November 17, 2013

God of Ordinary Time

So we come to the end of this series of thoughts taken from Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Stone for a Pillow and Richard Rohr’s book Things Hidden, chapter 9. At the same time, we are drawing to the end of the season of Pentecost-that long stretch between the Feast of Pentecost and the start of Advent, sometimes called Ordinary Time. Because it is such a long season of the church, we might think that we can just ignore it and go our way without considering the actions of God much during those 6 or 7 months. Just because there aren’t any grand high feast days doesn’t mean that God is napping. In the Northern Hemisphere, the months of the season of Pentecost are the times of ‘seedtime and harvest’. In the Southern Hemisphere, the months are the times of rest and fallow for fields. As city-dwellers, we forget that the land needs fallow times to regenerate, just like we do. This ‘Ordinary Time’ is the opportunity to see God at work all around us, if we open our eyes!

Madeline L’Engle says, “We do not ever stop being part of God’s plan, part of the unity, part of the work of the coming of the Kingdom when all shall be made new.” Whether your life is in the time of seedtime or moving into the harvest time, each of us is part of God’s whole and holy plan. Times of rest and laying fallow are to be welcomed because there is a new seedtime coming and new fruit to bear. If you are in a time that seems fallow-rejoice, for new growth is coming.
In God’s plan, L'Engle reminds us, we are given “vulnerability…We are promised not that we won’t be wounded, that we won’t bleed, but that we will be transformed. We are promised not that we won’t die, but that we shall live.” Rohr agrees. He says, “to hold the contradictions with God, with Jesus, is to be a Christian and to share and participate in the redemption of the world.” Throughout the Bible and our lives, we see how times of trial and wounding bring forth new ministry, new direction, and new faith. You have only to look at the martyrs and saints to see that their lives were not a garden path, yet their faith grew and strengthened because they knew God was in it all.

The whole process of planting and growing, harvest and fallow fields reminds us of this cycle of seeming to die, in order to live. Jesus himself uses it as a metaphor: "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:24) As part of that new creation we can grow deep roots into God. This graphic (from a Facebook post) reminds me of that truth and calls each of us to work for the peace of God in our own lives and in others.
Joseph, son of Jacob, although he has much reason to seek vengeance tells his brothers, “Fear not, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:19-20) Like many other people of God, he understands that God WAS present in all that he endured and as Paul reiterates, “in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Because God is in all parts of our life, Rohr says the Cross with “those two bookmark images, the blood being the price of letting go and the water being the invitation to union and divine feeding” is the guidepost we need. Through the mystery of the cross we learn “how to stand against hate without becoming hate, how to oppose evil without becoming evil ourselves.” He asks, “Can you feel yourself stretching in both directions-toward God’s goodness and also toward recognition of your complicity in evil? If you look at yourself in that moment, you will feel crucified.”
According to Rohr, the revelation of the cross is that we see “the opponent is not so much evil as a symbol of a greater evil of which he or she is also the victim.” Only then can we “agree to carry that victim status together with Jesus. We agree to bear the burden of human evil, of which we are all victims and are all complicit.” In that acceptance and being open to the vulnerability and contradiction we learn “we can’t do it alone…only by a deep identification with the Crucified One…[do we become] his ‘new creation.”

The vulnerability, scary though it can be; and the wounding with the scars it brings, are instruments of our transformation. It is an odd and Divine paradox that very often plays out in the ‘ordinary times’ of our day-to-day lives. It can be easy to forget that God is in the vulnerability, fears, wounding and scars because they are all around and within each of us. That is exactly where God is, too-in the midst of us! God is with us even, maybe especially, in the ‘ordinary times’ when we think we are abandoned.
Are you in a time of planting or harvesting, in a time of fallow or growth? How can you, as the graphic says, pull others into your peace-which is grounded and rooted in God alone?

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