The Holy Spirit Is for Ordinary Time
At my church we’ve spent the Easter season looking for and finding signs of Christ’s resurrection power all around us.
We see the power of the risen Jesus through mundane interactions in our worlds, just as the risen Jesus appeared on the shore to the disciples and ate breakfast with them.
We find rhythms of resurrection—death and rebirth—in creation.
We see signs of it in our daily lives: our work, family life, and friendships.
We find the power of the resurrection at work within us when we Christians show love to each other—both in word and action.
And we experience the power of the resurrection of Jesus when we affirm with his disciple John, “Perfect love drives out fear.”
I’ve grown these last couple months in my appreciation of how Christ’s resurrection is still shaping everything today.
So I sort of don’t want the Easter season to end. It feels like a little bit of a letdown. I’ll still be on the lookout for signs of the resurrection—I’ll still try to “practice resurrection,” as Wendell Berry wisely tells us to do. But we’re moving now into that long period in the church calendar creatively called, “Ordinary Time.”
I was doing some long-range preaching planning the other day with a week-by-week calendar in front of me. This coming Sunday is the First Sunday after Pentecost. And then, not surprisingly, it will be the Second Sunday after Pentecost. And then the Third, and Fourth, and Fifth, and 13th, and 19th, and 23rd Sunday after Pentecost… all the way up to the 27th Sunday after Pentecost on November 20. Then it’s Advent.
Those “after Pentecost” Sundays for us are “Ordinary Time.”
But moving from what has been a meaningful Easter season for me into this 27-week long “Ordinary Time,” I feel a little like the disciples must’ve felt on Pentecost Sunday: “What now?” “Where do we go from here?”
We need the Holy Spirit for the “ordinary” days ahead. Jesus unleashes the power and energy and life and breath that is the Holy Spirit, so that the disciples can have the Holy Spirit now that Easter has come and gone.
* * * * * *
If I could live through any period of history, it would be those post-resurrection days with the disciples and Jesus. They had lost him to death once, and now he’s gone from them again through his ascension to heaven.
But he doesn’t leave them stranded. He gives to the Church and to every believer the Holy Spirit for all our days to come. The Holy Spirit is for ordinary time.
A number of years ago, when Newsweek was still a print magazine, the editors asked Garrison Keillor what five books were most important to him. #1 on his list was “The Acts of the Apostles.” His one-sentence summary of it was: “The flames lit on their little heads and bravely and dangerously went they onward.” (HT)
And that’s how we go: onward, into differently structured summer days and adjusted schedules. We go onward, even into Ordinary Time, into seasons of waiting and tedium and unmet expectations—we go forward anyway because the promised Holy Spirit has come.
When we love with the love of Jesus, we go “dangerously” but willingly into places of darkness and loneliness and despair, ready to share God’s Spirit far beyond our gathered Sunday morning assemblies. Through the Holy Spirit’s power we can declare with the prophet Joel and the apostle Peter that God’s Holy Spirit is for all people, and that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The Holy Spirit, having come in power at Pentecost, has filled each of us—all of us—to speak words of praise and comfort and love. And we can move with those first disciples from praying, “Come, Holy Spirit,” to now praying, “Thank you, Jesus, for giving us your Holy Spirit. Come afresh to me.”
And we can know that the Holy Spirit is a promise, a guarantee of Jesus Christ himself, given to us now. The Holy Spirit is for Ordinary Time!
The above is adapted from my Pentecost Sunday sermon to my congregation yesterday.