The doorway into not-so-ordinary time

As I enter the sanctuary, it looks like it is dressed for a party. Red, apricot, and gold streamers twist their way from the wooden cross standing tall on the stage to the edges of the balcony where we bow in prayer and stand to sing praises.
Streamers of crosses have laced the sanctuary during the Lent and Easter seasons.
They have now been gathered and draped over the large wooden cross still standing on the platform, our lives that have been being woven into the life of God as Jesus walked this earth no longer strung out across the sanctuary, connected to his cross but still at a distance. Our little crosses, our little selves, are now pulled close, cascading from his cross like a bride’s long veil or the pouring out of a waterfall, pooling in a basket at the foot of the cross, the overflow of his life now pouring through us, springs of living water to quench a parched people.

It’s as though the streamers are summoning us into the party already going on in heaven, drawing us in toward the cross, toward the dove, toward recognizing the magnificent mystery that is taking place. The cause of this glorious, holy celebration? The marking of that moment when Jesus’ life became ours.
We’ve been living the milestones along the way for months. Waiting through Advent to see the mystery of God, God!, in human flesh. Walking with Jesus, watching as He lived God’s life among us and lived our life in God’s moment-by-moment presence, showing us the union that we were made to live.
A dove tops the cross, the sign of God’s pleasure in his Son, descending at his baptism, now also falling onto us, into us, at Pentecost, proclaiming that we also, in Christ, are now bearers of God’s full acceptance and delight.
The streamers are shimmering in the light.
It’s the perfect day for a party, this day of Pentecost when all that Jesus has done for us through Advent and Christmas, Good Friday and Easter, come together, and we receive the pouring out of all that God is coming not just to us in flesh (that in itself was astounding), but into us, God’s Spirit filling and animating our flesh. We no longer simply witness God’s life lived among us, we can welcome God’s life lived in us. We are now Christians—not simply observers of Christ at a distance, but united with him, and through him, with God. In us God continues the wonder witnessed first and perfectly in Jesus: God’s Spirit and human flesh come together once again in a human body, Creator and creature united. Should we not celebrate?
How is it that the church calendar calls these next six months “ordinary time”? Could an event such as Pentecost be the door into anything ordinary? Can time ever again be ordinary when we walk through each day with God himself walking it not just beside us but within us?
As we enter these months of (not-so-)ordinary time, let us walk in the awareness that God himself now lives each moment within us. And let us celebrate.

What time is long before it’s money

When I told my doctor that my Lenten practice of taking time to be still in God’s presence before bed had enabled me to stop needing the sleeping pill I’d been on for seven years, I was surprised at her response, “But contemplative prayer takes so long.” Assuming I would want to eliminate the time involved and assuming, I suppose, that I was only continuing the prayer because it helped me sleep, she offered me instead cognitive-behavioral therapy, or another type of pill.
One part of her was onto something: The complaint, “It takes so long,” often runs through my head or escapes my mouth. Centering prayer. Imaginatively entering a Gospel story to encounter Jesus there. Housework. Love. Caring for my high-maintenance body with its routines of salt drinks and carefully timed medications, a morning run and an afternoon nap. All of them can feel like they’re filling up my hours with distractions that keep me from accomplishing something more significant. It’s easy for me to chafe at the time involved.
Another part of her was wrong: I choose to be still in God’s presence not because it helps me sleep but because it helps me receive God’s love and love him back. “Be still and know that I am God,” he summons, knowing that for me to be still before him, even for twenty minutes, I have to stop trying to be God, stop trying to figure out how to run even my little corner of the world. I need that practice. I want that gift. There’s a lot of relief in not having to be God.
Last week, as I was pondering the number of times “It takes so long” had escaped my mouth, the question came: What am I here for?
If my life purpose is to accomplish tasks, then centering prayer, Scripture memory, housework, love are all things to be done quickly, delegated, or resented as a waste of time which get in the way of my true purpose.
If, however, my life purpose—my desire and goal, and the purpose for which God created me—is to love and be loved, then these places that “take too long” may be the very places that guide me into my true purpose. They awaken me to my need of love. They slow me down enough to notice love. They teach me to enter and savor the spaciousness in love, and enable me to offer that spacious love to others.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus said when Judas berated Mary for pouring a year’s wages of perfume on Jesus’ feet. “It was intended that she save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:7-8). I’ve always understood Jesus’ words to be about money: there’s a place for love that is incautious, apparently wasteful, in its extravagance. Now I hear his words also to be about time. “A year’s wages”—that’s a lot of time wasted (says Judas), or fulfilled (says Jesus).
People say time is money. But that’s only true if money is the supreme yardstick against which we measure everything else.
Time, like the rest of creation, is first of all love. Time is a beaded necklace of moments carefully threaded by the divine hand, each minute a tiny locket specially hollowed and hallowed to hold holy encounters of love.