Congratulations! We’ve made it through the various liturgical seasons of the first half of the Christian year, and we’ve now hit the six-month period known as Ordinary Time. The excitement of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost have passed as we reflected and celebrated, and then reflected and celebrated again. The ‘ordinary’ period of the calendar now awaits. Away with excitement and festivals and in with the journey through to the end of the liturgical year and the start again of Advent.
One difficulty with talking about the season as ordinary time is to be aware that ordinary can be an alternative word for normal. I’m reminded of that greetings card where a little girl turns to her mother and asks ‘What’s normal?’ and gets the response ‘it’s just a setting on the washing machine.’ Normal is the mundane, the day to day, the usual, the things that don’t challenge or push our boundaries. It is the thing we perhaps feel that we need to conform to or even the way we think that we have to behave. Normal or ordinary are things that constrain our thinking or our action to ways that are within limits that others set. Maybe we need to let go of our understanding of normal and usual, and try new ways of seeing the ‘ordinary’.
Most of our lives seem fairly ordinary. We have our ‘ordinary’ shopping lists for our trip to the supermarket. We have our ‘ordinary’ Saturday evening television viewing. We have our ‘ordinary’ route to our favourite restaurant or to visit friends or family. Our lives seem to be full of the ‘ordinary’.
But perhaps instead of being full of things that are ‘ordinary’, we can start to rethink of the world around us as full of the extraordinary. Really, our lives are quite extraordinary. The things we find in supermarkets and the people we meet are far from ordinary. The journeys that we take are full of extraordinary moments and extraordinary interactions. Nothing is truly ordinary.
As we move into the summer months, ordinary life is overshadowed by extraordinary events. In politics, there’s the EU Referendum in June where an extraordinary vote has the potential to affect our ‘ordinary’ lives while in sport, Olympic and Paralympic games over the summer show ‘ordinary’ people making extraordinary achievements. Recognition of these extraordinary events in the world around makes it possible for us to see the extraordinary in our Church life too.
When we think about the Church year, the idea of being in ‘ordinary’ time doesn’t seem to cover it. If we think that half of the liturgical year is just about being stuck in a period of ordinary, a period of unexciting, maybe even a rut that has no escape until Advent comes around again, maybe we need to rethink how we can use the calendar to help inform and inspire us. Yet much of the journey the lectionary takes us on in the coming months is that of the life and ministry of Jesus. We are led through the story of a life that is not ordinary, but extraordinary, and one that offers extravagant promise. Part of our challenge as followers in this coming season is not so much to allow ourselves to become part of the mundane, but to recognise that we are seeking to witness to the extraordinary.
Maybe in this ordinary season we can recognise the extraordinary around us, and be open to how we can be challenged and inspired by the people and places we encounter, and have our faith informed and by the extraordinary story of Jesus.