Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross

Gross divides the liturgical year into three cycles: Light, Life, and Love.  These were helpful divisions, although there is overlap in the seasons of the Church year.  But, it gives a general theme by which the seasons are organized.  The Cycle of Light is Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.  The Cycle of Life is Lent and Easter, ending in Pentecost.  The Cycle of Love begins with Pentecost and goes through Christ is King Sunday (Ordinary Time).  The point of the liturgical year is to enter into God’s story.  Gross notes that we are not looking for God in our story but coming to understand our story in light of God’s Story.  Gross likens the church year to a dance.  As you learn the rhythms, you concentrate less on the steps and learn to enjoy it as a means of grace.  As with any dance, it is helpful to know that there is room for creativity and adaptation.  It is not a rigid form but serves as a helpful guide to following Christ through the year.  In addition, the Church year helps us to “mark time because it has marked us.”  There is something significant that happens in amnamnesis besides mental recollection.  We are being formed as people.  In fact, that is the heart of liturgy – the work of the people – which is offering our time as a sacrifice to God to transform us!

            Gross notes that there are 7 seasons in the Church year (as opposed to 8 seasons in Kimberlee Ireton’s work).  The main difference is not counting the time between Epiphany and Lent as a season.  7 seasons could be counted as the “fullness” of time, in some sense.  This would be double in meaning – the fullness of the life of Christ and the fullness of eschatological time.  Gross moves to a four-fold pattern for encountering God throughout the Church year: reverence, repentance, inviting God’s presence, and responding. 

            Advent is the season of waiting and “enlarging.”  It deals with both first and last things – “looking back and leaning forward.”  I really appreciated both of these concepts, especially in considering the story of Mary as a model for this season.  Anticipation, waiting, and enlarging.  We long for Christ’s coming, for God to right all things, and for God’s presence with us.  Christmas focuses on incarnation.  It is a season of celebration where we consider the mystery of “eternity in the womb.”  God becomes everything that we are so that we might become everything God is by nature.  God is with us in every way.  We wait expectantly for God to be birthed in us.  Epiphany looks toward the magi, Jesus’ baptism, and the miracle at Cana.  It is about the manifestation of God’s life in our midst.  It is the journey from baptism to transfiguration.  This can be a significant time for discipleship, especially in regard to baptism.

            The next Cycle moves us to Lent where we are confronted with our “mortality and moral culpability.”  We are confronted with death, beginning with Ash Wednesday.  Lent leads us to sojourn and journey, both as individuals and communities, through the wilderness.  This culminates in the Triduum.  During these three holy days, we journey through the Pascha with Christ – our Paschal Lamb.  We walk the way of sorrow and pain with Christ.  We see the Light extinguished.  We begin by remembering the new commandment to “love one another.”  We live this out by serving one another, by washing each other’s feet.  We eat the Last Supper with Jesus and hear his gut-wrenched prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We see his betrayal, trial, and crucifixion.  Saturday, we feel the heaviness of silence.  Gross emphasizes the “spiritual” dimension about Lent, but it should be noted that this time must also be embodied. 

            Easter focuses on resurrection of the body and a transformed heart.  It is resurrection of the whole person.  Thus, we celebrate the victory of God over all.  It is the “euchatastrophe” – the good God brings from what is catastrophic.  Easter is a season of 50 days, which is seven weeks of seven days.  This seven seven’s points toward fullness of time and the fifty days point toward the salvation of Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor.  The emphasis on Ascension Day was also helpful, as it helps us remember the completion of Christ’s work.  In other words, Christ has given us every good gift through which we might draw close to God and have victory over sin and death.  This comes to fullest light in Pentecost – the Spirit’s empowerment of God’s people, the Church.  Pentecost also marks the beginning of Ordinary Time and the Cycle of Love.  God’s love embodied in us to God’s world.  Thus, our focus is discipleship.  Three didactics are helpful to consider: world and church, neighbor and self, and work and rest.  We wrestle with the tension between each of these poles.  Gross suggests “receiving the day and releasing the day” as helpful spiritual disciplines to guide us during this season.  We receive God’s mercies each morning and release each day, both our successes and failures, to God’s care.

            Overall, I thought this book was a fantastic guide through the Church year.  Although no guide can be entirely comprehensive, Gross’ work does a fantastic job of providing a solid foundation for understanding and entering into the Church year.  I look forward to using this as a personal and ministerial resource through each Church year.

Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral by Thomas G. Long

Thom Long’s book was fantastic and I will definitely be using several of his ideas in my own ministry.  Long states, “A society that has no firm hope for where the dead are going is also unsure how to take the hands of its children and lead them toward a hopeful future.”[1]  This is profound and truthful.  If everything is for not, then what good is life or what purpose is there apart from nihilism or hedonism?  If there is no future hope, then we have no future to orient ourselves toward or that draws us into that future!  Funerals are about proclaiming the hope that we have found in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Long notes that funerals arise out of “necessity, custom, and conviction.”[2]  We have to do something with the body of the dead.  There is a prescribed (generally) way of disposing of the body and acknowledging this life.  And, the manner of our convictions often dictates how we do this as a community.  We must be aware of our culture, the assumptions underlying that culture, and we must ultimately see those in light of the Gospel.

Dualism, the belief that our soul is separate from our body, is prevalent in the culture and has infiltrated the Church.  But, we are both breath and dust.  Neoplatonism has created a sense that we are merely souls and the body is unimportant.  I agree entirely with Long that we have tried to distance ourselves from death and the bodies of the dead.  We have forgotten the hope of bodily resurrection.  This is a place where the funeral must re-capture the hope of the Gospel.  In this way, the funeral actually becomes a counter-cultural act when we proclaim that Death has no power but has been defeated.  We are not there to commemorate a soul or to imagine a disembodied person that floats off to heaven.  Rather, we assert again that the “perishable has become the imperishable.”

Essentially, there are three ways to view death and resurrection.  First, the body and soul separate at death and reunite at the resurrection.  Secondly, there is a general resurrection.  Finally, purgatory is waiting place for souls “in-between places.”  However, this only takes into account chronological time without eschatological time.  Because we believe that to be human is to be embodied, this presents a problem for the three views mentioned.  However, eschatological time, which is God’s time, might allow for bodily resurrection while the body of the deceased still remains dead with us.  This doesn’t lessen the mystery, but it does allow us to maintain the bodily resurrection without the separation of the soul!  Moltmann suggests that God’s salvation is outside of time because God exists outside of time.  Thus, we are raised in an instant “Today.”

Long outlines two ways Christians understand death: natural death and death as mythic force (enemy of all God wills in and for life).  But, there is a third way to understand death, which is death in Christ.  This is important because death happens both on the individual and corporate level.  There are “powers” that impact all of Creation.  However, “death in Christ” actually, and ironically, becomes the vehicle for life.  Because we are crucified with Christ, we are also raised to new life.  It is about our baptism!  I love this connection.

The purpose of worship, and thus the funeral, is narrating the great drama of the journey to God.  It is the re-enactment of the Gospel.  It is something that must continuously be proclaimed and performed as the community.  As we remember we are re-membered (put back together).  Thus, funerals are not merely utilitarian in nature.  Rather, they are to shape our being.  In this sense, the funeral is a procession.  We march with the dead once again in worship on the last leg of the journey of faith.  We are rehearsing for death but not embracing it – it is a foe.  Rather, we speak a defiant word – the Gospel which is Christ.  But, it should be noted that we die as we live.  Thus, the way we live out our faith in ordinary time will also be the way we die (i.e., begging, blessing, angry).  Anointing the sick with oil is a time-honored tradition.  It recalls baptism and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, therefore, calling to mind that we are God’s children.  As in baptism, we are buried with Christ and raised to new life with Christ also.

There are four necessities for the Christian funeral: holy person, holy place, holy people, and holy script.  Although we don’t lie about a person’s life, we also see their life in light of God’s redemption – which names them as saints of the Church.  This is naming our hope.  Holy place is significant because it recalls the community, the dedication and vows made, it recalls God’s covenant, and it signifies belonging.  Place is vital to who we are.  We ignore holy place to our detriment, not surrounded by the symbols of faith and life.  Holy people is also significant, despite being neglected.  The funeral has become individualized.  This is a place where we can push back on the privatization of the culture.  The holy script helps us to recall the purpose of our meeting: worship.  Yes, the dead is an essential element in the funeral, but ultimately the funeral is not about them or about those grieving.  It is about God.

