As Summer continues, we’re now well into the part of the church calendar which has the very mundane title, ‘Ordinary Time’. The practical reason for this term is that we use all the ‘ordinary’ parts of the liturgy in our services during this period, without any seasonal variations. But it also gives us an opportunity to think about what it means to follow Jesus in all the parts of our lives which feel ordinary and mundane to us.
We don’t worship a God who is only concerned with the seemingly exciting and joyful parts of the church calendar. He doesn’t go on holiday after Pentecost to take a hard-earned break, only to return again around November/December time. And in the same way, he is not just interested in the particularly exciting and joyful parts of our own lives, but enjoys being with us everyday, in all we do.
Sometimes I can get myself into the trap of thinking that in order to experience God’s presence, I need to escape from everyday life or go to a particularly holy place. The lesson of Ordinary Time is that we can encounter God in the everyday and ordinary, and that every place is sacred, because God is everywhere.
God is with us during those special times in the week, often on a Sunday, that we gather for prayer and worship, but he is also with us during our daily commute, the walk to the shops or on the school run. God is with us in our church buildings, but also in our homes and our workplaces, whether they are quiet and serene or, more often, noisy and bustling.
One famous story of someone learning to encounter God in the everyday is that of the 17th Century Monk, Brother Lawrence. While other monks were busy with theological study or copying important spiritual texts, he was given the mundane task of assisting in the monastery kitchen. Day by day, as he washed pots and chopped vegetables, he came to the realisation that by becoming aware of God’s presence with him all the time, each seemingly ordinary day could be extraordinary.
Later in life, Brother Lawrence caught the attention of a Roman Catholic Cardinal, who sent an assistant to go and interview Lawrence about the way in which he had managed to acquire such spiritual wisdom. Those interviews became a book called ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’. In it, Lawrence says, ‘In continuing the practice of conversing with God throughout each day, and quickly seeking His forgiveness when I fell or strayed, His presence has become as easy and natural to me now as it once was difficult to attain.’
Like Brother Lawrence, we too can grow as we acknowledge God’s presence with us in all aspects of our everyday lives. Our ordinary time can become extraordinary time, as we grow in our relationship with Jesus through the good times and hard times.
How will you make the most of the (extra)ordinary time in your life?
Taken from the September issue of the Ministry Area Magazine, available in churches this Sunday.