Among Christ followers, ordinary is special, it is holy, it is missional.
By Elizabeth Mullins, Publications Assistant
The liturgical calendar plays out God’s story. Where are we situated in it? Let’s look at a couple passages to illuminate this time in God’s overarching story where we find ourselves—that is, after Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection but before the full culmination of his kingdom, before Christ’s second coming.
In John 3, Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. They must be born again. Then Jesus says,
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:13-15 )
Now let’s look at the story Jesus refers to in the book of Numbers.
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)
Whew. This is a fantastically crazy story with more to unpack than space allows here. [If you’d like to dig deeper, start by asking why was the “cure” in the shape of that which brought the violence and death? It could be a reference to 2 Corinthians 5:21. Did the Father truly give deadly snakes when his children ask for bread, as the author recorded? Matthew 7:9-11 sure feels like a nod and wink to Numbers 21. As if Jesus is saying, “You’ve heard it said, but I say to you…”]
Why weren’t the snakes just eliminated? And what does any of this have to do with Ordinary Time? In Christ, we experience healing and have resurrection life. We’re partakers of eternal life now, and we’re citizens of God’s kingdom now. But there are still snakes in the camp, aren’t there? We still experience danger, pain, violence, loss, and disease.
Place-sharing in Ordinary Time looks like reminding each other: Fix your eyes on Jesus; he’s been lifted up and is drawing all to himself. It looks like binding up one another’s wounds and bites, sharing assurance and hope: Take heart! I know this bite is very painful, but it won’t end you; your life is hidden in Christ.
Place-sharing, as missional people during Ordinary Time can look like the following practices:
- Tell the truth: Life is difficult, and we don’t win any points with our neighbors by pretending otherwise. Tell your story and make room for others’ stories. Be a community that speaks the truth aloud. When you go first, it’s like passing out permission slips to be authentic. Truth-telling is an entry-point to place-sharing.
- Embrace limitations: Sanctification is the process of being conformed to the Son of Man (Romans 8:29). You possess a perfectly human-sized life; you’re becoming fully human, not super human. Stop resisting what even Jesus accepted. You are not self-sufficient. Your existence is precarious, fragile, finite. When you’re exhausted or ill, stop working. When you need help, ask for it. (That’s telling the truth. See previous point.) We’re interdependent by design; welcome others’ limitations. It’s vital to place-sharing.
- Pursue balance: Do an inventory of resources—corporately and personally. Does the Hope Avenue suck all the resources of your church? Is there an area of your personal life that is sucking up a disproportionate amount of resources? None of us has a limitless supply of energy, time, money. (See previous point.) It isn’t valorous to siphon resources from another area of your life that needs it, like rest or relationships. That isn’t dedication; it’s unbalanced. Balance is critical to place-sharing; it requires time and enough margin to pay attention to our place and neighbors.
- Try new things: Normalize trial and error. There’s no innovation without risk. Perhaps we can demystify the “error” in trial and error if we accept our limitations. Admit you’re fallible, confess when you mess up, and try again. (See previous points. It all fits together, right?) Loving our neighbors will always require risk. Let’s face it—place-sharing involves the unknown. We’re getting to know people who were previously strangers. When we reward triumph over trying, we create spiritual hierarchies. Let’s honor our sacred work—however different it looks—without comparison and leave the outcome to the Holy Spirit.
The Oxford dictionary defines ordinary as having no special or distinctive features. Common usage of the word is misleading, implying that ordinary is uninteresting, unimportant. Our lives are situated in the triune life; therefore, our ordinary lives are special. Ordinary is holy. Ordinary is beautifully missional.