Long then highlights eight purposes of a funeral: kerygmatic, oblational, ecclesial, therapeutic, Eucharistic, commemorative, missional, and educational.  There will likely be some overlap.  But, these were helpful distinctions that I will certainly employ.  It helps us keep in mind that we are proclaiming the Gospel but that it must also be contextualized.  Depending on the situation, we must be willing to adapt and exercise pastoral wisdom in how we approach the funeral and the sermon.  Long also mentions things that make funerals more difficult: a person outside the faith, cremation, infant death, suicide.  Each of these situations takes pastoral care and consideration, but there are also resources available to aid us in providing meaningful liturgies for the community of faith (and even those outside the faith).  Overall, Long’s book was immensely helpful and challenging.

[1] Thomas G. Long, Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 7.

[2] Ibid, 8

Silence is Golden

Today, I had lunch with a professor from Nazarene Theological Seminary, Dr. Doug Hardy.  He teaches in the area of spiritual disciplines.  We had an intriguing conversation concerning practices in the Church.  I asked him what he thought is a need in the Church that has been forgotten or left out, with the understanding that each church has different needs.  He suggested that perhaps we need to recapture silence and the capacity to wait on the Lord.  I thought this was insightful, especially considering that we live in a culture of entertainment, distraction, and disconnection.  We are extremely fragmented.  Go into any restaurant and they’re likely to have music blasting or a television turned to a game.  Our cellphones are our constant companions.  So much so, that we would rather text the person sitting next to us rather than engagement them in actual conversation.  I don’t feel that I’m overly exaggerating the situation, even within the Church.

I wondered out loud if this absence of silence and waiting upon the Lord – opening space up for God – is the reason for the lack of genuine discourse and Christian conference.  We are combative and quick to demonize those we disagree with.  Not to mention, we are not likely to listen and really hear the other’s position – especially if it is opposed to our position.  My rambling concluded with this point: If we’re not willing to listen to God, then what makes us think we’ll listen to people.  If we are not cultivating space in which to listen to God, is it any surprise that we are unable to have charitable discourse among ourselves?  I ask this question of myself and have to look honestly for ways to open up space, to provide places of silence – to be still recognize who is Lord… even in the midst of difficult, challenging conversations.

Theological Reflection on Preaching

Preaching is an audacious act.  It is strange that a person might claim to speak about God.  It is exponentially presumptuous to proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord.”  It is an audacious act.  Yet, when we speak under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is a faithful act.  And, it says far more about God’s character and nature than it does about the character and nature of the human mouthpiece – after all, God spoke to Balaam through an ass.  God speaks, which is to say, God acts and interacts directly with and in this world.  But, God always empowers and acts through agents.  That God entrusts us with such a great gift suggests that God is less concerned about getting something accomplished but is concerned with relating with all of Creation.  As such, preaching is not simply about communicating information (although that does happen).  Nor is preaching simply about accomplishing a task (say, “getting people saved”).  Instead, preaching is about communicating the heart of a God who invites us into relationship with God’s Self and brings us into engagement with our world.

Preaching is such a large task.  After all, how might a person actually communicate the mind of God or the heart of God, especially if we are finite, limited beings?  It is an impossible task, an exercise in futility.  It is beyond our capacity to know God when we struggle to even know ourselves!  Add the brokenness of a sinful world, of which the preacher is a part, and you’re more likely to scale Mount Everest in biker shorts and tank top than communicate a genuine word of the Lord.  Thus, preaching begins with the recognition that only God can speak on God’s behalf.  Apart from God nothing can be communicated about God other than perhaps vague generalities (i.e., God exists).  But, vague descriptions about God do not allow us to know God’s character and nature intimately.

Yet, thanks be to God, God has tangibly revealed God’s Self to humanity.  John’s Gospel gives us insight about this proclivity in God to move toward God’s Creation.  The prologue of John ventures into a world of new creation.  Darkness gives way to Light.  What was once barren now teems with life.  God speaks into the void and amazing possibilities now are opened up.  The fourth Gospel opens with focused intention on the Word.  It is a Word that was with God in the beginning and, to our surprise, is also God.  This same Word has power to create ex nihilo.  And, it is a Word that has become flesh (incarnated) and “tabernacled” among us.  This Word is the glory of God made manifest in our midst.  The Word, whom we discover is Jesus, gives new birth, opens blinded eyes, restores broken lives, and even conquers death.  Through Jesus the world is reconciled to God.

