I have grown accustomed to our regular Sunday morning live-streamed worship services and the Zoom call that follows. Oh, I might try to change it up occasionally and take the computer to the kitchen, but I am somehow predestined to end up on the couch like it was my regular pew. I am a creature of habit, known to eat the same lunch at work every day, only changing the bread for a bun on the weekend, so that I know it’s Saturday. I will also wear the same shirt on Fridays because, goodness knows, there are enough other decisions to be made. Familiar routines, I love them, even if it makes the first three days of a vacation difficult.
Am I alone in this?
I guess I might be considered dull or unimaginative. But I like my peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It somehow grounds me in my day. And, against a familiar backdrop, the moments of creativity and surprise really spark! Like the time a pair of wild turkeys strutted across our front lawn during the pastoral prayer, and I briskly ran from the couch to show the congregation. Or the awe found in blueberries occasionally mixed in one’s daily breakfast cereal. And, truth be told, I like nothing more than a provocative sermon that is not really a sermon at all, but a theatrical explosion of creativity, quite possibly because I’ve experienced many sermons before.
When I walk to work each morning, I know whether I am two minutes early or three minutes late depending on who I meet along the way. I know the licence plate of the car that parks beside the bridge. But it is the man on the bicycle who strangely greets me with “Praise God!” that breaks my routine, and I am found blessed by the unusual encounter, precisely for its unusualness and truthfulness.
It is like the sighting of a rare bird after seeing thousands of feathered friends.
Is there a gospel story of Jesus that does not carry this poignancy? Jesus encounters were quite outside the norm—creative, challenging, engaging, provocative—something to take us off the couch and exclaim, “Follow that wild turkey!” Jesus has no routine; he heals when he must. There’s not always logic or reason: “Blessed are the poor.” His sharpness is razor-like compared to the commonness of his day—and our day.
Jesus is that rare bird.
We are entering Ordinary Time in the church calendar. Seems common, familiar, perhaps even dull. Certainly ordinary. And it occupies half of the year! It serves as the mundane backdrop to the occasional Jesus encounters or Spirit experiences that knock us off our feet or out of our ordinary routine. Would we be so prepared for God’s jolting mystery if all of life was a mountaintop experience?
May we appreciate the ordinary for what it is—daily living. May we be startled into new revelation, fresh experience and transformation, so that our ordinary might never be quite the same.
Arlyn Friesen Epp is the director of the CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre located at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg.