Welcome to Ordinary Time
Sermon delivered by Bobbi Kraft at Grace Episcopal Church, Sheboygan, WI
Trinity Sunday – May 22, 2016
Welcome to Ordinary Time! (I’ll let you in on a little secret, Michele cringes when I say that and has been reminding me that it’s Trinity Sunday. She’s absolutely right, but please indulge me for a moment.)
You may have noticed that “green” is back. Last Sunday, we closed out six months of preparations, reflections, and celebrations with Pentecost. On Monday, we moved into “ordinary time”. The altar guild moved the Pascal candle back to the baptistery and brought the green linens back out. And, yes, today is Trinity Sunday so we’re wearing white. And, we will wear white (and red) occasionally between now and Nov. 27th, the first Sunday in Advent, when the next new church year begins. But, between now and then we ARE in the time of “green.”
For the past three weeks, I’ve been SO excited just knowing I’d be here today and get to say that to you. Three weeks ago, I realized that the beginning of “ordinary time” would coincide with the end of my first year of seminary. The irony was not lost on me (OR the fact that today is also Trinity Sunday) so I emailed Father Karl and volunteered to preach today. (A little inside scoop for you, priests LOVE to have seminarians preach on Trinity Sunday. You may have heard Father Karl in the past talk about heresies that sometimes happen when it comes to attempting to explain the Trinity.)
But you see, I was SO excited to be finished with the first year of seminary and to get to come home for a couple of days. Ordinary Time.
What does that mean anyway?
The term “ordinary time” isn’t even used in the Prayer Book, but the season after Pentecost can be considered ordinary time. It may also be referred to as the “green season,” because green is the usual liturgical color for this period of the church year. The term is used by the Roman Catholic Church for the parts of the liturgical year that aren’t included in the major seasons of the church calendar. In Latin, the name of this time is Tempus per annum translated as time during the year. Pretty ordinary sounding.
Ordinary Time. By now, I bet you’re starting to wonder what my obsession is with this term when today is Trinity Sunday. (I can hear Michele cringe each time.) Hang on, I’ll explain.
What does it mean anyway?
Technically, it means that we’ve just finished season upon season in the church year. It started in December with Advent and the preparation of our hearts for Christmas. Then it was the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas and throughout Epiphany. Then, we went into a time of self-examination and reflection during Lent. Followed by the Passion of our Savior’s crucifixion and death followed by the celebration of His resurrection and Eastertide. Since His resurrection, we’ve celebrated His Ascension and then Pentecost with the arrival of the Holy Spirit. It has been an intense time of arrivals and departures.
At Grace, it has meant the past six months has been a flurry of activity. Advent meditations, special music concerts, Lenten dinners, Easter Gala, hosting tripartite events and a multitude of other excellent things that have marked the wondrous events of the church year. And now, for 29 weeks, we are in Ordinary Time until it all begins again with Advent at the end of November.
Quite a ride!
And, it may seem like it’s time for a break. But that’s the kicker, it’s not. Ordinary Time is NOT vacation time. It’s “growth” time…it’s the green season…it’s when we get to start putting into use the things we’ve learned while preparing, celebrating, walking with, reflecting, examining, celebrating, and bidding our Lord farewell at Ascension while waiting for the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Pentecost, just last week, when people began speaking in languages that allowed their “stranger neighbor” to understand them. Ordinary Time is when we get to go out and minister to the world…sometimes right next door.
When I heard that today was also going to be the Celebration of Ministries service, I got even more excited about preaching than when I’d discovered it was Ordinary Time, Trinity Sunday, AND had read the scriptures for today. Because Ordinary Time IS about ministry!
In this morning’s Gospel of John:
Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
I love that line! Jesus is letting us know that he could share more with us but we’re not ready yet. Phew. Sounds like we’re off the hook, right? Nope.
You see, the key to that passage is in the words “Bear them now.” The greek word used here is bastazein (βαστάζειν) and means “to bear them.” Bastazein is found 27 times in the New Testament. It’s used in a variety of ways such as in: “Who can bear it!?!” or “Bear the cross” or “Bear the stigma” or “Bear my name” or when we are anointed “Bear my seal”. Sounds like a lot for us to carry, right?
But in this case, “BEAR” is very close to the word meaning “to have” and there is no hint of a burden. Though the word “bear” is often seen as an outward exertion of power, as in carrying the cross, something that requires “exercise and application of will.” Here it is a matter of the personal attitude of the disciples and of us all. There are moments when there is more to be known, but we are not quite ready…not quite strong enough…trained enough. But what Jesus is saying is NOT a criticism.
I’ve learned a lot this past year at seminary but I’m also aware that I am not bold enough to say that I understand it all! In fact, I haven’t had homiletics yet! Though I am glad to say that I know that’s the fancy word to mean “preaching class”. I also haven’t had systematics yet, so I’m hardly qualified to be preaching with “authority” on the Trinity. Yet, desire, that hunger within, has found me on this journey which finds me here with you, preaching on Trinity Sunday. Today, I’m exercising new muscles. This past year, has been filled with a variety of course work including Church History, Hebrew, Old Testament, and New Testament. All components in the mystery of faith.
