Yesterday marked the end of the Easter season. A week and a half after marking the ascension of Jesus, the church celebrates the day of Pentecost, a commemoration of the birth of the church through the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the church service I attended last night, the sanctuary was accented with red and leis were exchanged during the passing of the peace. It was a nice way to mark the end of a particular part of the church’s liturgical calendar.
While I’ve taken part in bits and pieces of the liturgical calendar throughout the last few years, this is my second and attempting to be present for a majority of services from Advent to Pentecost. I’ve started to the see church’s liturgical calendar as something to help my devotional practices for the rest of my life. It provides a good and (many would argue) necessary rhythm to the year that transcends the other holidays that mark our cultural calendars.
And so now we enter what has been dubbed “ordinary time.” In Ancient-Future Time, Robert E. Webber points out that this name is intended as a contrast to the six months of the calendar of “extraordinary time” that crescendoes with Christmas and Easter. Which isn’t to say that nothing special will happen in the church for the next six months. Webber sees this part of the liturgical calendar as a real reminder of why Christians worship on Sunday.
Sunday worship expresses Christian truth through remembrance of the God who acts . . . Sunday worship, every Sunday, is a celebration of God’s story. And the constant bathing of our worship in this story– songs, preaching, baptism, Eucharist, and the Christian-year celebrations– form and shape our conscious and unconscious living in this theater of God’s glory!
From Webber’s perspective, this “ordinary time” is an opportunity to remember God’s saving action in history, experience God’s renewing presence, and anticipate the consummation of God’s redeeming work in the New Heavens and Earth. Webber concludes:
Here the church calls to mind the teaching of the church and the practices of the Christian life as recorded in the New Testament writings.
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I am sad, really, to see this part of the year come to an end. There’s something about the intentionality of the time that is both challenging and refreshing. There’s a real sense that time and timing matter, that church members are on the same page by more than just whim. But ordinary time is also an opportunity to put into practice what you have learned, almost like an echo of time on the mountain top as opposed to time in the valley. I’ve definitely felt and learned a lot this time around the calendar of extraordinary time. And I greatly look forward to entering it again in December.
(image from arrowelectronicsfitness.com)