If you honor the church calendar, you know that last Sunday was the 32nd Sunday in “Ordinary Time.” We are just about to leave this season of “Ordinary Time” and enter the Season of Advent. I always look forward to Advent, but this week I have been thinking about the notion of “Ordinary Time.” At first glance, “Ordinary Time” could imply time that is less special than time associated with those seasons of the church year that celebrate the grand events of our Savior’s birth, death, and resurrection.
Upon further reflection, however, I am struck by the fact that no time is really “ordinary” in the way we usually use that word. All time is, in the best sense, “extraordinary” or “out of the ordinary.” It is in the midst of “Ordinary Time” that we experience the satisfaction of accomplishing good work, that we know the joy of friendship and love, that we receive God’s grace in the face of disappointment and suffering. It is in the midst of “Ordinary Time” that we live out our “callings” and respond to the divine invitations and opportunities that constitute the shape and quality of our lives.
Take yesterday for example. It was an “ordinary” day here on campus — but what an extraordinary “ordinary” day. A sparkling frost and light dusting of snow covered the ground when I first arrived on campus, like the manna that symbolized God’s daily provision for his people in the wilderness. I spent two hours or so in the energizing work of completing a talk that I will give early next month at a December graduation in Hong Kong. In permitting us the exhilaration of creating — whether out of words, or clay, or wood, or dramatic movement — God invites us to imitate the creative work that He does every day in renewing and sustaining the universe, and in redeeming our lives for His purposes. The rest of the morning I met with the gifted team of vice presidents that God has sent to lead Houghton College in this season. Every time I meet with this staff, I am reminded of God’s mysterious and marvelous providence that has allowed the individual stories of our six team members to intersect for this time at Houghton College, both for what He plans to do at Houghton through them and what He plans to do in them through their time at Houghton. In the afternoon, I took a campus visitor through the science building. On this “ordinary” afternoon, we were privileged to encounter students working on a team project, a professor helping a student with her math, another professor working on his sabbatical research project, a third professor in a white coat leading a lab, students busy taking a test, and other students relaxing in the study lounge. It was a glimpse into the heart of the community of mentoring, disciplined study, and discovery that makes up daily life at Houghton.
I ended the day with Student Government, interacting on topics as varied as elevating the humor at SPOT; becoming more responsible in our use of paper on campus; how Houghton deals with public holidays; how Houghton can be more welcoming to students from all ethnic backgrounds; and how Houghton is addressing these challenging times in higher education when we are simultaneously trying to increase quality and value for students, and make college more affordable. I was overwhelmed with appreciation for Houghton students — their authenticity, their curiosity, and their commitment to make this campus a place where God is most free to accomplish His work in their lives.
On this November day, as you prepare to enter the season of Thanksgiving and Advent, may you experience the wonder and mystery of the gift of “Ordinary Time.”
Grace and peace to you today,
Shirley Mullen, Class of 1976