Tag Archives: Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time? Yes, Please!

Whatever Clock

Today is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, one of the few remaining commonplace days before the holiday hubbub begins.

Nothing much captured my attention at church this morning—no song I love, none of my favorite verses or stories.  There were a couple of moments of humor when one of the elders forgot his lines in a skit and when the guest minister dropped his sermon in a flurry of paper that floated to the floor.  Both were good-natured about their gaffs.

Just an ordinary day, enjoyed in the company of friends who share my faith.

My husband and I came home and started on the laundry.  He helped me clean out two kitchen cabinets that I’ve been meaning for months to rearrange in a way that makes more sense.

Then my husband left to play soccer with his teammates who are ten years younger—something he plans to continue as an ordinary part of his life for as long as he can.

I sat down to watch football and write this blog.  When my husband gets home, we’ll go for a long walk before we start dinner.

Just an ordinary day—sort of like the kind when one of my friends writes on social media, “I just ate a PB&J sandwich.”

But after weeks of anxiety about leaders who insisted on conflict instead of concord, where getting the most air time seemed more important than doing the mundane business of the people, I’m happy for a day of routine when the news seems more inclined to offer the facts and maybe even a story about what’s good about humanity.

We live in a world where the media, in an effort to boost ratings, fills our lives with stories of anger and tumult.  Politicians rise and fall in an epic clash of the titans, where the loudest and most unreasonable voices seem to garner the attention we should be giving to those who are ethical, honorable, and devoted to quietly grappling together for the common good.

Ordinary Time has never been more important.  We must remind ourselves daily that what we see and read isn’t real life.  Fiction bestsellers tell us that relationships are more about mind-blowing sex than about love and devotion and kindness.  And even “reality television” is scripted to maximize the drama and the ugliness in people who can make money by being ever more outrageous.

We have little to guide us in finding happiness in the ordinary.  Even the great stories of literature—those that stand the test of time—demand a dramatic arc: conflict, rising action, climax, resolution.  And rarely do they end in happiness or joy.

Even the stories of our holy texts tell only about the dramatic moments in the life of Christ, not those unremarkable days when he laughed or played or did nothing of note.  In fact, the Gospel of John ends with this admission:

But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

So as we begin this 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, I want our leaders to remember that they are ordinary people entrusted to do the ordinary work of government.  For over 200 years, legislators whose names we’ve forgotten have aimed to serve the people rather than leave a legacy of epic proportions.  Like ordinary citizens, they got out of bed, ate breakfast, and commuted to work.  In the course of the day, they worked hard, compromised, and did their best to ensure the functionality of our democracy.

Perhaps our country might do better if the only thing John Boehner could say to the media between now and the next deadline is this: “I ate a sandwich with Nancy Pelosi today at lunch.”

Wouldn’t that be interesting?

So tell me a story of Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time?

Whatever Clock

A reminder from a friend that time is never ordinary

God feels distant—not absent, just a little farther away.  It’s okay, really, because the church bulletin last Sunday assured me that this is 25th week in Ordinary Time—one of those everyday weeks that isn’t part of Lent, Easter, Advent, or Christmas.

Twenty-five weeks of Ordinary Time so far this year—that coincides almost exactly with the number of weeks since I lost a close friend who died unexpectedly.  Easter came about a month after he died, and for that week, God felt a little more accessible in the rituals and reminders of why I practice my faith.

But in those weeks of Ordinary Time, when I usually feel a Presence hovering, I’ve struggled.

Are you there, God?

Of course, I hear.  But the sound is muffled.

I go to my women’s circle meeting, where we have two new members.  Both are grappling with why God would take their children—a 16-year-old son and a 26-year-old daughter.

Another member is exhausted from a string of debilitating challenges.  She rages at God, asking why, and in the next breath talks of how God used her to bring comfort to a teenager she barely knows.

When one woman apologizes for crying, a long-time circle member who recently lost her mother reassures her.  “It’s okay.  You get to cry here.”

I learn today of another member of the circle who lost her mother this morning.  I learn from social media that my friend’s 15-year-old daughter lost her grandfather, who was 92.  That wouldn’t be such a tragedy if this 15-year-old hadn’t lost her mother, my friend, last September—in the middle of Ordinary Time that was anything but ordinary for a girl who lost her mother.

