Ordinary Time…?

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This started off a few weeks ago as a completely different sort of blog post … a post about what you do and say when you feel dry and dusty and really not that capable of saying anything that inspiring or worthwhile.

Needless to say … that’s changed!  Lord, these last two weeks …

Now I feel like words might overwhelm me, choke me, stick in my throat; it feels as though they are spent, exhausted, woefully inadequate – there are too many words to say about too many things … and I don’t feel inspired by any of it …

Originally, I wrote about the odd calendar that certain branches of the church use – the lectionary – and how it divides the year up, so as well as things like Easter Sunday or Pentecost you also get Sundays called ‘Ordinary Sundays’ or ‘Ordinary Time.’  Apparently, according to the font of all wisdom that is Wikipedia, there are usually thirty-three (sometimes thirty-four) ‘Ordinary Sundays’ in each year, which puts ‘Ordinary’ firmly in the majority …

Now, the idea of Ordinary Sundays as opposed to more ‘special’ or ‘headline’ Sundays (Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, Epiphany and all such similar festivals) made me – an occasional preacher – think about how you’d prepare a talk for an ‘Ordinary Sunday.’  And that’s what made me think about what you say when you’ve nothing ‘special’ to say …

I came up with some snappy ideas of sermons you could preach at Easter and such like – quirky, off-beat, engaging (honest they were!) ideas, but the interest for me wasn’t what you did when words flowed easily it was the words we might find in ‘Ordinary Times.’  I thought – and still do – that the bulk of a life of faith (the bulk of any life really) is lived in this sort of life, in the day-to-day, in the ‘daily grind’

I think that we’re supposed to live a life beyond the ‘headlines’ and festivals; we’re supposed to live a real, grounded, vital, engaged and – yes – “Ordinary” life. We’re supposed to live our life of faith in the ‘Ordinary Times.’

But… are these ‘Ordinary Times?’

Forty Nine people killed in a nightclub that was deliberately targeted by a hate filled, heavily armed homophobe…

Jo Cox, that rarest of jewels, a compassionate and caring politician, gunned down in the streets by someone who later gave his name as “Death to traitors, Freedom for Britain…”

A referendum result greeted with shock and incredulity throughout the international community whilst a grinning, gurning weapons-grade dickhead harps on about a ‘British Independence Day’ …

Are these “Ordinary Times…?”

These are times when I’m genuinely sickened by the events in Orlando on the 12th of June, and appalled by some of the hateful and frankly abhorrent responses to another mass shooting, another hate-crime.  Even though I’m safely ensconced on the other side of the Atlantic, somehow this evil event pulls at me and disturbs me, maybe because one of my friends wrote on her Facebook feed (in response to some particularly hateful comments), “And you wonder why it took me until 42 to come out?”

The reality that friends, colleagues and family members of mine, find themselves – their very fundamental selves – still facing a world where a depressingly large number of people seem prepared to almost congratulate a mass-murdering lunatic, or else have appeared determined to avoid describing this act of hate as an attack on the LGBTQ community is chilling, terrifying and simply heart-breaking.

Are these “Ordinary Times…?”

These are times when you think of two young children and a grieving husband trying to face a life without a wife and mother, murdered because her politics were different from her attacker’s.  A woman who had worked for aid organisations to support some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, a woman who was regarded as a rising star in the Houses of Parliament, a woman who wanted to represent her community, all of her community – killed by someone whose apparent ideology was rather less … positive …

Maybe that ocean between Orlando and this ‘green and pleasant land’ isn’t so big after all.

Are these “Ordinary Times…?”

These are the times when I woke to find that a seismic shift has taken place in the political landscape of our country and continent, a shift with profound and lasting implications for my sons, a shift engineered by a privileged elite class of career politicians with their eyes firmly fixed on the door of number ten, a shift that exposes a nation that feels more divided along political, ethnic, social, financial, generational and regional lines than any time I can remember …

These are the times when I feel completely out of step, completely disconnected from my local community, completely disenfranchised … again; I feel that the politics of division, dissent and discrimination have been well served by the pantomime debate that has passed for a referendum campaign.  I feel that I have, yet again, been lied to by the political parties and poorly served by a media more interested in which gold-plated Bullingdon Club buffoon would make a better story.

These are the times when, to quote an old hymn “I scarce can take it in …”

Now, I usually try to finish on an uplifting note, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve got that in me today, not after these last two weeks …

These are not “Ordinary Times” … or perhaps they are.  Maybe this is exactly where our faith is supposed to sustain us … not when everything is hunky-dory we’re all ‘healthy and wealthy’ but exactly here when I feel so devastated and destabilised by the cumulative damage of the last two weeks.

So instead of a snappy ending, what I do have today is a faith that doesn’t just exist in “Ordinary Times” – however extraordinary they turn out to be – a faith that embraces rather than excludes, a faith that resolutely refuses to condemn and denounce, a faith that says to all – regardless of anything – that God is love, and that He loves us.  It is a faith that says that there is hope, and faith and love … especially in these times, these not so “Ordinary Times.”

God Bless.


2 responses to “Ordinary Time…?

  1. Not much to say except, yes, yes and yes!
    Heartfelt post that made me sob (not difficult though at the moment). Knocked it out of the park again really. Thanks for your honesty, vulnerability & absolute commitment to the Jesus I know.

  2. Spot on as usual, Paul. Still struggling with the EU result and what it says about our society. Jesus’ ultimate victory seems very distant at the moment, still angry/upset and ashamed.

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