Some thoughts on ministry, a collection of sermons, theological musings and of course, random thoughts.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Ordinary Time, Extraordinary God Sermon
June 6, 2010 Genesis 2:1-4 Psalm 8
Ordinary Time, Extraordinary God
Summer time has arrived in Tennessee. We may not have hit the June 21 official start date but I can tell it is summer because the air is so thick with humidity that I get sweaty walking across my backyard to church. I can tell its summer because the mosquitoes of the world have already helped themselves to a feast on my flesh. Mostly, I can tell its summer because most of you seem a bit more relaxed. The children and youth of the church are out of school for the year and I am hounding them to sign up for church camp. Vacation Bible School will be here before we know it. Some of you will leave church today and go to the lake and some will head out this week for vacation. Personally, I love the sunshine mixed with summer thunderstorms. I love the smell of rain as I sit on my new porch.
In the world around us it is summer time- a change we can see and feel because we live in a climate that experiences all four seasons. Did you know the church year has seasons as well? Church time is a little different than the world’s time but it is marked by seasons just the same. We call the seasons of the church year “liturgical seasons”. Liturgical is one of those million dollar churchy words that simply means “pertaining to worship.” There is a rhythm to our worship, there are seasons that we observe here together as a church. No one forces us to participate in these seasons. No pope or bishop tells us that we must. No, we are a Free Church tradition, which means that we choose how we will worship. In this church we have chosen to acknowledge that one of the ways God moves in us as a body of Christ is through different seasons of the church year. For us, observing the liturgical seasons enhances our understating of how God moves through time. Celebrating the seasons gives a rhythm to our worship life.
The church “new year” actually begins back in November or December when we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas. For us, the birth of Christ is the start of the church year. After the season of Christ’s birth we quickly move toward the season of Lent and Easter- which is a very important season where we commemorate the death celebrate the resurrection of Christ. A few weeks ago we dressed our sanctuary and ourselves up in red and we celebrated the movement of the Holy Sprit in the lives of believers on the day of Pentecost.
We are now entering into a new season of the church year. This is actually the longest stretch of churchy-time, the time where we spend most of our lives. You know Christmas, you know Easter, I would like to introduce you to a new season of church time called “Ordinary Time.” Clever name, right? Ordinary time. This season’s favorite color is green. You will notice green in our sanctuary today. Green is the color of growth, of creation, of nature. Green is the color we see when we look outside into God’s world this time of year. Ordinary time isn’t as obvious as Christmas or Easter- there are no special gifts to give, or outfits to buy or heavily marketed candy available at the store. Ordinary time is about us and God. Ordinary time takes a little more effort for us to observe. I might just venture to say that ordinary time is my favorite time of the church year. During ordinary time we focus our hearts and minds on seeking God in the every day-ness of our lives. We seek God in the ordinary.
Ordinary time reminds me of the seventh day of creation. In Genesis we read about God creating the world. For six days God worked at a frantic pace. God created light, and waters, and land, and sky, and plants, and seasons, and days, and years. God made stars, the sun the moon, birds, sea animals, animals that creep and animals that swarm, and every kind of animal you can think of and some you can’t. Then God created humans. After all that, on the seventh day the Bible says, “God finished the work that he had done.” God finished creation by resting. There is a rhythm to God’s time- it involves hard work and then rest. Our Extraordinary God took a bit of time at the end of all that creating to do a very ordinary thing: rest. Resting is part of creation. Ordinary Time is part of the church year. And while Ordinary Time does not always equate to restful time, Ordinary Time is a time to take a step back from all our celebrating and working and do some growing and learning.
Even though we have four accounts of Jesus’ life in our four Gospels there seems to have been some ordinary time in Jesus’ extraordinary life as well. While we know about Jesus’ birth- and we do have an account of him as an almost-teenager in the temple, we don’t know much about his in-between life. If he started his public ministry at around age 30 there is a whole lot of ordinary time in the life of Christ that we don’t know anything about. We can only assume that in this “ordinary” part of Jesus’ life- at least ordinary enough that none of the Gospel writers mention it, that Jesus did a lot of learning and growing. One Gospel account says only this about that part of his life, “he increased in years, and in wisdom and in divine and human favor.” What a great way to spend your ordinary time- learning, growing and developing a good relationship with God and other people. That is the heart of what we are supposed to do with our ordinary time. We are to increase in years and wisdom, and to have good relationship with God and other people.
We know for sure that our God is not ordinary. In Psalm eight the Psalmist talks about how majestic God is in all the earth. “When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Our God absolutely cannot be described as ordinary. If you doubt this then I challenge you to spend some time outside in God’s created world. Look around at all the green that you see, the rolling hills, the lush trees. Or stand outside in the evening and look at the stars and declare, “God, you made all this and yet you care about me? You are anything but ordinary.”
If we know that our God is extraordinary, but our time of the church year is now Ordinary- how do we celebrate? Celebrating Ordinary time is about finding God in the every day. Looking for and noticing God in the ordinary places our lives take us is what this time is all about. If we want to connect to God everyday, and not simply when we walk into the church on Sunday morning, then I think it is up to us to start noticing God’s presence in our daily lives.
Psalm eight is about noticing. The Psalmist notices the wisdom and truthfulness of children and the power they have to silence enemies. The Psalmist notices the moon and the stars. All these things are attributed to the majesty of God. Have you been noticing anything lately that makes you take note of how extraordinary God is? How about that amazing full moon last week? How about the sunsets we’ve been having lately where the sky turns fantastic shades of pink and purple?
Here are some of the things that I have observed lately that might seem ordinary but make me think of how majestic and extraordinary God is. Last Saturday I went to an outdoor party with David and at this party there was a man playing music. He was good- he was an entertainer and the crowd loved him. That seems like a pretty ordinary thing- someone playing music at a party. The extraordinary part is that this man is blind and autistic. Despite those limitations, God put a powerful gift of music within him. God also blessed him with Grandparents who care for him enough to come and set up his guitar and microphones for him to play. They love him and are his biggest supporters. How extraordinary is our God.
I noticed the presence of our extraordinary God a couple of other times this week. I noticed God’s presence as the ministers of this county took 30 minutes to pray together at our monthly meeting on Wednesday. Our beliefs and practices are not the same- but our love of our extraordinary God is a common tie among us. This week we started a new summer youth activity. Members of the youth group are going to go with me once a week to visit our members of our church family who live in the nursing home. I think there is something pretty extraordinary about a teenager who will give up some of her summer time to go and visit in the nursing home. Stormy Nigro was the first to go with me this week and I have several others lined up. It is an extraordinary God that can bring together a teenager and a senior adult living in a nursing home and put a smile on both of their faces.
Where are you noticing the extraordinary presence of God? I challenge you this week to look around, to pay attention and focus in on the extraordinary God who has been revealed to us so closely in Jesus Christ. I can assure you that this time will be far from ordinary if you do choose to pay attention and notice God. Thanks be to God for Ordinary Time. Amen!