Ordinary Times

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?"

—Acts 2:1-8, 12 (NRSV)

My love for Christ and His Church goes back to the earliest days of my life. My dad has been a pastor my whole life. He was ordained and installed in his first call in rural Massbach, IL shortly before I was born. My mom was a pianist and organist who found great joy in proclaiming the Gospel through music. My upbringing was steeped in worship, traditions, and the proclamation of the Good News. When I discerned my call to ministry while in college I was a little surprised, but it made sense. The love was deep and the passion was undeniable. I was being called to serve the Church I love as a pastor.

Serving as your pastor brings me indescribable joy. Yes, there are times that are challenging along the way, but the privilege of accompanying you on your journeys of faith is an extraordinary thing. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit we wouldn't have the perseverance and strength to face challenges together. In this season of Pentecost I give thanks to God for the ways you are moved and empowered by the Spirit working through us.

Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Christ, marks the end of the Easter season in the liturgical calendar. What follows is Ordinary Time. This new season of the church year lasts until Advent. Growing up I learned many church-related words from my parents, like the chalice and paten used for Holy Communion, the chancel and nave to describe parts of the church building, and the joy of fellowship time. One term that eluded me for many years was "Ordinary." I always thought of the first definition you find in the dictionary: normal, average, mundane, perhaps even boring. And, as a kid, that definition made sense to me. Ordinary time takes place between Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter, and again until Advent/Christmas, two of the most significant times of preparation and celebration of the year for Christians. The time in between these cherished seasons of the year seemed, well, "ordinary." Nothing fancy. But, at the expense of sounding like a total church nerd, let me describe what "Ordinary" really means. Linguistically there are two types of time: cardinal time and ordinal time. Cardinal time indicates quantity. For example, the Amazon order I placed yesterday will arrive in two days. Cardinal time gives us a specific number. Ordinal time, on the other hand, indicates position or rank. For example, I came in third at the spelling bee. Ordinal time gives us a sense of tracking progress. In the many weeks of Ordinary Time that follow Pentecost we are not falling into a normal, average, or boring time of the church year. We are tracking our progress in following the public ministry of Christ. In fact, the liturgical color of green for this season helps us to make sense of this time. Green is the color of new life and growth, just as the Church grew throughout the world after Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit. There was nothing "ordinary" about Christian life after this life-changing gift from God.

In the midst of COVID-19 and the precautions we continue to follow, these are certainly not "ordinary" times according to the first definition in the dictionary. But, these are truly Ordinary Times for us as the Church as we learn to trust in God and grow more deeply in faith in the midst of challenges and disruptions to our daily routines. We begin this Pentecost season in a way we never anticipated. Yet, the Holy Spirit blesses us with guidance and perseverance nonetheless. Soon we will be gathered "all together in one place" and we will be able to say "the crowd gathered" as recorded in Acts 2. Your ALC Council members are the ALC Reopening committee are working diligently to faithfully and safely resume in-person worship services. Our gatherings may not seem "ordinary" right away, but trust that they are Ordinary according to the Holy Spirit's accompaniment of us through the weeks ahead. And, remember, the mission and ministry of Christ through ALC never closed. It was simply deployed for a time to safeguard the health of our family of faith as we faced a new worldly reality together. I truly look forward to being together in worship with you again as soon as it appropriate for us to do so.

I hope all is well with you, and God bless,

Pastor Nathan