Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sermon, 2 Pentecost, Proper 6B

Today we begin that long, green cycle of Ordinary Time. We call this Season after Pentecost "Ordinary Time" because that's exactly what it is -- ordinary. It's not Advent, Christmas or Epiphany. It's not Lent or Easter. It's simply . . . ordinary. Nothing much really happens during this time. There are, of course, several feast days scattered throughout the season, such as the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist and the Transfiguration. The blessing of the animals occurs on St. Francis day, and All Saints' Day is also in there; but in general, we just plug along with our lives, forgetting that it wasn't all that long ago when we celebrated Christ's resurrection and victory over death.

But there is something going on during this long, uneventful season, and that something is called life. Life, for most of us, is what happens between the exciting stuff. And that's exactly where are, between the exciting stuff of Easter and Christmas. We are in the time when everyday, ordinary life happens.

As we look back over our lives, we can see its ebb and flow: a marriage, a kid or two or three, a job, a move, a house, weekly laundry, a favorite TV show, a death, a vacation -- it's all part of our life. To quote Led Zeppelin here, "Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share." This is where we are in the lectionary cycle; we are at that place where we can follow the ebb and flow, the good times and the bad times found in our Scriptures.

The RCL allows us to follow these stories in a somewhat consistent manner. It's certainly not the perfect system, but it does give us a sense of continuity should we choose to pay attention. We can look back over the lectionary and see how we got to where we are, and we can look forward in the lectionary to see where we're headed.

Because Easter moves, we don't always start this Season after Pentecost with Proper 1. This year, for instance, our cycle begins with Proper 6. In years past, this wasn't a big deal; but now with our continued use of the RCL and its semi-continuous lection, we miss some readings. So let me set the stage for you.

In the Old Testament, we spend 13 weeks of the cycle in the United Kingdom -- that period in Israel's history consisting of kings Saul, David and Solomon. We come in on that story with Samuel anointing David as king. What we missed was the calling of Samuel to be God's prophet, and Israel asking for, and getting, Saul as king.

We spend six weeks in 2 Corinthians; according to at least one scholar, the most difficult of Paul's letters to interpret. This is because it appears to be not one letter, but several letters or notes cobbled together over time to become what we we now know as 2 Corinthians. Regardless, the general issue that Paul deals with in Corinth is elitism and factionalism; that is, the Corinthians were defining themselves by their differences rather than by their unity. Apparently the church in Corinth was no different than the church today.

And finally, this is Year B, Mark's year. Most of our gospel readings will come from this gospel. But because Mark is so short, we will also hear from the gospel of John and what is known as the Bread of Life discourse.

In giving this overview, I am hopeful that you will begin to see these stories take shape week after week. I am hopoeful you will see them build and grow. I am hopeful you will see them not only as biblical stories, but as the collective stories of our faith. Because knowing them, becoming familiar with them, and learning them eventually makes them our stories and makes them a part of us; and in so doing, we draw ever closer to God.

There are two things I want to reiterate here. The first is that we are following the semi-continuous track of the lectionary. This is good in the respect that we can see these stories develop. But it's not so good in that it's a SEMI-continuous track. This means that there are significant gaps in what we hear each Sunday.

I invite you, therefore, to fall into those gaps during the weekday. Spend some time re-reading the stories you heard on Sunday and then go further. This is why I have begun listing next week's lessons in the bulletin: I want to give you the chance to see where we are going, where we've been, and what side story we may have missed.

The second thing is that we are in Ordinary Time. The most exciting thing to happen during this time is probably the annual pet blessing on St. Francis day. We are simply living out our ordinary lives.

But as we do that, as we soldier on week after week, as we begin to wonder if there is any other color but green, remember this: the stories we hear week after week are stories from the everyday lives of everyday people. And throughout those stories, if we are listening, we can hear God working in their everyday lives. Sometimes he works miraculously, but more often than not it's with a little nudge. God is in the midst of their everyday lives.

As you hear the stories, as you live your lives, where will you hear God? As you hear the stories and as you live your lives, where will you find our extraordinary God in the midst of our everyday ordinary lives in this Ordinary Time?


Mark J. | 3:49 PM, June 14, 2009  

I've always argued that there's no such thing as "common" or "ordinary" for Christians. :-)

First time comments will be moderated.