A Most Extraordinary Ordinary Time

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Ordinary Time 11
June 13, 2021
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary: We are confident that we have access to something greater than the body, in this life, even though the body and physical reality are really all we can see and really know, because "... we walk by faith, not by sight." Faith is a walk, not just something we claim to see. We claim life beyond physical reality by way of how we walk while in the body.

This is a curious text, one that truly sets us apart as Christians, and perhaps one that contributes to our being seen as eccentric by our secular friends. For it proclaims something that seems hopelessly naive in our fact-oriented life, so attuned to physical sciences and focused on physical reality: It proclaims a confidence in a life beyond our physical life that nevertheless encompasses and embraces that physical life. But it refuses to limit itself to bodily life and is even said to be preferable to bodily life. This message comes to us as we enter that time of the church year known as "The Season after Pentecost," if we follow the Revised Common Lectionary or, if we use the Lectionary for Mass, Ordinary Time .

The church empowered

Yes, we know the word "ordinary" as used to denote the time in the church year that is not part of the Advent-Christmas or the Lent-Easter cycles. And we know that "Ordinary" as used here comes from the ordinal numerals by which the weeks are identified or counted. But let's for a moment place ourselves in the position of those earliest believers, in that earliest expression of Ordinary Time - ordinary time in the life of the fledgling church before there was a formal "Ordinary Time" or a "Christian Year"; ordinary in the sense of "everyday" or even "mundane."

The Spirit has descended and made itself known to the few who followed Jesus from the beginning, from those extraordinary early days of healing and hope, overturned tables, the dead raised to life and teaching that offered and foreshadowed a new world, right up to the shameful, humiliating, not to mention horrifically painful death upon a Roman engine of torture. We have watched with them. We certainly haven't shared, directly, their first-person awe, but we are still privileged to be present with them as they watched Jesus ascend to a new way of being, a new way of living, a forever-life with God.

And then the Spirit descended, rested upon them in tongues of fire, gave them new tongues for new songs, a common language - and then, just as quickly, blew away, leaving them to carry on with a proclamation of a vaguely conceived new life, in the midst of an often deadening ordinary life that surrounded them. They were left in the midst of a new normal - left, but not abandoned, to live an ordinary life pursuing an extraordinary mission, a mission of proclamation of a forever-life possible through faith in one who was both very God of very God and human in every way that we are human, like us in all things, sin apart ....(1)

Thus was the church empowered. That power, given at Pentecost, has continued down through the centuries, to us. We, the "saints," now live and move in this period known as "Ordinary Time," this time during which we get on with the business of life in this world - living between what was then, when Christ walked the earth, when the resurrected Christ appeared to those faithful followers, when the spirit descended and empowered the church and sent it forth into the world - living between "then," what was, and that which, though we do not yet see it, is yet to come, and will come, in God's own time.

Ordinary time

Well - here we are! Living now between what was done, and what is yet to come - between "at home" (in the body) and, therefore "away" (from the Lord) ..."Living by faith, not by sight," between our final appearance before the judgment seat of Christ, and our setting out upon this path of following him, between receiving what is due us, and doing the things, in our bodies, with our bodies, for which we will be judged.

Ordinary time.

So what shall we do with this "ordinary" time, as believers who have agreed to follow after the one who offers to lead us, all of us, through death and beyond? Our ultimate goal, our forever goal, is to be with the Lord. Our faith tells us that we can, and will, be there forever with the Lord, and in the Lord's presence. From this state of being we draw confidence .

We are confident because, according to verses 6 and 7, we walk by faith and not by sight. Faith? Faith in what? Faith that we are "doing the right thing," in some vague kind of way? Faith that we will be shown to have been "on the right side of history" a couple centuries or so down the line? Faith that we are basically good people? Faith that we are sending out ripples that will have an impact way beyond us, or something vaguely warm and encouraging like that?

No, we are offered a faith, a confidence much greater than that. Because of the witness of those disciples, in that earliest of ordinary times, including the witness of that "13th apostle," Paul, we have a much greater confidence, confidence that goes beyond that great leveler that will bring us all to nothing, confidence that, as the song, "I've Got a Hope, puts it,

... this life that I'm living
It will not end in death
I've got a hope
That is not in this world ...."

And, because we have such confidence - so it says here! - we would rather be with the Lord - which is to say, in "heaven," or "in the afterlife," or however we might characterize it - than here in the body.

Reality check

And it is here that - if we are honest - we come up against one mean reality check! How many of us can truly say that we have such confidence, and really, really mean it? Really: who among us would rather be "away from the body and at home with the Lord"? Be honest, now! Is your faith that strong? Nevertheless, such confidence is promised to us, and is our goal - such confidence is being promised to us, right here! And the fact that we are entitled to such confidence leads us to a more prosaic kind of hope, a lived out, enacted hope.

Would you have such confidence, do you desire a confidence that a life greater than death is there to be claimed, to be embraced? If we would truly claim such a confidence, we must therefore seek to live out of that confidence, live out the confidence in the Lord who raised and raises the dead to forever-life, strive to live in such a way as to please the Lord, with whom we would rather be - to live as he lived, with the same priorities he had, the same goals, the same mission.

And that mission was, simply, to bring the love of God to people, most especially the people that the earth-centered, physical life-loving world regards as unimportant, and from whom that world may even shrink in disgust. If we would claim a life greater than death, we must live, if not fearlessly, at least with an undaunted confidence, a life in the flesh that refuses to be limited by the flesh or by the death of the flesh, a life that refuses to be held back by fear or revulsion of bodily breakdown, a life that embraces those who are so broken.

To that life beyond the physical, the life not limited by the physical - that is where we are going. We are on our way to the judgment seat of Christ - whether we have confidence in that or not! The judgment seat of Christ is our ultimate end, and there we will be judged for how we managed our fleshly life. So. Are we oriented toward preservation only of our physical body? Or are we oriented toward the greater life witnessed to by Christ's life and resurrection?

Walking by faith, not sight

We "walk by faith, not by sight," Paul says. What does that demand of us, in times ordinary and extraordinary? That is the question. Its answer is our goal and ideal. We should want to want to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. But do we? This is where we realize our courage and our strength. We claim such faith, and such faith is a walk , a movement, a way of being, and not simply something we see and affirm.

We should walk in such a way as to please the Lord if we would find ourselves at home with the Lord.

"Be of good courage" means that we need not fear death, because when the time comes to leave these bodies of ours, we will go home to the Lord. Living in this faith is a matter of courage. The application of this passage does not lead to "cheerfulness," necessarily, for it is a rather dark and somber understanding that requires good faith, strong faith. It requires a belief that there is something beyond this body in this life that we just cannot fully see at this moment.

The understanding requires a confidence that can only come through being so bold as to live it. Begin now! Receive the Gospel, the good news of God's presence with us now, by extending the love of Jesus to all people. Walk by faith , not by sight.