When it comes to the Trinity, I’m not prepared to share any illustration that may or may not have someone “heresy” checking it. What I do know, is that in the fourth century Arius of Antioch and Anthanasius battled over the Trinity. Arius was teaching that the Son and Spirit were subordinate to the Father. However, take a look at the Anthanasian Creed in the back of the Prayer Book sometime…you’ll get a pretty good idea that Anthanasius and the Council were counter the teachings of Arius in a major way! Then, in the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo came along and emphatically proclaimed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constituted a divine unity of the same substance and equality. Augustine emphasized that GOD IS RELATIONSHIP.
God is not static but interactive. Augustine compared the Trinity’s three-in-oneness to the tripartite nature of our soul’s memory, understanding, and will. But, more importantly, Augustine found triune unity in the human experience of love. Love is not static. It implies relationship and expression. It cannot exist without a lover, a beloved, and the act of loving. God is love. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And if that is too much for you to “bear” at this point in time, that is fine. The Trinity is one of those mysteries that many people “take on faith.” Remember, Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” We aren’t expected to have all the answers. We are expected to love. That’s the best witness we have in the world.
Trinity IS what binds us together. We worship a Triune God. AND not only us. This is how we are bound together with others.
― Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity
“Because the Christian God is not a lonely God, but rather a communion of three persons, faith leads human beings into the divine communion. One cannot, however, have a self-enclosed communion with the Triune God―a “foursome,” as it were―for the Christian God is not a private deity. Communion with this God is at once also communion with those others who have entrusted themselves in faith to the same God. Hence one and the same act of faith places a person into a new relationship both with God and with all others who stand in communion with God.”
You see, the thing about ordinary time is that it is NOT about “vacation” time. And our Gospel from John is not saying we’re not ready. Over these past six months, our hearts have been prepared for Christ, He’s shown us how to live and how to love, He’s been crucified, died, and resurrected all because of God’s love for us and His desire for us to be back in right relationship. It’s THE GREATEST love story ever told!
AND then, before he left, he encouraged us to go out into the world to be his hands and feet in his place…to show people the love of Christ. PLUS, the Spirit comes along to fill us and build up the Church! Ordinary time is our time. It’s our time to go out into the world. This is why I am so excited to be here this morning for the Celebration of Ministries on this Trinity Sunday.
Shortly, we’ll celebrate all the ways that we try to share God’s love with the world. If the Spirit has been prodding you to consider putting your specific gifts to use for the Kingdom, don’t hesitate. If you haven’t before because you think you aren’t ready or don’t know enough, I’ve got news for you, God loves to see us step out. In fact, He delights in it!
This morning, our Old Testament reading from Proverbs has a little nugget especially for those of us who are sometimes afraid we don’t know enough and allow that fear to stop us. Today, we have most of chapter 8 before us. What’s different about chapter 8 from the rest of Proverbs is that in it, “wisdom” speaks as a person. The thing I want to share with you about wisdom is found in verse 30.
When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a “master worker;”
A master worker. In Hebrew, the word is אָ֫מ֥וֹן amon (a mown). In our translation, they’ve chosen “master worker” from among the possible translations for the word amon. Other translations use “craftsman” or “architect”. However, it would also be appropriate, as some translations do, to use “nursling” or “little child” or “one brought up.” You see, Wisdom is both a Master and a Child.
Let me share a story to illustrate. When I was young, my parents taught me how to ride a bike. They used to run behind me so I’d know they’d make sure I wouldn’t fall over. And eventually, they knew and encouraged me that I could do it on my own. But I wasn’t sure of it. Until one day, a group of us were at the sand pit on the other side of the block that we lived on. Someone needed something from home and suggested that I run home with Steve Detlaff’s bike to get it. I was so tickled that they’d asked me to and that I’d get to use Steve’s bike that I said “yes” despite the fact that I’d never gone by myself. And I rode off, like a pro. Until I got to the corner…and realized that I didn’t know how to turn because I’d only ever gone in a straight line with my parents following behind.
I share this story with you because, sometimes, we won’t know what we don’t know until we start using what we DO know. Don’t allow the fear that you might not know enough to keep you from sharing God’s love. We know how to love because He first loved us. Like a master worker: and I was daily his delight.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” It’s not a criticism, it’s a promise. There is SO much more to have. Start riding your bike. Go out into the world. See where God is taking you next!
Ordinary time…our time to act and grow…green season. The Spirit of truth will come and will guide you. And God will DELIGHT in you! My prayer is that during this Ordinary Time we all will rely on the Trinity to Go. Do. Love…especially when it scares us a little bit…make it extraordinary.