In the face of their pain, I feel ashamed that I haven’t regained my balance yet from losing two close friends in a year.

I talked this week with an acquaintance who grew up in a faith tradition similarly rigid to my own childhood tradition.  After the devotion of her early years and the anger of her young adulthood, she chose meditation as a way of finding peace.  Like me, she’s living in Ordinary Time right now—and ordinary is satisfying.

Both of us acknowledged that when life is good, we tend to feel guilty in the presence of people who are in the midst of challenges.  And a little hesitantly, we admitted that when we’re loving life, there is a part of us that is frightened, that keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop—for that moment when we lose everything to a tempest too awful to contemplate.

I suspect we aren’t the only ones who are better at forging ahead when times are tough than we are at accepting the grace of life’s gifts.

One of today’s lectionary readings comes from Psalm 143:  “Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me…” (7)

It falls among some of my favorite psalms that speak of a God who is gracious and merciful, who executes justice for the oppressed and feeds the hungry, who heals the brokenhearted and wounded, who gives refuge in the shadow of his wings.

I stand in awe yet again that, though the world has changed much in the thousands of years since these songs were written, human beings have not.

How is it that God executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry?  God doesn’t rain down manna from heaven these days.  But when people come together, it’s our wings that provide the shadow to a person in need until the storms pass by.

How is it that God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds?  When I’ve been brokenhearted and wounded, it’s the people who’ve helped take care of me who’ve helped me glimpse the face of God again.

So, yes, all of us have times when God feels distant and maybe even absent.  But when we flail, it’s the strength of others that can help us feel the Presence of the Spirit that is in us all.

This I know.

And maybe, if I keep reminding myself, one of these days I’ll get better at knowing and accepting the grace of the Ordinary.

Tell me your stories of the Ordinary, the Extraordinary.

Blue Monday?

Duracho

Monday.  Even though I like my current job and loved teaching when I was in the classroom, I’ve never felt thrilled when the alarm sounds on a Monday morning, heralding the beginning of the work week.  Today was particularly difficult for me.  The air damp and gray, I began the day with sleet that delayed the work day for many in the D.C. area.  I reset the alarm and slept for an extra hour, so I tried to be grateful, thanking God in my morning quiet time for the extended sleep and the much-needed rain.

But it was still Monday when I backed my car out of the garage—a garage for which I was grateful on such a cold and dreary morning.  It was still Monday when I got to the school where I was helping out a group of teachers.  I thanked God for getting me through the 40-minute commute safely.  But then I felt sorry for myself when I walked through the exuberant teenagers in the halls, who made me miss teaching as they do every time I visit a school.  But then I remembered that having a job where I don’t have to grade essays every weekend has given me time to write a book and create this web site and blog.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I spent the morning bouncing back and forth between feeling blue and giving myself a pep talk about how great my life is.  I suspect a lot of us do this.  We know that we live in the wealthiest country in the world, a country that has less than 5% of the world’s population but almost 40% of the world’s wealth.

But it’s still Monday even after we give ourselves a pep talk.  And yesterday at my church, the bulletin proclaimed it as the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Simply put, ordinary time is that time in the church calendar that has nothing to do with the Big Two—Christmas and Easter.

So here we are, on just another ordinary Monday.  The babe has been born, the tree has gone out in the recycling, and the stories of my faith have turned to Christ’s ministry in the world.  Today’s readings were anything but ordinary.  The psalms spoke of finding refuge in the shadow of God’s wings, a God who is “gracious and merciful…slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  And the Gospel reading from Mark, Chapter 5 told stories of Jesus’ kindness to two very different people—a woman who is convinced she’ll be healed if she can just touch Jesus’ clothing and a little girl whose father, a synagogue leader, shows no such certainty but whose prayer for his daughter’s life is answered just the same.

And so I made it through an ordinary Monday, reminded that no day is ordinary for any of us—whether we’re Christian or Jew, Buddhist or Muslim, believer or atheist—when we can reach outside ourselves, touch what we believe in, and find resurrection in our faith.  For it is in staying in touch with what’s within and reaching out to connect with the world that we can know that nothing in this spectacular world is ever truly ordinary.

So tell me your stories of Ordinary Time.