Sunday, June 14, 2009
I both like and don't like Ordinary Time. I miss the high liturgical days of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Eastertide, Pentecost, etc. After all the excitement and ever-changing liturgical colors of High Holy Days, Ordinary Time seems so, well, ordinary. It is counted in a way that is much more difficult to keep track of when compared to Advent or Epiphany or even Lent, each of which have a set number of weeks involved. But Ordinary Time is counted by the number of Sundays after Trinity Sunday (which was last Sunday); today is the First Sunday after Trinity. Next Sunday will be the Second Sunday after Trinity, and so on, until the 24th Sunday after Trinity (perhaps earlier, depending on the start of Advent). Ordinary Time takes up nearly half of the entire year with no major fasts or feasts, no Octave celebrations or special prayers. Sometimes it seems just a little dull.
Yet Ordinary Time presents us with an incredible opportunity. The liturgical color of Ordinary Time, green, reminds us of what we are to be focusing on during this half of the church year: growing in our faith, in our love for and knowledge of Christ our Lord, and in seeking to serve Him for His glory. Today's sermon from Romans 7 at Lake Murray spoke to us about walking through our little Christian routines without truly focusing on God, about trying to serve Him in our own power rather than in His Strength, about manufacturing our own ways of following God without loving Him with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength. But the Good News is that there is an answer to this problem: Jesus Christ is our solution because life is impossible to live well if we are walking in our own strength rather than walking in the Spirit.
Ordinary Time is the perfect opportunity to practice what Pastor Stephen taught us today about the futility of attempting to please God merely in our own strength. Although he used Lent as a negative example of walking in the Spirit (we need to discuss our very differing experiences of Lent!), he was quite right in stating that relying on our own little manufactured routines instead of truly living a faith-filled life led by the Spirit cripples our relationship with God, robs us of our joy, and doesn't allow us to glorify and serve Him in the way that pleases Him most.
But if we use this Ordinary Time as a tool, as a time to ask God to search our hearts for any walls we have erected in our minds, hearts, or souls that impede our complete surrender to Him, then we will grow in our faith and grow more dependent upon and more in love with our Saviour. This is the goal of Lent as well to those who refuse to follow the Church Year like a robot, but instead follow the Church Year in Christ's footsteps, endeavoring through His Strength to become more like Him in all we think, speak, and do. Yes, it's easier to be an automaton, to not think about what we do or why we do it, but it's not a satisfying life in the least. I want to follow Christ in every way, becoming more like Him through His Grace, and following the Church Year is one method that I have found extremely helpful for me as a person fairly new to high liturgy.
So Ordinary Time ideally is a time of growth in love and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that this long Ordinary Time stretching out before me through late November will indeed be a time of growth as I continually seek Him through prayer, His Word, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines which, like the Church Year, can become quite mechanical unless they are done wholeheartedly and unto the Lord with the object of seeking Him and finding Him as we seek Him with all our hearts. The spiritual life is about attitude much more than action: we can go through the motions of any spiritual discipline or any season of the Church Year, manufacturing our own rules and rites. But if we do so with the investment of our whole mind, heart, and soul, then we will please and glorify our Lord and, through the process, become more like Christ.
And a life lived for Christ's glory is anything but Ordinary.