This reflection needs a “prelude” in order to put it in context. Just as our secular calendar is divided into seasons (fall, winter, spring and summer) so too is our church calendar. You are familiar with the more well-known periods such as Advent, Christmas, and Lent that make up the liturgical calendar. But there are others. Currently we are in the season called “Ordinary Time” which began the first Sunday after Pentecost, June 11 and ends November 26.
So with that backdrop, a parishioner came up to me last week and said she has never paid very close attention to Ordinary Time in our church calendar, but this year she is finding that title to be soothingly significant. With floods and fires and political turmoil seemingly marinating every part of our everyday lives, just the idea of “ordinary’ offers a sense of tranquility. She was feeling reassured that in the midst of all the ‘extraordinary’ challenges, the season of Ordinary Time in the church is comforting. As I reflected back on our short conversation, I have come to find equal wellbeing that liturgically we are in ‘ordinary time’; a period that is known and predictable. This is a reminder that occasionally we can ‘hear’ words differently.
This Sunday the Epistle selection is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is one of my favorite verses in the Bible and I think it aligns itself beautifully with the potential consolation that Ordinary Time can offer. Lean into the sample below:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace with be with you.
Paul wrote these words while he was in prison fully expecting to be killed. His immediate reality was one of turmoil and conflict. The culture was described as unjust, dishonorable, impure and shameful. Yet from his prison cell, Paul was able to find a different reality of God’s redemption in the world. He was able to detect hope by training his mind to act with a theological discipline that consequently leads to that peace that ‘passes our understanding. Paul invites them to rejoice in grace and goodness, letting go of fear….and he invites us to do the same.
Ordinary Time, when experienced in this way offers us a gift that is a positive perspective. James Allen in his book, As a Man Thinketh, writes: “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” For today, now, I, in this moment, choose to let my thoughts take me to Rejoice in the Lord always….