The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Joy in the ordinary

Pentecost offers time to recognize the holy in the everyday

It’s a long, dry spiritual pull—28 Sundays, June to December—from the fire that descended on the day of Pentecost to Advent hints of miraculous birth. “The season of ordinary time,” Wendy M. Wright calls it in The Time Between (Upper Room, 1999). We cram these months with vacations, games, hours on the beach with popular novels, reruns on TV, anything and everything but spiritual challenge.

No matter the season of the church year, chasing sensations is a favorite human way to avoid thinking about the problems of living and dying. Experiencing atrocities secondhand helps us forget our mortality. This incessant need for thrills isn’t only addictive, it’s blasphemy, a rejection of the joy to be found in ordinary life. Sex and violence on television, a cell phone glued to my ear, the radio blasting as I write: These deafen me to the quiet music and words of the hymn This Is My Father’s World.

Imprisoned by the apparent boredom of modern life—the interminable spiritual dryness of Pentecost—we no longer try to see God beyond the bars but seek escape through these canned thrills our culture provides for us. How dare we, as creatures made in God’s image, reduce ourselves to the point where conflict and terror, oddity and sex and vice are the be-all and end-all of life in our good world? Especially when these dreadful things occur not to ourselves but to others?

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