Family Stories - Meeting God in Ordinary Time

It is a stroke of genius that half of the church year that runs from Pentecost to Advent is commonly called “ordinary time.” "Ordinary time" is clearly to be contrasted with that other half of the church year that features the more dramatic events that we re-tell such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. Retelling these events is very important, and, of course, we will continue to do so. Yet, the church fathers and mothers recognized that we can’t always live in high drama, and any attempt to do so is unsustainable, spiritually, emotionally and relationally. Indeed, most of our lives are spent in the ordinariness of paying bills, raising kids, weeding the garden, washing the windows, bandaging a scraped knee, looking for work, and so on. Ordinary time is the reminder that God wants to meet us much in ordinary moments, as in those milestone and dramatic moments.  

We Are On The Verge...! 

In my early years of ministry, we were constantly barraged with hype that the "next great move of God" was just around the corner. We gave much of our time and attention to chasing it like a carrot – losing total awareness of the work that God was doing among us every moment in ordinary ways.

As we move into the fall season, it almost seems to go against the grain to say that we are still in "ordinary time," particularly as we face the "schedule trauma" commonly called "September." September is a time of year when churches tend to “ramp up” with kick-offs, launches, and new beginnings, with all the hype that can bring. There certainly is a place for new beginnings and "fresh starts," but we can do so without the hype by being mindful that we are still in "ordinary time," and God wants to meet us here no less than any other time. 
One of the ways we are embracing ordinary time here at VEV this fall is to resume our teaching series on the Book of Genesis, picking up where we left off in the spring. We will be focusing on the “Family Stories" of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Is there anything more ordinary than "family stories?" While there is certainly some drama in these stories, there is a marked sense of ordinariness in family conflicts, property disputes, and seemingly meaningless cul-de-sacs. Yet, in the ordinariness of these accounts, significant encounters with God occur. These extraordinary moments invading the ordinary are sometimes recognized, but often they are not, as with Jacob who woke up from a dream exclaiming, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16). 

Families from Generation to Generation

"Family" has the potential for heaven or hell on earth! Yet, there is something about family and generations that is so close to the heart of God who has left us with intergenerational symbols within the triune nature of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Generations need each other. Reinhold Neibuhr wrote: "Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime, therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love." Commenting on this, Thomas Cahill in his classic, The Gift of the Jews wrote, "That accomplishment is intergenerational may be the deepest of all Hebrew insights."  

These intergenerational family stories are marked by a common thread – that of the immense risk that God has taken to invite the primary characters, each of whom are messed up and broken in various ways, to join him in his work to make the world right again. Believe me, you will see plenty of evidence of the broken human condition in these stories as the author pulls no punches in describing the sinfulness and brokenness of the characters. Yet, over and over again, we see the amazing capacity of God’s grace to overrule time and time again. This is really good news for each of us in our pursuit to join God in his work in the world. 

Come and join us as we again retell our family stories – they are not just the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… they are our own stories. We will laugh and we will weep as we again find ourselves in them. They are foundational in enriching the texture and contours of our stories, giving each of us encouragement and hope that our ordinary stories are all a part of an extraordinary larger Story that began a long time ago in a land far away…