Saturday, June 2, 2018

Thank God for Ordinary Time: Reflections on 2 Corinthians 4.5-12 (RCL Proper 9B, 3 June 2018)

Thank God for Ordinary Time
Reflections on 2 Corinthians 4.5-12

RCL Proper 9B
3 June 2018

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC
2 Corinthians 4.5-12

4.5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.  6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

            7But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.  11For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.  12So death is at work in us, but life in you.

1)  Recently one of my acquaintances on Facebook posted a note criticizing the use of the phrase ‘Ordinary Time’ to describe the Sundays after Pentecost.

a) I’m pretty sure that this is not a debate that frequently occurs at your breakfast table at home or at a coffee house with your friends.

b) Most official Anglican prayer books will describe these Sundays as Sundays ‘after Trinity’ or ‘after Pentecost’ in an attempt to indicate that this time is not a liturgical ‘season’ with a liturgical centre such as Christmas or Easter.

c) But I have come to believe that our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers have captured an important spiritual point in calling these Sundays ‘Ordinary Time’.

d) They have captured our reality:  

i) we live as disciples of Jesus in an ‘ordinary’ world shaped by daily routines, 

ii) by joys and sorrows, 

iii) by meaningful work and perhaps less meaningful work, 

iv) by the demands of life 

a) with our families, 

b) our friends and 

c) with ourselves.

2)  In both his letters to the divided Christian community in Corinth, Paul confronts those members of the community who considered themselves superior to other members because of their special knowledge, their supposed special power and their misuse of the resources of wealth God has entrusted to them.

a) Some of the members of the Corinthian community claim to possess special knowledge of God concealed from less wise or spiritual members of the community.

b) Others are happy to claim that their personal wealth entitles them to ‘lord’ it over the rest of the community, despite the fact that all the members of the community claim that Jesus is ‘Lord’, the one whose life and teachings are the model for genuine Christian living.

c) Still others have become enamoured of Jewish religions practices which are no longer required of non-Jewish disciples of Jesus and are insisting that all ‘real’ members of the Christian community should follow these practices.

d) In the midst of all of these conflicting claims to superiority are the ‘ordinary’ Corinthian Christians --- working people, slaves, women --- who are being shaken in their discipleship by the powerful, by the ‘knowledgeable’, by the ‘spiritual’.

3)  It is to these ‘ordinary’ people and to the others that Paul writes what has become a passage held dear by many lay and ordained leaders of the Christian communities that have come into being since the time of the apostles.

a) Jesus is Lord.

b) God freely gives knowledge of Jesus to all who open their hearts to the message of the good news.

c) This treasure is held in ‘clay vessels’ --- not in gold, not in silver, not in enamel --- in the hearts, minds, souls and strength of ordinary people who choose to become disciples of Jesus and to follow the Way.

d) Those who would claim leadership in the Christian community must anchor their leadership in this treasure:

i) the glory of God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth and freely given to all who desire life in its fullness;

ii) not in personal charisma,

iii) not in powerful presence,

iv) not in rhetorical brilliance,

v) not in working miracles. [1]

b) Real Christian leadership, whether lay or ordained, anchors its ministry in human weakness and frailty, in the actual lived experiences of ordinary people, in the power of God working within us to do more than we can ask or imagine. [2]

4)  Ordinary Time is when we take a rest from the heightened ritual and spiritual intensity of the seasons surrounding Christmas and Easter and focus on how we, as disciples of Jesus, share the treasure within us.

a) We belong to a community with a purpose.

b) We are committed to forgive as we have been forgiven, to bring together what human sin and human hurt has rent asunder.

c) We have good news to share of God’s abundant love made know to us in creation, in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, in the work of the Spirit in the lives of everyday people in everyday situations.

d) We work for justice and human dignity --- wherever God has placed us and with whatever gifts of knowledge, skill, experience and wisdom we possess.

e) We know that we are called to be stewards rather than careless consumers of the resources of this ‘fragile earth, our island home’.

5)  I thank God for ‘ordinary’ time and for the seasonal colour of green, a reminder that this is a time for growth as a disciple, not in the greenhouse of Christmas and Easter, but in the sunshine, rain and unpredictable times of my daily life.

a) As we care for our gardens, let us care for our souls.

b) As we deal with our chores, let us find opportunities to let the face of Jesus shine in our faces.

c) As we navigate our daily lives, let us share the treasure held in these clay jars we call ourselves.

d) Thank God for ordinary time, a time to grow, a time to renew, a time to remember who we are and whose we are --- for the love of God, for the love of our neighbours, for the love of our own selves.

[1]Craddock, Preaching Through the Christian Year:  Year B(1993), 294.

[2]Craddock, Preaching Through the Christian Year:  Year B(1993), 294.

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