Changing seasons are a gift. As the days get warmer and longer, there are opportunities for new rhythms of life. A walk outside in the wonders of nature captivates us as we notice the light and feel the breeze. A mid-afternoon swim nourishes us like fresh cantaloupe and watermelon.
In the Church calendar, this season of the year marks the beginning of Ordinary Time. For leaders in inherited churches, it can be a long haul from now until November.
Ordinary Time seems a bit odd and misplaced. After the sorrow of the cross, the joy of the resurrection and the intoxicating power of the Spirit poured upon the Church at Pentecost—the time that the gathered community of believers inhabits is anything but ordinary, right?
The Least Exciting Part of Mission
Those just beginning the journey toward pioneering fresh expressions of church are likely to bristle at the thought of anything ordinary. Pioneers are out on the edge, moving ever closer to those on the margins of faith.
Ordinary time may be the least exciting part of mission. Which is also why it is so important.
If we’ve been paying attention—the power of the resurrection and the power of the Spirit make this season of ordinary time as ordinary as a honey bee descending upon the ruffled edges of a flower petal or as ordinary as a person learning to swim. At the macro level, the bee lighting on a flower petal is just one in a million bees lighting upon one in a million flowers. The same applies to the person learning how to swim. A closer analysis, of course, offers a deeper insight.
The fact is most often, our callings as missionary disciples are lived out in the midst of the ordinary. Our callings become clearer when we notice the extraordinary every time and everywhere we take the extra moment to look and listen and respond. Our lives become complicated when we get to know people on the margins of faith only to discover that they have very much in common with our own ordinary existence. It takes a great deal of courage to see this. It takes courage to give ourselves over to the ordinary. But this is where we are most likely to meet God.
In his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says that:
To be evangelizers of souls, we need to develop a spiritual taste for being close to people’s lives and to discover that this is itself a source of greater joy. Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people. When we stand before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love which exalts and sustains us, but at the same time, unless we are blind, we begin to realize that Jesus’s gaze, burning with love, expands to embrace all his people. He takes us from the midst of his people and he sends us to his people; without this sense of belonging we cannot understand our deepest identity.
When we consider the places that Jesus inhabited during his life on the earth, the people he met and the stories he shared; we can’t help but see the correlation to our own identity and existence. When we yield ourselves to live as agents of Christ’s self-giving love in the midst of ordinary relationships and ordinary moments, we discover our truest identity.
That’s where the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Gannon is the Director of Ministry Formation for Fresh Expressions US and leads the Fresh Expressions efforts of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from Baylor University and the Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. Prior to entering seminary, Gannon worked as a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate and as a public affairs officer in the anti-human trafficking office at the U.S. State Department. He enjoys forging partnerships between followers of Jesus from different traditions and has served in various roles at several churches, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Gannon is married to Carey, who also is a graduate of Duke Divinity School. Together they work to bring fresh expressions of church to the collegiate community at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.