July 2011 Letter

The Ordinary Bits.

 

Last  December, at the beginning of Advent, I wrote about the way that the Church traditionally marks the different seasons of the Christian year with different colours – solemn purple for Advent and Lent, celebratory white and gold for Christmas and Easter and red for days when we remember those who died for their faith, and for the Holy Spirit. 

 

As well as the various hangings in the churches, I also have ‘stoles’ in all those colours.  Stoles are the long narrow scarf that some priests wear with their robes in church – you may remember seeing the white stole wrapped around the clasped hands of a bridal couple as they ‘tie the knot’, as was done at the Royal Wedding just recently.   Some of those I own were given to me as ordination presents, others passed on from priests I have known, and all have associations that mean a lot to me.  The only ones I have bought myself are a set of particularly bright handwoven ones from Guatemala, purchased from the Toybox charity which supports street children there and in other places.  That set is missing the white stole – I was told that the lorry carrying the box of white stoles was hijacked on its way from the weavers and all the contents stolen – a reminder of how very different life is for the people who produced them.

 

At this time of year, I know that, except for weddings, funerals and baptisms, I will not have to repack the stole in my bag, because for almost the next four months, I will be wearing just one colour - green.  We are in what is called on the church calendar ‘Ordinary Time’ – not Easter, not Christmas, not Lent or Advent, not a saint’s day – nothing special, just literally ‘ordinary time’.  I love that name.  I love the fact that the time that has nothing special about it is given a name and a colour all of its own – and that the colour is green, like the ‘ordinary’ backdrop of our rural lives, the grass and the leaves.

 

To me, that says something special about the value of the ordinary things, and times, in life.  It isn’t the high and low points that make our lives what they are – it is the ‘ordinary times’ in between.  What we do with the time we hardly notice is what makes the difference to the people we turn out to be. 

 

In the accounts of Jesus’s life in the Bible, Jesus is often tired, often interrupted in the middle of something important, often called out by people with a vested interest in discrediting him, and his disciples rarely seem to grasp what it is he is trying to teach them.  Yet in all those everyday irritations, he is always 100% himself; there is no forced smile that slips for a moment under pressure to reveal something less attractive behind it.  There is nothing to slip because there is nothing to cover up.  He is sad, or angry, or tired – he experienced all the emotions that we do – and yet those emotions don’t derail him from being the person he was made to be.

 

A well known hymn goes:

If, on our daily course, our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

 

God is calling each one of us to the daily journey of life, and that daily journey, if we open our hearts to him, is all we need to help us become the people he created us to be.  It isn’t always easy.  A long shallow hill can be more tiring that a short steep one.  Because ‘Ordinary Time’ goes on for so long, my green stoles are already looking a bit more worn than the other colours, and if you look carefully at the hangings in our churches you will often spot the same thing.  Our ‘ordinary times’ can sometimes have us feeling a bit worn out or worn down.  But each day has treasures in it, and every step taken in the right direction is a step nearer to God and to our true selves.

 

Rev’d Karen Spray                   01392 877400                            church@revdkaren.org.uk


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