Last month a neighbor gave me a flat of marigolds. She knew I wanted them for my flower garden. I was recuperating from a total right hip replacement and my friend, Susan, was flying in from Sarasota, Florida, to help me out. While visiting, Susan planted the marigolds and vincas in my patio plot. As the week progressed, I was able to get around better and be outside on the patio enjoying conversations over meals and those beautiful newly planted flowers. These are ordinary pleasures.
As I write this, it’s five weeks since my hip surgery, and I was able to plant the last of the marigolds this morning. My ability to move and bend felt truly miraculous compared to the difficulty before surgery and immediately following it. About a half-dozen flowers had been waiting to get planted, languishing in their tiny little plastic containers over the past month, kept alive by the drizzles I offered them each day. Now, as I dropped a yellow flower into a freshly troweled spot, I thought of another friend I had recently spoken with. Something about her during our conversation seemed troublesome. I made a mental note to call her.
In the new freedom of my hip motion, the offering of a marigold into the expansive possibility of rich soil, and the reflection of my conversation with a friend I became aware that each and all of these actions were prayers, gifts from God. The ordinary actions of bending, planting, and thinking of someone else are nothing short of miracles. Ordinary miracles of an ordinary person’s life.
In the church calendar year we are once again in the Season of Ordinary Time. Any Sundays not associated with Lent and Easter or Advent and Christmas, are referred to as Ordinary Time. It comes from the Latin: Tempus per annum, everything that falls outside Christmastide or Eastertide. This adds up to a big chunk of Sundays and weeks of the church year. Christmas has wreaths and decorations, we follow Epiphany Stars to guide us into the new year, we honor our Baptism with Jesus soon after that, Lent has ashes, palms. Easter has lilies. Those seasons have scripture, special colors, rituals, hymns and cantatas to take us through to the birth, death, resurrection and Eternal Life.
What do we do in the season of Ordinary Time? This season doesn’t build up to a crescendo, or mountain top experience, yet this season is anything but ordinary. It is meant to be a time for growth and maturing. A time to reflect on the mystery of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, and their interactions in our lives. The standard color for this season is understandably green. You will see that color in the stoles worn by pastors and liturgical banners in sanctuaries.
It may be easier to explain Ordinary Time here in the Midwest, where all around us fields are being tilled, seeds planted, growth of crops is hoped for and watched as the summer progresses. Or a different example here in Delaware County might be that fields are being subdivided, building permits are being applied for, and new developments are going in representing a different kind of growth. In this season of ordinary time, as we watch plants grow, we can pray that the soil of our souls will be turned over and stirred up to become more expansive for the seed of new personal growth. As we dig a little deeper and take it all in may we celebrate our ordinary actions in companionship with the mystery and miracle working of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. It could be as simple as planting a tiny yellow marigold.
The Rev. Patricia Stout is a retired pastor serving as Stated Supply at Old Stone Presbyterian Church.