Ordinary time has never struck the imagination of many preachers and worship teams. And yes, it refers to the ordinal or the counting of the weeks of the liturgical year, not what it sounds like to our western ears: ordinary. Yet we can play with the word that it sounds like and explore what it is like to live an ordinary life as a part of the kin-dom of God; in other words, nothing like ordinary!
We are counting the weeks after Epiphany and attempting to get a glimpse of what life as the people of God might be like. We consider some of the most famous passages of scripture to help us shape a vision of the life we are called to live—not just a special, rise-to-the-occasion kind of life, but an everyday life, an ordinary life that isn’t ordinary. Because we believe that followers of Christ who live their faith day by day are anything but ordinary. They stand out; they become models and mentors; they are examples of what life is all about.
At least that is our hope and our belief: that our lives represent the kin-dom of God. We are the evidence that our faith is true and our God is at work in the world. In other words, we are now the epiphany, the light shining forth for the world to see. And of course, we will fail from time to time. But how we deal with failure is also a sign of that presence and glimpse of the kin-dom. So, this ordinary time is extra-ordinary in the living of it. Let us embrace the call with grace and with joy.
The Baptism of the Lord is a perfect time to remind ourselves of the commitment to living a life of grace and hope outwardly. If you observed Epiphany Sunday last week, then this week follows in the usual pattern. If you focused on New Year’s last week and saved the Epiphany recognition for this week, then you can combine the two. It is possible to let the star and the baptism both speak of the revealing of the light of Christ to the world. Covenant and baptism renewal are both powerful ways to launch a new year for the faithful. If the covenant prayer was used last week, then this week let the baptism renewal vows be reminders of that promise in different words.
This series is designed to help us see the kin-dom of God lived out in concrete ways within the body of Christ. So, this week is the promise to be that example, to claim that grace and gift, and to embrace the responsibility of being the church in the world right now. The kin-dom is not a someday thing; it is a today thing and we are committing ourselves to that vision right here and right now. Actually, we’ve already done that. All baptized and confirmed members of The United Methodist Church have already made that promise and are living into that grace. This is just a reminder, a revival of sorts, a re-energizing of the community of faith for another calendar year.
So, worship team, how will you encourage members to re-up their commitment to Christ? What forms will that recommitment take in the order of worship? Is this an altar call? A shared covenant prayer? Are people coming forward, writing something down, receiving a reminder card? What tools will you use this week to help worshipers understand and seize the opportunity before them? Let us not miss this moment.
But some might be thinking, “What about those who haven’t yet made this commitment, who aren’t baptized in the faith, who might be just a guest or visitor? How do we make sure that they don’t feel left out or pushed aside?” A great question, and just by asking it, you are already aware that provision must be made for those who might not consider themselves a part of the body already. Everything that is done for members is done invitationally. There is always the opportunity for someone to be making a first-time commitment in this act. Maybe the covenant prayer stirs up a desire to go deeper, to know more. Maybe the baptism vows remembered evoke a desire to learn more or to ask questions or even to make a new commitment. What next steps can you offer in this moment so that everyone feels included and invited to be a part of the fellowship? You’re announcing that everyone should come on in; the water’s fine!
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.