Dear brothers and sisters,
The church has been ambivalent for years about what to call the long "green season" that stretches across the summer and fall and ends on the First Sunday of Advent. Long-time Episcopalians will remember its being dubbed "Sundays after Trinity". With the arrival of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, it was re-named "Sundays after Pentecost," which actually makes good sense. After all, Trinity Sunday celebrates a core Christian doctrine, while Pentecost is an event. Something happened. The Holy Spirit descended on the church, and thus the weeks and months that follow refer back to the event. Until the Second Coming, the church will always be "after Pentecost," whatever the season. Meanwhile, just to confuse things, the lectionary - the appointed Sunday-by-Sunday biblical texts - appoints readings on the Sundays after Pentecost according to numbered "propers" tied to dates. And so Sunday, June 7, was both the Second Sunday after Pentecost and Proper 5 Year B. Oh my.
It's no wonder, then, that many Episcopalians have picked up the custom of the Roman Catholic Church and refer to these Sundays as "Ordinary Time". In this case, ordinary doesn't mean unimportant. Rather, it means that we've completed the six-month series of feasts and fasts in which we re-live the life of Jesus and are now, in a more relaxed way, looking at Jesus' teachings and healings during his three-year ministry in Galilee. For clergy and parishes, the long "green season" is somewhat more laid-back than the rapid-fire sequence of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, the Triduum, Easter, and Pentecost. During Ordinary Time, we catch our breath, so to speak, and simply enjoy the presence of Jesus.
I will always associate Ordinary Time, however, with very extraordinary events: our diocesan summer camps. For three weeks during the summer, we offer camps for third through eighth-graders, for high school students (this year, it's a high school "mission trip" to local ministries), and for the children of inmates (Camp New Happenings).
As I write these words, we are completing the first of our camps, for third through eighth-graders. Tim and Kim Gray and Tamisyn Grantz have provided the leadership for many years, assisted by a large and dedicated staff. This summer's theme: Children of Light Pushing Back the Dark. Biblical passages abound, from Genesis ("And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light," 1:3) to 1 John ("If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin," 1:7) to the words of Jesus himself ("I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life," John 8:12). Hanging out with our young people - that's my primary job at camp, simply being there - I've been encouraged to look at Jesus, who is Light Incarnate, and to bask in his presence. The tragic events in Charleston, which this year formed a heartbreaking backdrop to camp, reminded me that our theme has powerful relevance. Christians must indeed be Children of Light Pushing Back the Dark.
The extraordinary Ordinary Time events of our diocesan summer camps provide a powerful reminder that Jesus transforms us year-'round. At camp we sing, pray, learn, dance (yours truly in a most uncoordinated way), play, and rest - enjoying all the while the wondrous presence of Jesus. May your Ordinary Time be filled with joy, as you too relax in the presence of the Lord! With all blessings -
Yours in Christ,