Seek to do extraordinary service in Ordinary Time
First editions of "Strength for the Journey," a collection of 31 devotions by Bishop Hayes, will be available Sept. 20 at the Centennial Scholarship Dinner honoring Bishop and Mrs. Hayes.
All proceeds from sales of the books, $15 each, will go to scholarships for United Methodists who are called to ordained ministry.
The book draws from the bishop messages that appear in Contact. To reserve copies, contact the Oklahoma Conference Department of Communications, 405-530-2075, email@example.com.
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus." -Acts 4:13
By Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr.
A few weeks ago, I spent time with some of the brightest youngsters from all over the state-representing a significant number of our churches-who were gathered at Canyon Camp.
They were attending J.E.M. Camp, the annual Oklahoma Conference junior-high student leadership program. I always look forward to interacting with United Methodist youth. About 100 of them were at J.E.M. Camp, and they were wide-eyed, excited about being together in the beautiful Canyon Camp setting.
The theme of the five-day learning experience centered on the seasons of the Christian year. One in particular may be unfamiliar to you.
The volunteer adult leaders at camp did a superb job teaching about the symbols, colors, and meanings for each season.
We talked about Advent and its significant role in our spiritual journey. Identified by color as purple or blue, Advent is always observed on the four Sundays preceding Christmas. It is a time of anticipation and expectation.
After engaging the young people in a thorough understanding of the season, one camp leader said, "Tonight, you probably know more about the Christian season of Advent than 80 percent of the people who sit in the pews."
He was right. Many Christians-including some lifelong United Methodists-know very little about the cycle of the Christian year.
Following Advent is the season of Christmas, celebrating God's great gift of Jesus. The featured color is white or gold. We mark this from Christmas Eve until the first Sunday in January. Next is the Epiphany of the Lord, marked on Jan. 6 and identified by the color green.
The Christian seasons after that date are:
Lent, always beginning on Ash Wednesday, represented by the color purple, and ending on Good Friday;
Easter, identified by white or gold; and
Pentecost, celebrating the anointing of the Holy Spirit, always identified by red.
Terminology about other Christian seasons can cause confusion. We also frequently reference the season of Kingdomtide, and we note other points in the life of Jesus, including the Baptism of the Lord Sunday, the Transfiguration, Passion or Palm Sunday, Ascension Day, Trinity Sunday, Christ the King Sunday, All Saints Day, and Thanksgiving.
I call you to be especially mindful of a season of the Christian calendar about which you may know little-and perhaps nothing.
The season is called Ordinary Time!
That's right. Ordinary Time.
Although not widely known, this season is named to mark the time between those heralded events in the life of Christ. During this period, no particularly meaningful moment was reported. So it is called Ordinary Time.
However, my response to that theme is this: Can there be such a thing as ordinary time for Christians? Are we to conclude that we can put discipleship on the "back burner" during the observance of this season?
In my view, there can be no ordinary time for Christians as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Today's touching Scripture, from Acts, eloquently bears testimony to my view.
The Bible story describes what was, to say the least, an ordinary day. Two common, run-of-the-mill disciples named Peter and John were on their way to the temple to pray. When they got to the gate of the temple, a man born lame asked them for money. And then ...
Instead of giving him silver or gold, they gave him the name of Jesus Christ! The Bible states: "Immediately his feet and ankles were made strong." The man, "walking and leaping and praising God," entered the temple with the disciples. And then ...
Later on that ordinary day, Peter preached a sermon, and 5,000 people who heard him joined the movement that very evening.
Both Peter and John were dragged before the Jewish Council the next day to explain their actions. So boldly did they proclaim Jesus that the judges, rulers, and elders looked at them in amazement.
"Aren't these ordinary men?"
Their awe turned into deliberation. After hearing the testimony of Peter and John, the Council members knew they had been in the company of Jesus.
It seemed like an ordinary day involving two uneducated, untrained, ordinary men. But, armed with the name of Jesus, they were able to perform extraordinary deeds.
We don't need a special season to proclaim the presence of Christ in our lives. We can witness at any time, in any place.
There is neither a day nor a season when nothing significant happens in the lives of those who follow Jesus. Each day is a new beginning, each hour brings a new testimony, and each experience ushers in a new revelation of what God through Christ has done for you.
Are you caught between the seasons? Do you wonder what to do with your time and your witness?
Each day, set your gaze upon God's horizon. Tune your senses to the Creator's gifts around you in every season.
If you do this, you'll quickly discover, as I have, that every day is far from being ordinary time!