No ‘ordinary time’ for planet
In much of the Christian tradition, the year is organized liturgically around the life of Jesus and the life of the Christian community. It begins in Advent, in anticipation of the birth of Jesus, flows through the 12 days of Christmas and then into Epiphany. The season of Lent includes the 40 days, not including Sundays, before Easter, and the 50 days of Eastertide focus on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his followers. The day of Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus, as they are empowered to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world.
The season following Pentecost -- which typically extends throughout the summer and fall -- is sometimes called "Ordinary Time," the time when we live out our "ordinary" days, filled with God’s Spirit and doing what we can to live into the Kingdom of God, which is the expression Jesus used to talk about God’s indwelling intention for earth. There is a growing movement, however, to name and claim this season of "ordinary" time as "No Ordinary Time," given the ecological and resulting spiritual crisis in which we find ourselves.
These are NOT "ordinary" times on our planet. Over 7 billion people now live here, drawing upon resources and stressing the land and waters. Species are disappearing in unprecedented numbers; and human technologies have allowed much greater impact on the earth and its atmosphere, as the overwhelming majority of scientists have concluded. For the first time in history, we cannot make the assumption that the earth will be a hospitable home for our children and the generations that come after us. This in itself contributes to the spiritual crisis of our time. This is no ordinary time. Author and activist Bill McKibben uses the name "Eaarth" to talk about this new reality.
At Second Congregational Church, UCC, our Eaarth Advocates group is exploring ways to help us as individuals and as a congregation to be more faithful stewards of God’s creation, including composting, recycling, use of renewable materials whenever possible, and education around issues of advocacy and sustainable development. Our Trustees have appointed a "Heating Options Committee," looking at a variety of more sustainable ways for us to maintain and heat our church building. We join with other faith communities in supporting Vermont Interfaith Power and Light and find allies in organizations like 350.org and Transition US. We seek to form community and alliance with other faith communities committed to responding to our environmental and spiritual crises, and in our worship and educational programs, are committed to exploring who we are as God’s children in relationship to one another and the earth, to discern what God is doing in our time, and what we are called to do in order to be in partnership with God’s on-going creative work.
These are not ordinary times. They require the best of our efforts, our wisdom, our sacrifice, our cooperation, our imaginations. Our prayer and worship and ministries must be rooted and grounded in the One whose Wisdom and Creativity are infused throughout our lives and our world and who is still at work, "even now doing a new thing" in our midst. We invite and welcome all people of good will to join us in this "work that re-connects," as Joanna Macy calls it. So may we be faithful to the One in whom we move and live and have our being.
The Rev. Mary H. Lee-Clark is pastor of Second Congregational Church, UCC, in Bennington.
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