As a community that has experienced God’s redemption, we testify to God’s work in our lives.  We are a community rooted in praise and engaged in proclamation, announcing God’s salvation to the world and living it out as ministers of reconciliation.  Language is the tool for the craft of preaching.  Language is learned in community and is a way to comprehend the world and to live into that world.  Language is not simply the communication of ideas, although that’s part of it.  More than that, our words are embedded in a culture and embodied in actions.  Language describes and prescribes a way of life.  Each culture re-tells its story, holds up exemplars, and implements practices that mold identity toward a particular telos.  On a practical level, that’s what preaching is about.  It’s about forming a community’s identity (culture) and creating disciples (identity) by rehearsing God’s story of redemption, remembering exemplars of the faith (both positive and negative), and reflecting God back in the world (practices or cultural liturgies).  After all, the very meaning of theology is “God words.”  It is the language of the community about God.

The old adage says, “Knowledge is power.”  Typically, that is how our world employs language.  It is used to control, coerce, and command.  The media and politics have become particularly adept as using and changing language as a means of transforming culture.  Because our people and pastors participate in the world’s culture, they are susceptible to being shaped by that culture.  We can name powerful influences in our culture: consumerism, nationalism, militarism, traditionalism (tradition for tradition’s sake), and other such labels.  When this happens, the Church’s language (and life!) are infiltrated and shifted to mean something entirely different.  Thus, our culture (sometimes positively but often negatively) infiltrates the Church’s culture by changing its language.  The world’s telos replaces God’s telos in our lives, although we may maintain a thin Christian veneer over the world’s culture.

For this reason, language must consistently and constantly be re-energized and re-vitalized.  In this effort, preaching must take into account that we are not simply “preaching against” the world.  In fact, preaching must name God in the world!  But, neither does preaching assume that the world’s (or our country’s) motivations are God’s desire.  Thus, preaching must communicate redemptive engagement and prophetic disengagement with the world.  Another problem arises at this point for the preacher.  Preachers have acquired a reputation for preaching condemnation while placing themselves on a pedestal.  Brueggemann calls this “triangulation.”  Basically, in any relationship of three individuals, if two side together there is a power shift which leaves the lone individual in a defensive posture.  Preaching has a similar dynamic with preacher, congregation, and Scripture.  When the preacher sides with the Scripture, there is a power shift which leaves the congregation defensive.  However, if the pastor joins with the congregation as one standing exposed before the Word, the congregation is able to hear the Word in a non-defensive position.  Of course, in order for that to happen, the pastor must be humble, willing to be open and listen to the Spirit, and honest and open before the community.  This does not mean that the pastor needs to air out all of their dirty laundry.  Yes, there should be transparency.  But, too often pastors simply use this as another way to draw attention to themselves rather than the Word.  The preacher shouldn’t be the “hero” of the sermon.  Christ and the Gospel are always central in the sermon.

As noted earlier, a theological understanding of language is rooted in the drama of Creation.  God breathes, speaks, and inspires (ruach) the world into existence.  Space is opened up where life is created, sustained, and blessed.  This same breath or spirit both enlivens Creation and empowers the disciples for their commission (the story of Acts).  The Spirit descends on the disciples as they are gathered together in worship.  In that moment, they are emboldened and equipped to preach and proclaim the Gospel.  And, most importantly, it is a proclamation re-presented in both word and deed in and through the community of faith.  As such, it is important to note that preaching is not merely what we say.  Instead, preaching must arise out of a life of faithfulness lived before God.  In other words, it is only through communion with God lived out with the community of faith that we can preach a faithful word.

Preaching is situated in worship.  The pattern of worship historically has been four-fold: Gathering, Word, Table, and Sending.  It is a dialogical pattern – invitation and response.  God initiates the encounter (prevenient grace) and we respond back.  God calls us together, gathering us as the Body of Christ.  We respond through praise.  God speaks through the preached Word.  We confess our sins.  God offers us fellowship and forgiveness through communion.  We receive these gifts and are then sent out into the world to represent God.  As the gathered community, the Church is a microcosm of the Kingdom present in this world.  That is what God is doing through worship – forming and shaping a people (“kingdom of priests and a holy nation”) that proclaim the glory of God among the nations.

