Under different circumstances, I would be wearing green vestments, in a church decorated with green hangings, because green is the colour for ordinary time. We’ve journeyed through Lent, through Holy Week and the season of Easter, past Ascension and Pentecost, and we’ve entered the longest season of the church year. Green to symbolize hope and growth and nurturing – a strange mix of the promise of potential and the work we’re called to do to get there.
Maybe it’s just me, but it’s starting to feel like ordinary time.
I’ve been thinking about the fact that the church actually spends most of the year in-between seasons. Not celebrating grand feasts or holidays, but basking in the continual reality of the resurrection and learning together what it means to follow Jesus day by day.
Our Gospel reading today has Jesus proclaiming the good news through all manner of cities and villages, healing and restoring people and living out the divine compassion he feels. Crowds of people come out to meet him, because they have a sense that they are in need of something that only he can provide. A distinct kind of hope. A particular kind of healing.
The disciples follow Jesus on the way, learning by participating in the journey. Which is how it worked in the first century, if you were the student of a rabbi. You would follow the rabbi and pay attention to everything they did. You would watch and learn and apprentice, so that one day you might be able to do the same thing.
Which is actually remarkable, because it implies that these disciples might actually be able to be like Jesus. And that we might be able to be too.
Normally, a rabbi would only take on the best and brightest to be his students. But these 12 are special only in their strangeness. The list of the names of the 12 is given by Matthew not because of the fame or importance of these people, but so that we might understand how painfully ordinary and mis-matched they are. Blue-collar sons of fishermen. Matthew the tax collector. Judas the betrayer. Ordinary, broken, unremarkable people.
But Jesus not only invites them on the way, he actually sends them out on their own to proclaim the good news, to heal and restore.
These days, it takes multiple degrees, a series of background checks and phycological assessments, and extra on-the-job training before we’re willing to trust people enough to send them out on their own to proclaim the gospel. But here is Jesus, gathering together the least qualified, and sending them out as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Which, perhaps, it is.
Jesus seems to know that it’s not enough to learn about the Christian life. It’s not enough to admire Jesus from a safe distance, enjoying basking in the light and peace he brings. That’s all well and good, but those things go along with a call to take part in the work of proclaiming and healing and restoring.
Jesus invites us, each one of us, to go forth and proclaim the good news. To bind up the broken hearted. To give love. To share our story, and tell those around us what God has done and is doing in our lives. How our faith sustains us.
And when we feel unprepared, or frightened, or as if we’re not good enough, we’re invited to remember the 12. The tax collectors and fishermen and sinners, the ones in whom Jesus had faith.
And then we’re called to know that Jesus has faith in us too.
Ordinary time is when we learn what it means to live in the light of that faith. To grow in hope, to live our faith, and to have our own call to action nurtured.
And we know that our hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.