reminds us, we too often see other people as hindrances to, not conduits of, our relationship with God. If we could only be rid of all those annoying people, we’d really be able to get close to God.
But God intends for us to live in community and to experience his grace in and through the people whose lives we share. We forget that, and instead of seeing God at work in the joys and hardships of human relationships, we think he is found somewhere else – out there, beyond all these people he created.
It is easy in the most blissful, spiritually uplifting moments, to feel close to God. And even though tragedy and grief may make us angry at God for a time, it’s in the dark periods where a special relationship often emerges.
But we’re not in those places most of the time. “Ordinary” time is, for the most part, the time of our lives – and the time and place to seek and find our Creator.