It sounds so basic, doesn’t it? After the drama of those mountains and valleys between Advent through Pentecost, “Ordinary Time” sounds like a long, dreary drive across North Dakota. Those of us in congregations not using the church calendar are familiar with the high points of the first half of the Christian year: Christmas and Easter. Ordinary Time? Not so much.

The name Ordinary Time does little to commend it to people who hear “boring” in the word “ordinary”.  It makes it sound as though there’s nothing much happening now that all the big holidays are over.

“Ordinary” comes from the Latin word ordinarius, which means “order.” An ordinal number names a thing in its relation- ship to a set—for example, third in line. This is in contrast to cardinal numbers, which describe how many of a thing there are—for example, five crayons. The use of ordinal numbers in the context of the church year refers to the number of counted-upwards weeks between Pentecost and Advent, when a new Church Year begins. [Read more]

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May

22

2016

The Successor To WWJD

The quintessential 90’s Christian accessories, the WWJD bracelet, T-shirt, Bible cover, bumper sticker (and today, an app) were all derived from the 1896 book penned by Charles Sheldon entitled In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?  The titular question got a lot of people pondering what their choices might look like if they’d act as Jesus would. In some cases, the question brought clarity:

Q. Would Jesus steal this hubcap?

A. No.

But as even a casual read-through of the Gospels will show, Jesus didn’t always do what people thought he would do. [Read more]

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He told them to wait.

Wait for who?

Every time I read the account of the first Pentecost, I’m struck by the fact that Jesus’ followers had no clear picture of exactly who or what they were waiting for. But the risen Messiah told them to wait, so that’s exactly what they did.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)

There was context for his words. They were smack-dab in the middle of counting the Omer, numbering in prayer each day between the pilgrim feasts of Passover and Shavuot. [Read more]

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May

12

2016

In Search Of Mercy

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)

Imagine the scene Jesus described in this parable. A man bowed under the weight of his own failures enters a large, welcoming courtyard. Perhaps he’s young – in the prime of his life – but today he is moving like an old, arthritic man carrying an invisible weight. As he nears his destination, the tears he’s been fighting to hold inside spill down his face.

He begins to sob and can move no further. [Read more]

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What do these people have in common?
  • The single woman in her mid-thirties with $40,000 worth of seminary debt now working as an office manager for a software vendor.
  • The former youth pastor now installing replacement windows for a home-improvement company.
  • The veteran minister with 20 years of pastoral experience now an anonymous attender at another congregation after losing his job when a nasty split took place in his old church.
Each aimed at vocational ministry, believing this was how God was asking them to serve him. Now each is adjusting to life on the other side of that dream, calling, or desire. [Read more]
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