I was thinking about time this last couple of days. Actually, I was thinking that the six-month anniversary of my starting this blog was coming up, but it’s not until September.
We have lots of words in English for time. We have months, years, decades, centuries, millennia, ages, eras, æons, epochs. On the short end we have even more: weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds, moments, a New York minute, three shakes of a lamb’s tail. Not to mention the nebulous whiles and jiffies and half-a-secs.
We treat time as a commodity. We make it, spend it, buy it, keep it, mark it, waste it, kill it. In Western thought, the essential quality of time is running out.
In the Christian liturgical calendar, the long period between the end of Pentecost and the start of Advent is known as “Ordinary Time”. I find that rather appropriate to the seasons of our lives: the long slow march through the seasons, one day following the next, little different from the one before. No high and solemn holy days, no magnificence of spiritual spectacle. Just… Ordinary.
In the Northern hemisphere, it’s summer, the season of growing crops, watering and tending and fending off the pests in order to bring the whole crop around to harvest in the autumn. In the part of the Northern hemisphere where I live (an inhospitable desert known as Texas), it’s hotter than a brick furnace and the sun’s rays actually seem to take on physical weight.
This, then, is Ordinary Time. The life lived between. A hard, hot slog at times, the work of the Lord’s vineyard to prepare the harvest for that day which we know is coming, yet which seems at times no nearer now than at the Spirit’s Coming.
New Testament Greek, of course, has two words for time. There’s Kairos, meaning a specific moment or particular time, and Chronos, meaning days and weeks and months and years. It’s this second that gave the Greeks the name to their counterpart of Saturn and gave us words like “chronological” and “chronometer” and “chronic”. Chronos time is what I’m referring to here by the liturgical term Ordinary Time; the slow, metred progression of days, each one more or less alike.
It’s been said that God’s calendar runs not on Chronos time but on Kairos time. From the perspective of Kairos, it’s irrelevant how many days or weeks or months something takes to occur. It occurs “at the right moment”, “in the twinkling of an eye”, “in the fullness of time”.
Then there’s the next long plunge back into Chronos to await the next Kairos moment.
I think there’s a danger here of concentrating so fully on Kairos that we miss what we’re supposed to be doing with the Chronos we are given.
Ordinary Time is the season of watering and tending the crops. It’s the season when all the work has to be done in order to have something to harvest when that time comes around. Not glamorous or seemingly significant, perhaps, and certainly not having the splendour of Christmas or Easter. But an important time.
In the long years between the first Pentecost and the coming Second Advent of Christ, Ordinary Time might have more than one meaning, too.
Yes, it’s a very long, slow progression of years. But what interests me right now is that this cosmic “Ordinary Time” comes after Pentecost.
The implication is that being filled with the Spirit is normal. Ordinary. What We Should Expect.
I like that.
Living lives characterised by the influence of the Holy Spirit expressed in victory over sin is normal.
Living lives characterised by bold proclamation of the Good News about Jesus is normal.
Living lives characterised by righteousness, peace and joy is normal.
Performing exploits of power that give glory to God and demonstrate His Kingdom is normal.
Sometimes our lives are so subnormal that these things are virtually matters of legend. Victory over sin? To the extent of not sinning? Power of the coming age breaking into our lives? Amazing, we think. Amazing, yes, but it shouldn’t be abnormal.
It’s Ordinary Time, between Pentecost and the Second Coming. Life in the power of the Spirit ought to be the rule for followers of Christ, not the exception.
But at the same time, it’s the long patient march of obedience to Him. Getting on with what He’s called us to do – make disciples of all nations. Because when the final Kairos breaks through into cosmic Ordinary Time, it might just be too late.