I had a conversation this weekend about why churches “preach the same sermons” every week. Someone asked me that question. Their sense was that all churches use the same biblical text every week. As a result, everyone hears the same message.
That’s not quite how it works.
Some Christian traditions make use of the Revised Common Lectionary. This is a prescribed set of readings to use for worship gatherings. There are actually daily lectionary readings, too. That’s where I get the readings for our daily devotionals. The lectionary revolves around the church year, which is set by various seasons. You know them. Christmas and Easter are the main two. But there’s also Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Ordinary Time.
That last one gets people. Ordinary makes us think of nothing in particular. Ordinary time, though, refers to counted weeks. For example, as of this writing, we’re in the Ordinary Time (counted weeks) after Pentecost.
While Christmas, for example, focuses on the birth of Jesus, Easter, focuses on his resurrection. The other seasons emphasize other aspects of the life of Jesus. Ordinary Time turns its focus to the church. During this season, we emphasize the life of God’s church.
We don’t always appreciate how our modern sense of individualism shapes our thinking and living. I can’t overstate how that stands against the presumption of scripture that you are not you without your community. Even for people who say they value community, listen to how life decisions are made. Pay attention to how people say they find purpose and direction. Often, community might be a part of that somewhere, but not at the center.
And that’s a difference our faith needs to wrestle with.
Is it possible to regain a stronger sense of Christian community today? Should we even try? Well, if you’ve been reading or listening to me for any time, you know my response is a resounding, “Yes!”
To do so, we’ll need to refocus our obedience to God. We’ll need to consider what we think about as the church and even how we think about it. Ephesians 5 offers a strong counter-cultural shift. In that text, there is one line that sums up all our renewed efforts. Verse 10 says, “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”
That is an active pursuit, by the way. A collective pursuit to discern who are to be for the glory of God to the world around us. It’s also the perfect aim for us during Ordinary Time.
In worship this weekend, our church sang “Here I Am, Lord.” That’s a crowd favorite at every church I attend. I forgot to tell everyone that I changed the lyrics a bit. Many people raise their hands as they sing, “Here I Am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”
I replaced every “I” with “we” or “us.” I’ll admit it didn’t quite roll off the tongue like the original, but it reminded me that God wants our connection as the church to be stronger than it is. You can’t be you as God designed you without the church. And the church can’t be its fullest without you. So, here we are, Lord.