the second Sunday after Pentecost
June 14th, 2020
Today’s readings are:
Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Maybe it’s because I wrote this sermon right after breakfast, but I feel like the church year is kinda like waking up in the morning. Think about it. Our calendar begins in Advent, in December, when things are still dark and cold and you just want to pull the blankets over your head and go back to sleep. Then we wake with Christmas and hear the call of God in Epiphany to start a new day in the Good News of Jesus Christ. Then there’s that groggy time, Lent, when our bodies are waking up and we’re praying that God direct us to the new day.
Then there’s Easter: breakfast, where we sit down with our loved ones, or sit down alone with a nice, quiet cup of coffee, and feel new life pour into us. And, finally, Pentecost, when we turn our eyes to the day at last and go to do the good work of God in the world. In other words, Ordinary Time.
Now, I like this image because it reminds me of some really important things. Each morning – each morning – we hear the voice of God again. Each morning is an Epiphany, for each morning we wake again to God’s creation and God’s presence in our lives and in the lives of those we meet.
It also reminds me that, just like we often skimp out on breakfast, we also skimp out on Easter. Easter in our calendar isn’t just a quick morning celebration but fifty whole days, just like breakfast should be (as much as possible) nice and drawn out, full of good cheer or quiet moments, whatever the Good Lord provides. Easter is part of a balanced diet.
And this image also reminds me of that forgotten time between Pentecost and Advent: ordinary time. Green time. Ho hum time, as we kinda think of it. It’s the season of the church that we’re beginning just now. There’s nothing special about ordinary time. There are some high holy days in it, sure, but nothing like Easter, no Christmas, not even the feast of the Epiphany.
Well then, we often think, ordinary time is when we can rest and relax, maybe, it’s that seventh day of Creation where we rest with God, but instead of just doing it one out of seven we do it for half the year. Mmm, comfy, kind, summery and autumny ordinary time.
But, if we remember the image of the church calendar, ordinary time isn’t when we slip back into bed after breakfast, or our afternoon siesta, or evening when we lay all our work, good or ill, at the feet of God. Ordinary time is the sunshine of the bright day, the driving to work, or continuing projects we were working on yesterday. It’s seeing folks in our lives, whether they’re folks we want to see or folks we really wanted to avoid. Ordinary time is getting stuck in traffic and having to find something to do while sitting in a hot car. Ordinary time is running across someone in need and having to decide, right then and there, what would Jesus do – and do I really feel like doing that today? Ordinary time is ordinary because it’s, well, ordinary.
But Jesus calls us to the ordinary. Jesus calls us to the ho-hum parts of life and calls us from within the ho-hum parts of life. I’ve preached on this a lot, and for those watching today from Coquille, you’ve probably heard this all more than a few times. It’s the hobbit sermon: that God is in the good, simple things of the world. That digging in the garden and walking down the street, just in themselves, can be an act of faith and love and godliness. There are gardens in heaven, probably, vast gardens that need to be tended by folks who love the sun and dirt. There are early morning walks in heaven. Tea time in heaven is at 4:00, and God’s always there to sit down with you and breathe in the warm, fresh air.
But I want to say something a little further this morning. Ordinary time is not only important because we find the presence of God in the ordinary but, also, because we find the call of God in the ordinary. The Christian life is rarely lived in high adventure and while doing important things. Some of us are called to that sort of work, but, even for folks like Michael Curry, our presiding bishop, whose words of love calm and guide literally millions, even for him, the fullest work of his Christianity is done while standing in the line at the supermarket, in walking down the street, in simple, honest, ordinary prayer.
Jesus tells the disciples, “I’m gonna send you out into the world”, and, yeah, sometimes we’re called to heal the sick and even cast out demons, but often it’s to stand at the table at Senior Meals downtown, waiting for someone to come up so you can scoop some lasagna onto a paper plate. Not too glorious, but good, good work. Often it’s to sit at the food back at Holy Name, waiting for someone hungry enough to come by for a bag of food. With each bag you give you have changed someone’s life. Often following Jesus is in wishing someone else ‘peace’ and really mean it.
What do we want our world to look like? What do we want our communities to look like? Whether it’s here in Coquille or wherever you’re listening from right now, or your state or your country – what do you want your community to look like? Another way to say this and get at the heart of what I’m asking is: how do you want your kids or your grandkids to see your community? Where do you want them to grow up?
These are good questions to ponder, and it is here in ordinary time that we figure out ordinary ways to answer them. And to ground ourselves in our Scripture and the Life of the Spirit to have even the hope of answering them.
But Jesus asks a follow-up question. Jesus is good at that, right? Just when you’ve got it figured out, here he comes with something that just drives that question home. Jesus asks us, great, that’s your community that you want. Now, how do we make sure that everyone, everyone, can get the peace, joy, safety, and love that we want in our community? How do we make sure that ‘ordinary’ for everyone – no matter your age, race, color, identity, whatever – to make sure that ‘ordinary’ for everyone is not hatred, anger, and fear, but calm mornings and laughter with our neighbors? How do we welcome those who have never known peace into a world where love is normal?
As my dad used to say, that’s the question of the day. That’s the question of the season. Because Jesus didn’t call us into this life so we could wipe our hands off and be done with it all. No, Jesus called us to join in his good work of searching out the lost sheep and bring them home. So let’s keep our ears open to that call and keep our hearts ready and willing to give ourselves, just as Jesus gave himself, to those in need.