Ordinary Time: Creation becoming Kingdom
Lectio Divina suggestion: Psalm 139
The Christmas decorations are all put away. There's no more parties to plan, no gifts to shop for, and for most of us, we are returning to normal rhythms of life. For some, this is a comfort, but for others, January can be a time for winter gloominess to set in as icy snow days punctuate the stillness and silence that stands in stark contrast to the noisy chaos of Christmastime. There's lots of time to be left alone with your own thoughts in January, isn't there?
Ordinary Time (also called Kingdomtide) occurs twice in the Christian calendar year. We have entered the first of these seasons, which occurs between the Feast of Epiphany and Ash Wednesday (January 7th to February 14th this year). The second Season of Ordinary Time occurs through the summer months into the autumn, after Pentecost to the end of the Church calendar year on Christ the King Sunday (May 27th to November 18th). Ordinary Time covers more time than any other season in our church year and therefore green, the color associated with this season, is the color that will adorn our sanctuary for most of the year.
We talked a lot about the symbolism of greenery during the seasons of Advent and Christmas. Hopefully you had a chance during December to stop and contemplate the symbolism of the candles and Christmas lights, or the purples, blues and pinks of Advent. Maybe, if you are like me, more then once you thought about how strange it would seem to someone unfamiliar to our customs to see us chopping down trees, bringing them inside, and covering them with shiny objects and twinkling lights. All of these traditions and symbols are rich in meaning, though after several generations, the symbolism can get lost in the practice.
I bring up the Christmas greenery because the green of Ordinary Time shares some of its symbolism. Green is the symbol of life and vitality. In this cold, barren season, evergreen trees are sometimes the only external sign of life in the natural world, and this is why they are used to remind us that though plant and animal life is drawing back to conserve its energy and protect itself from the cold, life continues on in a sort of sabbath rest, waiting for our orbiting planet to once again tilt our hemisphere back towards the restoring power of the sun’s warm rays. The wisdom of sabbath is woven into the very seasons of Creation, on display for us each year. In this season, seeds and bulbs lie waiting in their dark tombs in the earth, a morsel of dormant life awaiting the awakening warmth of spring to be born anew.
In our visual liturgy, when we see earthy greens in imagery and adornments, we are reminded of eternal life, of Christ’s incarnation into human flesh, and of the day-to-day rhythms of our own lives. The majority of our lives will not be spent in the celebration of Christmases, nor the lament of Ash Wednesdays, but in the ordinary, mundane routines of living, working, playing, eating, sleeping and so on. These daily practices, relationships and experiences fashion our personalities and shape our hearts. We can choose to let this lifelong “training program” occur by the happenstance of whatever the world throws at us, or we can choose to surrender ourselves, our hobbies, our jobs, our relationships, and our daily routines to God’s guiding hands. We can make the choice to allow the potter to continue to form us into the masterpiece He has had in mind for us since we were in our mother’s womb.
During this season, the lectionary passages take us through events in the life and ministry of Christ. Through the eyes of Mark, we will walk with Jesus as He calls disciples, teaches the Word, heals the sick, and becomes transfigured in Holy Light. In Christ’s life, we see a blueprint for our own transformation. When you see the color green in the church or in your daily life, be reminded of the eternal life being shaped in you each day. Ask for the Creator to guide each step, forever reshaping you and renewing you in a perfect image of God. Do not be unsettled by the stillness of winter, but rest your spirit and your body when the opportunity arises, giving glory to God for the work being done in you. As the people of God, we look for signs that Creation is being redeemed, becoming the Kingdom of God. Before our eyes can be opened to that glory, the transformation must begin in us.