The Sundays after Pentecost are called Ordinary Time—all the way until Advent. About half of the year is “ordinary!” This doesn’t have to mean they have to be mediocre, middling, or mundane, though. The word “ordinary,” as used to describe these Sundays, comes from “ordinal number,” which means a number in a series. In other words, these Sundays are numbered in their sequence following Pentecost Sunday.
Even so, they don’t have the “extraordinary” sense of the flashier seasons which start with Advent and rehearse the story of the gospels from John the Baptist to the Nativity to the Epiphany to Lent to Easter to Pentecost. Instead, Ordinary Time provides an opportunity to explore the pathways of Christian discipleship as we strive to be faithful disciples in our own time.
In any given year, as a preacher and worship planner, I feel my way into Ordinary Time because it offers plenty of options. I’m not required to use the Common Lectionary (calendar of scripture readings widely shared among many denominations). But as one who values Biblical preaching (which doesn’t always equate to spending most of the sermon explaining a passage of scripture), I prefer starting my planning with a sacred text to starting with a topic (or “an ax to grind”).
So, this year, I’ve glided into the gospel passages in Matthew, which is where I think we’ll stay for a while. We’ve read (and I’ve preached) from Matthew 10 and 11. Now we’ll get into a chapter of parables. You will recognize these stories, I predict. The disciples found them hard to understand; sometimes they asked Jesus to make sense of the parables. Ever since, the church has been reaching in to these stories to probe their meaning. I look forward to resuming that task and sharing the journey with you during these coming weeks of “Ordinary Time.”