Preaching plays an important role for the community.  Preaching opens up the Scriptures and proclaims a word from the Lord for today.  In preaching, we remember God’s work in redeeming the world and we are called to re-member as God’s people living into God’s future.  The sermon is one of the most poignant opportunities for the community of faith to be shaped theologically together.  Faithful preaching re-presents the Gospel.  Some have understood the sermon to be a means of apologetics.  But, the early Church’s apologetic was kerygma, the story of salvation.  As such, preaching must continuously communicate the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  When this is our motivation, we join in the work of Jesus who came to proclaim the in-breaking Kingdom of God.

When God is at the heart and center of preaching, when there is a genuine Word of the Lord communicated, we do not need to provide conviction.  We don’t have to “twist the screws.”  We need not use fear tactics to generate salvations.  Nor do we need to use emotional manipulation to make converts.  Rather, when the Gospel is communicated, the Spirit convicts those who hear and is able to cleanse them!  The pastor is a vessel.  The pastor that attempts to play the role of the Spirit has succumbed to the sin of pride.  Again, as discussed with “triangulation,” the pastor must stand in a position before the Word to be convicted first and foremost by the Spirit.  If we are not open to the conviction of the Spirit, it is likely that our preaching (and our walk) will lack power (1 Cor. 2:3-5).

Romans 10:14-15 highlights the importance of the preaching ministry: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”  Preaching is at the heart of the Church’s ministry.  Preaching is intimately connected with evangelism (“good news” in the Greek).  Preaching, in this sense, shoulders the task of sharing what God has done to redeem the Creation with a world desperately needing God’s healing touch.

Paul charges Timothy, and thus all preachers: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:2-3).  Preaching is also for the community of believers.  The preached word serves to correct, rebuke, and encourage the community.  Furthermore, it continues to hold up “sound doctrine” for the congregation.  In other words, preaching continuously holds before the community a picture of God’s faithfulness and what we are called to embody as the faith community!

Acts records several sermons and mentions “preaching the word” seven times throughout its pages.  Acts’ testimony of the Church empowered by the Spirit, helps us easily recognize that preaching is at the heart of the Church’s ministry.  That has not changed, though the methods certainly have changed.  All that suggests is that preaching remains vital to the life of the Church while it must always be re-contextualized.  This is no easy task, but it is the task that we are called to by God.  In addition, this is the charge given to ordinands – “Preach the Word.”  Ordination is the call by God from within the community of faith to be devoted to the proclamation of the Gospel and the preservation of true doctrine.  Ordination, in many respects, is the handing down of that ministry to each new generation of pastors – extending the ministry of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church into the future.  Thus, we are called to preach a faithful word, not a novel word.

The Circle of the Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year by Kimberlee Ireton

Ireton notes that the Church year is split into halves – the story of Christ and the story of the Church.  But, the Church year really is about the story of God.  It begins with the long anticipation of God’s coming, moving through the Incarnation.  Through Lent and Holy Week we journey with Christ toward the cross and his resurrection on Easter day (but which is celebrated for several weeks leading up to Pentecost).  Pentecost is the story of the Holy Spirit empowering the Church to live like Christ.  Finally, the Church year concludes with Ordinary Time (the daily grind of faithful living) that culminates in Christ is King Sunday in which we look toward Christ’s second coming.  It is a cycle of preparation and celebration, fasting and feasting.  Ireton concludes, “The church year has seasons of darkness, of light, of sorrow, of rejoicing, of just getting through.”[1]

            Time is sacred because God is present in it all.  The Church year calls us to remembrance and reflection and re-enactment of this reality.  The Church year orients us to God’s way in this world and invites us into participation with God’s redemptive, salvific work.  It “helps us embrace the church’s telling of time instead of our culture’s.”[2]  As Ireton notes, the “secular” calendar is centered upon consumerism.  It is designed to make us consumers.  I would go further and say that it is (at least in the American culture) centered on nationalism, militarism, individualism, and consumerism.  There is a vested interest (generally a concern for power) for the world to shape us into its own image rather than the image of our Creator.  The Church calendar allows our whole lives to be oriented around God’s story and thus transformed by that story.

