I’d seen this image from “Cat in the Hat” many times before, no rx but in our latest reading it made me think of Advent: a word that means “arrival,” a season, a spirituality of watching and waiting for God. What seems weird is that the kids aren’t lined up before a large glowing screen or individual iPads. I suppose that’s not what kids did in 1957. They want to get outside, so they’re watching for a break in the rain, or for whatever else might happen …
I wonder, when is the last time I just watched rain fall? My email itself can be so absorbing, and then there’s the news, which has many of us feeling very anxious. We can’t look away, and in one sense, we shouldn’t when such dramatic changes are underway and when we are involved. Then again, maybe our field of vision can get to be too narrow? In our stress, maybe we pack our December schedule to be water-tight and just hope that God will help us pull it off without complications. What if we stop for a while and turn our faces in some new direction? I think of how rain can remind us of the steady and truly amazing provision of God, falling alike on the “good and the bad.”(Matthew 6) Even those Californians who have to drive through it can appreciate rainfall as a truly important event, a gift.
My other image here is of people in pews watching for Christ, which is not to take a break from reality but seek to understand it more deeply. I’ve always been intrigued by words from the German martyr and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer: the gospel of Jesus Christ is the one place where we can “fix one’s eyes on God and the world together at the same time.” Sin is fully exposed together with grace and great promise. During Advent, we hear about swords beaten into plows, wolves lying down the lambs, good news for the poor, the Spirit descending like a dove, and Emmanuel: “God-with-us.” I can’t imagine how God can do all this, which is I suppose why I need to stay attentive, willing to be surprised and to follow.
“Ordinary time” — it doesn’t sound like the most exciting season of the church year. After celebrating Jesus’ birth, story baptism and beginnings; his passion and death; his resurrection, approved exaltation, and the violent rushing in of his fire-tongued Spirit, we have Trinity Sunday to stand in awe: “Glory to God!
Then, the following Sunday, we hear from Luke chapter 7. What’s in Luke 7? Indeed, what is? You have to look it up. It’s one of those lesser known stories from the middle of the journey Jesus makes with his disciples.
We hear many such stories this summer: rumors but mostly confusion about who Jesus is, experiences of healing and conflict in his presence, provocative sayings and deeds on a path where the destination still seems uncertain. On Palm Sunday and at Pentecost there’s lots of drama. Some of the scripture readings we hear this summer are, you could say, more … ordinary.
We’ll hear about Jesus’ confrontation of a man and his demons, about how a Samaritan stopped to help a wounded enemy and how Mary just sat at Jesus’ feet to listen. We’ll hear plenty of stories about the sharing of meals. I think of how dinner at the Hillesland household is a sort of “ordinary time” in the sense of a regular habit of just being together. One person comes to the table stressed about middle school, another excited to start some new after school activity. I might not have solutions or answers, but I can pass you the mashed potatoes, and do a little listening.
The same goes for church. One school year has come to an end and a new one will be upon us quickly. We’re in the midst of a crazy and chaotic presidential election process. We’re going through changes at church and at home. In the middle of our journey, Christ meets us at the table in ordinary bread and wine. On our way into the future, Christ meets us in ordinary gospel words, to raise questions, invite prayers, open eyes, guide feet and comfort hearts along the way.
So you could say the theme is “extraordinary Christ for ordinary journeys!” The seasonal color is green, for growth.