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Killing Time in Ordinary Time

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42

By Elizabeth Mullins, Publications Coordinator

At my local pharmacy, I am scrolling through my phone while I wait for my prescription. I see my neighbor, Clyde, seated in the waiting area. We catch up; he tells me what is new with his grandchildren. Suddenly Clyde becomes serious, and his eyes fill with tears. He confides how terribly he misses his wife since her death last year. In that unplanned encounter, we shared a meaningful connection.

It was an encounter that happened while I was “killing time.” “Killing time” is an expression we use in the U.S. to describe something we do to spend our time while we are waiting; it is the time between more important activities. But what if the unscheduled time I spent hanging out with Clyde was the important activity of the day?

The Ordinary Time season reminds me to reflect on Jesus’ mission and my participation in it. I believe fellowship is a spiritual discipline, but am I devoted to it? A good formation practice for me is to regularly contemplate whether the way I spend my time prioritizes relationships. One way I am being conformed to Christ is through relationships. Hanging out with others is how I pursue belonging and connection and build meaningful community. Often the connection that the Spirit intercedes between or among people cannot be planned for and cannot be hurried. Have I made room for availability and spontaneity?

Here are some reflections about cultivating the spiritual discipline of fellowship. May they serve as prompts as you discern with the Spirit.

  • How much unscheduled time do I have? Why? How am I spending it?
  • When do I choose comfort, simplicity, solitude? When does that choice contribute to my formation in Christ? Is it ever a hindrance?
  • Am I ordering my life around the convenience of privacy and an uninterrupted schedule? Are there ways it has led to isolation?
  • How am I drawing a “wider circle” — wider than my family, my home, my preferred friend group? (Jesus widened our image of family — creating a new family, God’s household. Ephesians 2)
  • Reflect on the last time you spent time with a toddler or an elder. What do they have to teach me about the way we keep time? Are there ways we can celebrate inefficiency?
  • What story is my time-keeping telling? If a stranger observed my bodily rituals, what might they decide that I worship?
  • How might the Spirit be inviting me to create just a little more space and margin for killing time with other people?

Father, Son, and Spirit,
We repent of those times when we say that we embrace you as triune and relational but spend our time in a way that does not prioritize relationships. Empower us to live openly social and spontaneous lives, seeking proximity to others in shared or public spaces. We believe a fitting response to your love is to generously give our time to others as an offering. Help our unbelief! May fellowship be our worship. May we waste time on others in the prodigal sense — lavishing and expending extravagantly!
Amen.

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