Ordinary Time

Mustard seed blossoms in spring
Creative Commons License photo credit: Abe K

Do you ever have some bizarre, random thought pop into your head at the weirdest time, like when you’re driving, and you think, Now where did THAT come from? That’s been happening a lot to me lately. I’ve been having lots of weird, random recollections. Maybe it’s the full moon!

Ordinary Time. That’s what came to me the other evening as my mind was wandering and my body was struggling on the elliptical machine at the gym. More specifically: We live most of our lives in Ordinary Time. I don’t think I’ve even thought about Ordinary Time since a church history course in seminary some thirty-two years ago!

Leave it to the Church to create seasons or a calendar that make sense only to trained clergy. How does Ordinary Time or Kingdomtide factor into the eternal scheme of things for most people? Maybe you’re wondering, What IS Ordinary Time or Kingdomtide?

The Church calendar starts every year with Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas. After Epiphany (around January 6) and before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is the first Ordinary Time. It lasts from four to nine weeks, depending on the dates for Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. It picks up again after Pentecost and is with us until the beginning of Advent. That includes all of July, August, September, October and parts of June and November, again depending on dates. Kingdomtide is Ordinary Time for United Methodists and Presbyterians. So most of the Church calendar year occurs in Ordinary Time.

Poet Marie Howe refers to Ordinary Time as when nothing miraculous is happening. I love that imagery because, I’d venture to say, that’s exactly how most of us feel about our lives: ordinary with nothing miraculous happening. Our lives are like the definition of ordinary: of no special quality or interest; plain or undistinguished; customary or usual. And I think that’s just how it’s supposed to be. In fact, that’s exactly how I think of faith. Our faith is best expressed in ordinary ways, with ordinary lives when nothing miraculous is happening.

Maybe that’s why Jesus used the metaphor of the mustard seed when telling one of his shorter parables:

He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches’ (Luke 13:18-19).

Interestingly, the people of Palestine didn’t grow mustard in gardens. It grew wild in fields. In fact, once the tiny seed was sown, it germinated where it dropped and was almost impossible to rid a place of it. However, if transplanted, it could be tended and cultivated for all of its flavor and health benefits.

Like a mustard seed, faith is ordinary. It’s meant to sustain and guide us in the ordinariness of our lives. It’s meant to be useful to us when nothing miraculous is happening.

Now I know that seems counterintuitive for some. Don’t we usually think of accessing faith when we need a miracle? Then we operate on cruise control during the undistinguishable times in our lives, not really thinking much about faith while we’re cruising through our ordinary life.

What if we  changed our thinking on that. What if we accessed our faith during the ordinary time of our lives? How would being thoughtful about your faith change how you live in ordinary time? How does your ordinary life in ordinary time change because of your faith?

We only have a short time left in this Ordinary Time. Advent begins November 27 this year. We know the holiday season is anything but ordinary for most of us. Let’s cherish this little bit of ordinary time. I’d love to hear about your ordinary time and your faith!


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