If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know that each week I highlight a passage from the Revised Common Lectionary. Over the course of time, we have looked at the various seasons of the church year. As you can see by the graphic to the left, the liturgical church year follows a pattern – purple, white, then green. The pattern is repeated twice a year. The small pattern is Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, then Ordinary Time. The large pattern is Lent, Easter, Pentecost, then Ordinary Time. Interestingly enough the seasons of Advent and Lent (both traditionally purple) are seasons of preparation – the seasons of Christmas and Easter (both white) are seasons of celebration – and then there is ordinary time.
It almost seems that when we call it Ordinary Time that nothing special is happening during this time in the church year. After all we have all those wonderfully-themed services at Advent/Christmas and again at Lent/Easter. I love “programming” our musical worship around those two parts of the year. Part of the challenge is to make it fresh year after year. I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but the liturgical year is typically not followed in the Wesleyan Church, although most churches will now give a nod to the Advent/Christmas season and a few have even started embracing the Lent/Easter season. Perhaps the reason I like the church calendar is because it brings an ebb and flow to the year. Much like our physical calendar brings an ebb and flow to our lives. For example, we see the leaves fall and we know winter is coming. We enjoy watching the snow fall during the winter. Then there’s the excitement as spring unfolds in all of its glory. In the summer, we know it’s going to be hazy, hot, and humid – at least here in the Shenandoah Valley. The church year works much the same – In Advent, we prepare for Jesus’ coming. At Christmas, we celebrate God with Us. Epiphany teaches us that God has made himself manifest (or known to us.) Lent helps us prepare for Jesus’ sufferings on the cross. We remember that we must die to ourselves to be true followers of Jesus. At Easter we remember that Jesus rose again triumphantly to conquer sin, death, hell and the grave. Then at Pentecost we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church of Jesus Christ.
I hope that you can see the value in following the church year, but what does that have to do with ordinary time? Great question to ask. Think about the color green. As we look at the earthly seasons, green indicates growth. Spring and summer are when everything is growing and everything turns vivid green. The season of green in Ordinary Time are those times when we are to grow in our faith in Jesus. Yes it’s great to prepare and celebrate, but if that’s all we do, we will never grow. So in reality, Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary. Over these next few weeks, I challenge you to grow in your faith. Our church is currently in a series called “Transformed by Grace.” We are learning how grace works in our lives and how we can learn to grow in grace.
By the way, Ordinary Time means counted time (at least that’s the short non-complicated answer.) We count the Sundays during this time as the Sundays after either Epiphany or Pentecost. Some other traditions do it differently and I recently found out that there are usually 33 or 34 Sundays to Ordinary time when you combine the post-Epiphany time with the post-Pentecost time.
Here’s my challenge – make this next three weeks – yes, it’s short this time around – a time of growing in Christ – make this time, anything but ordinary. Don’t just go through the motions, but seek after God – seek after Christ – let him transform you. After all that’s what the Christian life is all about.
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2 (NLT)