According to The United Methodist Book of Worship, Ordinary Time is the “Season after Pentecost,” beginning the day after Pentecost and ending the day before the First Sunday of Advent.
As I write this blog post, we are in the midst of Ordinary Time.
Yet, it hardly seems ordinary at all.
In the U.S., the Republicans and Democrats have completed their national conventions, and for the next three months, we will hear fierce, negative attacks against each party’s presidential, state and local candidates.
Brutal attacks on innocent people around the world continue to make the nightly news, especially when the innocent people are our neighbors or the law enforcement officers sworn to protect and defend us.
Even in Major League Baseball, the team with the best record is the Chicago Cubs, who have not won the World Series in 107 years!
Ordinary? I think not.
What’s more, we often thrive on exciting and extraordinary events and downplay, or even forget, about the ordinary days in our lives.
Yet, given the chance, I would prefer to relive a heartfelt, ordinary day over and over again.
I had one of those days many years ago. My wife and I and our three teenagers were eating a fast food dinner after a basketball game.
It was just another ordinary day; there was no special occasion or big event. But, as we laughed and enjoyed each other’s company, the stresses of work, school, bills and homework evaporated. We shared our respect and love for each other in the things we said. The three teenagers, all close in age, put aside their petty arguments and rested their competitive natures. There was peace around the dinner table. To this parent, it was a sublime, joyous time when all five of us felt the bonds of family love strengthen between us.
These glorious, ordinary days are the ones we should relish and remember. They give substance to our lives and challenge us to show our true colors in the midst of daily stresses and worries.
For our faith calls us to live a Christian life every day, not only on Sundays, holy days or special occasions. We should see each day as a new opportunity to be a Christian and spread God’s love to others.
In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray plays Phil, an egotistical TV weatherman who relives the same February 2nd over and over again.
After his initial confusion wears off, he tries to take advantage of the same daily routine for his own pleasure. He spends weeks memorizing personal facts about his producer Rita [Andie MacDowell] and then tries to make her fall in love with him. Despite many attempts to work the situation to his advantage, she always sees through his manipulations and slaps him away.
This throws him into a deep pit of despair and he decides to end his life. However, no matter which manner he chooses, he still wakes up the next morning in bed and has to start Groundhog Day all over again.
After exhausting his indulgences and narcissistic ways, he realizes there must be a better way to live. He begins to look outward and finds many who need his help – the young boy who falls out of the tree, the old ladies whose tire goes flat, the local master of ceremonies choking on a piece of meat.
In the end, by finally dedicating his life to helping others (plus showing real humility and compassion along the way), Phil succeeds in attracting the affections of Rita and breaks the streak of endless Groundhog Days.
We are called to live our lives just like Phil by looking outward and serving others with our talents and compassion. The Second General Rule of The United Methodist Church states that we will “continue to evidence” our “desire of salvation… by doing good… to all.”
This is the message of Ordinary Time when the gospel lessons “cover Jesus’ teaching ministry and tend to center on the theme of the kingdom and reign of God.” By our actions and with God’s grace, we are building God’s kingdom here on earth. In the process, we are touching Christ in others’ lives. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40 NSRV)
In Phil’s case, he was forced to live one day repeatedly until he got it right. Unfortunately, we only get one chance to live out each day the best way we know how. When we live each day to its fullest, then we fill each day with actions and examples of God’s love for our family, our friends and ourselves.
“We can’t be a follower of Jesus if we are standing still,” says Gilbert Hanke, General Secretary of United Methodist Men. “As followers of Christ, we are not known by what we say we are known by what we do.”
When was the last time you did something to make today a good, ordinary day, one that you would enjoy remembering fondly in the future?
A previous version of this column was first published in the July 15, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register. This version was published on www.umc.org August 3, 2016.
© 2005, 2016 Christopher Fenoglio.