            The Church year is communal.  This goes against our rampant individualism.  We are the gathered community living out the story of God together.  And, we are also re-presenting the faith that has been handed down to us from the apostles.  We recognize that we are part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that has but one faith, one baptism and one Lord.  There is a unity that is embodied in journeying together through the story of God in our world.  This is a faith that is not novel, yet encounters the Living God anew.  And, it does so by helping us to tell the whole story.

            Advent initiates the Church year.  It is a time of anticipation and waiting.  I was unfamiliar with the first two Sunday themes being “wait” and “prepare.”  In my experience, we have generally made the themes: hope, joy, love, and peace.  Then, the overarching theme was about waiting.  Henri Nouwen’s “active waiting” is an important concept.  I think of it as “hopeful anticipation” in which we are living in the now-and-not-yet kingdom.  To that end, we wait with anticipation while living into God’s future.  The fasting and feasting aspect of Christmas is important in this regard.  The fasting prepares us for Christmas and the Incarnation.  Our culture is impatient.  Following Advent can bring us back to a sense of waiting and the building anticipation of the Incarnation.  An Advent tree can be a helpful symbol that is then replaced by the Chrismon tree – barren death to evergreen life. 

I appreciated the Feast of St. Stephen and the Feast of Holy Innocents.  Incarnation is about humble servanthood (St. Stephen).  And, we are reminded that much violence and pain are still in our world.  The Incarnation is God’s identification with that suffering, by which God walks with us (Feast of Holy Innocents).  The Christmas season concludes with Epiphany, or the “showing.”  It is a season of light, where darkness is scattered.  This is available to everyone (as indicated by the Magi).  It is God’s redemptive work for all of Creation. 

Ordinary time, which makes up the majority of the Church year, reminds us of the daily grind of life.  It is the counting of time (“ordinal”).  But, the manner in which we count is important.  It is not merely marking off days (kronos) but each day is filled with potential because of God’s presence (kairos).  God is at work, even in ordinary moments.  Green is the color of the season representing “growth.”  We don’t typically think of growth in the ordinary moments.  Ordinary time helps us remember that all of time is interwoven with God’s prevenient grace.

Lent is often associated with “self-flagellation.”  Ireton does a good job pointing out that Lent is about creating intentional space (through fasting and repentance) so that we might be filled with what God has for us.  Beginning with Ash Wednesday, we are confronted with our mortality and our need for God.  That is the beginning of the wilderness journey, where we walk with Israel and Jesus through the desert, learning what faithfulness is along the way.  Lent is also about charity – divulging ourselves of our excess so that we might share God’s good gifts with others.  Lent, going into the Triduum, is also a time of increasing darkness.  This culminates in Jesus’ death and entombment.  This season reminds us, we are called to die with Christ.

Easter is a celebration of seven Sundays which ends with Pentecost.  Easter is connected with Passover while Pentecost is connected to the giving of the commandments.  It is about both salvation from oppression and deliverance and empowerment to live in the world on God’s terms.  Easter and Pentecost are parallels to these Jewish holidays, for we both experience salvation from death and empowerment through the Spirit to embody Christ to the world.  Pentecost ends with Trinity Sunday, which reminds us that God is community and also that God’s salvific work is the work of the Triune God – Father, Spirit, and Son.  All of God is made available to us and we are joined to God as the Body of Christ.  Ireton digresses into a conversation about speaking in tongues.  Unfortunately, she does not take into account that the surrounding crowd (of many nationalities) could understand the gathered disciples in their own language.  It was not some special language.  It was prophetic (truth-telling) speech in the language of those gathered.  It was a reversal of the division at Babel.

Ireton’s treatment of Ordinary time is very sparse.  She focuses on mystery in mundane moments, but doesn’t go very deep with this insight.  It seems that the cultural liturgies of the Church, the rhythms and practices of daily obedience, would be helpful to focus on through Ordinary time.  We are not saved by those practices, but we are habituated into a way of life.  After all, most of our lives are spent in the ordinary moments.  And, it is in the ordinary moments that character is developed and established.  Although mountain-top experiences are wonderful, they are fleeting moments that then move us to walking in the valley.  Christ is King is the end of this season.  We anticipate Christ’s second coming and proclaim him as King.  Then, we begin the journey all over again.


[1]  Kimberlee Conway Ireton, The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 12.

[2] Ibid, 13.