by Ryan Mark Richardson
(EDIT: I’ve been informed by the more liturgical types, that, technically Easter isn’t over, but lasts for another 6 weeks. I think, practically, for most of America, however, that Easter is effectively a day and not a season and that we now continue about our lives)
Apparently this time of year in the (mostly Catholic) church calendar is called Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is the rather aptly named event in the sense that in the days ahead, you are about as far from any Christian holiday as you could possibly be. Superficially, this is a fairly frown-inducing thought. However, it bears further consideration.
A few things come to mind digging past the surface a bit – first is that the secular world experiences this time all the time. Perhaps not in practice, goodness knows there are now holidays for just about every season of life – everything to promote worship of trees to nationalism and we even toss in some of that Eastern idea of ancestor worship with some of our founding fathers. But in actuality, these are pathetic substitutes for anything lasting and worthwhile. Trees come and go – all it takes is a good ice storm to remind us of that. Empires have fallen – empires that frankly have lasted a lot longer than America have fallen. Ancestors have passed and while remembrance is a good thing – to remind us of men who either ran the race well or as a caution against those who didn’t – they are still dead. And once the temporality of it all is considered, what is left is the wisdom that Ecclesiastes brings – that it is all vanity. Vanity that when stripped leaves a very empty, hurting, unmedicated Creation that is in desperate need of a Saviour.
The second is that Ordinary Time, in the light of the two other major seasons of the Christian calendar, is a profoundly disturbing name that detracts from the greatness of the other two seasons. Because, in the light of those other two seasons – nothing is or can ever be ordinary again and Jesus doesn’t leave that option. Ordinary implies something un-radical – and, for a moment, please suspend associations with David Platt’s book. Ordinary is not a word of extremes, but that is precisely the state of the world through the lens of the cross – sin has so completely and radically shattered Creation that we extraordinarily pursue the things of this world – comfort, money, relationships, and the list goes on to the extreme that we killed God, we put Him on a cross, and then in a grave because we extraordinarily loved the things of this world instead of the goodness found in Him. And the only way out of that radical depravity is through radical grace – grace shown in that Jesus died and that His request while on the cross of “Father forgive them…” and His cry of, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” means that because Jesus, the only Son of God from time immemorial, chose to forsake His Sonship and Godhead and still plead for our forgiveness, means that our lives can be extraordinarily changed. That, under His grace, we can have access to Him in His wisdom and love and have our eyes opened to the vanity of the world apart from Him. And that leaves the world a very unordinary place. Instead it is a place of extraordinary brokenness, but also a place for extraordinary redemption.
Finally, Ordinary Time implies that our expectations should be low – that this is a season where nothing special happens. And it implies that God is far off. The world, at large, has bought the argument. Instead it has become that just certain holidays where magic happens – from the annual hype of the Christmas where the suicide rate jumps fairly substantially and everybody always seems to be let down from the low reward from the stress; to the days we have where we have to treat loved ones particularly special, because for some reason it’s become ordinary for husbands to not love wives and so we have Valentine’s Day so that they can do something extraordinary like taking them out for dinner, it’s become okay for kids to not honor and respect their parents and so we’ve created days to try to instill that, in a time when our culture has become disenchanted by American politics we have Independence Day to remind us that our country is great because we can shoot fireworks into the air, we have Labor Day to remind us to steward our environment… and the list goes on. But the Gospel says precisely the opposite – that it is in the ‘ordinary’ of faithfully serving that the extraordinary happens. God has moved us to extraordinarily worship Him because He is lasting and worthwhile all the time and not just on Christmas Day, that He because He has so unconditionally loved us, we are restored to His image, at least in part, so that husbands might actually extraordinarily love their wives all the time, that children might actually extraordinarily love, respect, and honor their parents, that we can be thankful that He has put us in a country where we can freely, extraordinarily worship Him and also be aware that our country is not God and that that freedom should not lull us into a sense of complacency, and that we can see His hand moving in how Creation has been shaped and so we can be extraordinary stewards of His planet and Creation.
In the Cross of Christ, Ordinary Time isn’t ordinary, and we have a God who is able to do more than we ask or think. And when the Gospel goes forward, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary and nothing can ever be the same again.
Side note – my Facebook is back (Spotify is just too handy to shut it down completely… Lord knows, I tried)… however Facebook is a bad way to reach me. Chances are you have my number if you’re reading this, so try the old fashioned way. Alternately, I still check my Twitter a @_ryanrichardson.
Grace and Peace