The time between Pentecost and Advent marks the longest season in the Christian calendar. This period is often referred to as ordinary or common time, although these terms can cause great misunderstanding if they are used in a way to refer to time that is mundane or trivial. Instead, ordinary time refers not to a descriptive of the season, but to ordinal counting: a way of counting time. With the color green as the hallmark of the season, many churches focus on God's mission in this world and our awareness of growth and redemption happening all around.Jamie and I have been swimming in the "greenness" of our lives over the last 22 weeks. We have been challenged to ask in every situation - the easy and the difficult, the good and the bad - "What is God doing in this?" When we have been at our best and have been able to ask this question, we find that we are slower to judge, more receptive towards listening, slower to act selfishly, and more hopeful about the situation. This is a far cry from stating that every easy (or difficult) situation is directly scripted by God (i.e. "God gave me a million dollars!" or "God gave me cancer"), but that in every situation we are to respond first as a receptive listener who might actually hear something, and then as an active participant who might actually be called to do something.
The lectionary for this week calls for a reading of the book of Lamentations. Lamentations is filled with some of the most vivid descriptives of a land and people who see very little green. Yet the author never gives way to complete despair:
...this after he says that "he has made my teeth grind on gravel" (3:16) and "I have forgotten what happiness is" (3:17). This author was living as a participant in a story, a story that told of the One true God who had brought a people out of Egypt and into an abundant land, a people who were chosen to be set apart as a beaming light to the nations, a people who would never be forgotten. Even when darkness was all around - as it certainly was when their lands were taken over, their God mocked, and their children hungry - green was not forgotten. Yahweh had proven His everlasting covenant-commitment with this people time and time again, and the lamentor(s) would not be shackled into complete despair.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'" - 3:22-24
And so we gather every week to continue in the proclamation of this God who does not fail and does not give up on the restoration of all things. We gather to proclaim Christ crucified for the sake of the world and to proclaim our commitment to being a part of this peaceful kingdom. We gather to encourage one another to see the green that is all around us, and after receptively listening to the Holy Spirit, to pick up a brush and join in the great masterpiece. And we are thus formed to be able to ask the question, "What is God doing in this situation?" even when darkness seems to squelch all other colors.