Ordinary

So, Pentecost happened – weird, right?

If you’re unfamiliar with the occasion, here’s what you need to know: there was wind. There was fire. There was spontaneous multilingualism. There may or may not have been day drinking. At the very least, Pentecost was the church’s birthday, when early leaders began publicly preaching the good news of Jesus, baptizing people, and breaking bread in community. It was arguably one of the most climactic moments in the New Testament. Yesterday, churches around the world remembered this bizarre, momentous milestone.  

This means that today is…the day after Pentecost. Which feels kind of lame. So lame that today marks the first day of what the church traditionally calls “ordinary time.” As in, “it’s been pretty crazy around here lately, but it’s time to settle down and get back to work.” For context, the church calendar started back in November with Advent (!), then Christmas (!!), then Epiphany (!!!), then Lent ( 😦 ), and finally Easter (!!!!). All of that to say, so far this year’s been pretty bustling and active, fluctuating between fasts and feasts, loaded with meaning and packed full of stunning and remarkable days and seasons. But from here on out, things are ordinary. The dust has settled – normalcy can resume.

Anti-climactic and uneventful as this may seem, it’s a welcomed respite. During this season, the church is called to simply be the church. And we the individuals are called to just be people, with quiet and unassuming routines. After all the hype – especially the earth-shattering hype of Easter – it’s a nice little break.

That’s the brilliance of the way that the church calendar is structured. We have fasts because fasts are good for us, feasts because feasts are (really) good for us, but then a season of basically nothing. It’s a metaphor for life, of course, because as much as we might like and crave drama, a life of all highs and lows is no way to live.      

It’s a metaphor for the gospel too, and the way it works in practice. So much of what Jesus did and said was revolutionary in both his context and our lives. But what was it revolutionary for? When the good news sinks in, we go on to live normal little lives, in a very real world. We have to shop, work, drive, and load the dishwasher – ordinary things, somehow changed by Jesus.

Ordinary time has the exceptional ability to be both freeing and settling. This season assures us that normal and quiet are not dirty words. It frees us from that part of our ego that tells us we need to be different and memorable. It allows us to wade into the mundane, to get comfortable there, and to breath a sigh of relief, knowing that it’s okay to be unremarkable.

But at the same time, it tells us that this unremarkableness is good in itself. Ordinary time isn’t a diversion, or even a vacation from some better thing, but a kind of grace. There is profound holiness in subtle daily things – the way the light looks in the morning. Friends, gathered over coffee. A basic job, well done. And it calls us to notice these things, and to savor and love them. While there is beauty in great joy, and truth in great sorrow, there’s a stunning goodness in the everyday.

Welcome to ordinary time. Enjoy being.  

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