This is what Enuma Okoro has to say about Pentecost season: “...it might appear that not much is going on. [Especially during this pandemic.] There are no appointed fasts, no calls to paschal celebration and feasting. [No gathering for church services and fellowship.]
It is an appropriate play on words, this ordinary time in which we merely count the Sundays between Pentecost and Advent. In some ways the selected lectionary passages are a good, albeit dismal, reminder that, as a general lot, we humans are pathetically ordinary. There is nothing new under the sun.
... our tendency and eagerness to exclude others is an age-old problem. Our plotting and planning for most things less-than-good raises few eyebrows. It is to be expected. ...humans are actually quite ordinary in our sin.”
And, during this time of pandemic, we see the fallout from the sinful actions of those who refuse to protect others. And, we wonder: What will the outcome be from all this? And, no one really knows.
Ms. Okoro goes on to say we are also in a season far from ordinary-“...a post-resurrection, post-ascension, post-Holy Spirit in-breaking season. It could be quite mind-blowing if we took the time to dwell on it.
We are in the season that witnesses to a unique fullness of God’s extraordinary lengths to love, reclaim, and redeem creation. We are invited in our very ordinariness--warts and all--to join in God’s extraordinary love and power for the benefit of God’s diverse and scandalous family.” So maybe even during a pandemic there can be redemption.
This Genesis story about Joseph is fascinating. I’ve always looked at Joseph as a remarkable character who saved his family from famine.
That he was predestined to have all these things happen to him. And, yet, if he had recognized his vision of the future as a gift and kept some of these visions to himself for contemplation, he might have been able to save his family from the comfort of home.
This story of sibling rivalry is quite ordinary except for the 2 wives and the 2 concubines--totally 4 mothers--and all the excess rivalry that would have caused.
What person hasn’t resented the attention a sibling receives or been irritated by personality traits within the family? Maybe an only child, but I’ve heard complaints that they get blamed for everything that breaks or is out of place in a household--so maybe not.
All of Joseph’s brothers were adults and the two who tried to protect him were trying to do so without causing problems for themselves. Reuben’s plan alone would have worked. Judah obviously wanted Joseph out of the way--just not dead. Of course, selling someone into slavery could have been a death sentence.
Joseph’s boasting is what got him in trouble and his father, Jacob/Israel, set him up to feel special. Joseph thought he could get away with boasting to his brothers.
I have never seen that work among siblings--have any of you? If anyone is going to break your arm for patting yourself on the back, it will be a brother or sister.
I guess we all have times we feel special enough or think we are informed enough to push harder than we should to get acclaim, or prove our worth, or just get what we want when we want it. Even if it is only the last word, that last little zinger of self-satisfaction. Except Joseph was about 17 years old and can’t claim an immature age as an excuse.
[Okoro Sojourners August, 2011] “Why is it so difficult for us to participate in both the love and the work of God? Why do we struggle so much to respond to the ever-extending reach of God, one who is eternally positioned toward us and whose purposes are always bigger and better than our own?”
As the Romans passage states in [The Message by Eugene Peterson] “The word that saves is right here, so near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us ... Say the welcoming word to God-‘Jesus is my Master’-embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. ... the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help.”
God never takes his eyes off us so what are we looking at? Most likely the daily COVID 19 numbers! And Peter, was looking at the roiling surface of the lake. Apparently, because Jesus needed time to himself and perhaps because he knew the disciples needed to earn some money fishing (they had told him they were low on funds to buy food for the crowd of 5000 plus), he sent them off in the boat without him. They were likely fishing when the storm came up.
The fish couldn’t see the nets at night so it was easier to get a large catch. They are looking out at the waves to brace themselves and they see a ghostly figure and are terrified. Jesus calls out to them to take courage because it is only him.
Peter, in a sudden need to prove himself trusting of Jesus, says, “If it is really you, call me to come to you on the water.” Jesus calls him and Peter climbs out of the boat. Peter is fine so long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus but as soon as he starts looking at the waves of the sea, he starts to sink. He calls out for Jesus’ help and Jesus takes his hand and they climb into the boat.
I don’t think Jesus stopped looking at Peter. Peter stopped looking at Jesus and became swamped in pride and then in doubt. He became ordinary again--like you and me. He just had to take a moment to revel in his own accomplishment of walking on water just like Jesus. It was more important that Jesus had his eyes on the boat than it was for Peter to have an opportunity to boast of being MORE like Jesus than the others.
All the time Jesus was praying and walking back to meet them, he was thinking of them and all the wonderful things they were capable of doing. He might have also been thinking about that fresh fish they would have for breakfast.
What is important from these stories is that God had his eye on the sons of Jacob/Israel, and God was going to keep them safe and preserve them somehow some way even when they got in the way.
And, God had an eye on Jesus’ disciples and no matter how ordinary they were they had agreed to follow Jesus and somehow, some way, even when they got in the way, God would use them to spread his love and do his work.
And God watches each of us and somehow, some way, even when we get in the way, he will use us to extend the kingdom of God. I guess the question before us is how do we do that during a pandemic? I believe we keep feeding the hungry, supporting the church financially, and participating (when we can) in our virtual church and our live “coffee hour” gatherings on Zoom--and maybe even attend a bishop’s committee meeting online. And: Let us be the bearers of the Good news of Christ that God loves us and wants us to be his partners in love and in work and in power.
This is no ordinary time by any means--for we serve a risen savior and we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us keep our eyes focused on this most extraordinary God. Even in a pandemic.