Grace and peace to you from the Holy One and the Holy Three: God our Creator, Christ Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Advocate.
We recently completed a wonderful annual conference session where we were “unleashed” to become bold Spirit-leaders. It was a joy to preside over the 159th session of the Minnesota Annual Conference, and my first session as your bishop.
And, now we are in Ordinary Time! (In Minnesota, I understand this is better known as “lake time.”)
Ordinary Time is the common name given to the long months between Pentecost Sunday and the beginning of a new year at Advent. It is called Ordinary Time because, during this period, we turn to the business of applying Jesus’ teachings to our day-to-day work and witness. This is the season in which we apply the incarnational disciplines that express our deep-seated intention to devote our ordinary lives to Christ. This is the season in which we seek to become and be the kingdom of God.
This time is anything but ordinary because with Pentecost, the Church went global. The Holy Spirit compelled the followers of Jesus to be his bold “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). A global, Spirit-led movement evangelizing every nation and ethnic group is anything but ordinary.
This time is anything but ordinary because with Pentecost, the Church went extravagant. There was the extravagance of people gathered together from the whole world. There was the auditory extravagance of the sound of the mighty wind. There was the visual extravagance of tongues on fire alighting on every person. There was the extravagance of everyone hearing the gospel in his or her own language. There was the extravagance of everyone being filled with the Holy Spirit—as if they were drunk. There was the extravagance of 3,000 people being baptized and joining the church. An extravagant, grace-filled movement is anything but ordinary.
This time is anything but ordinary because with Pentecost, the Church went transformational. The people who heard the good news repented and received the Holy Spirit and were transformed – they became new creatures and went forth to transform the world. Some time ago, I heard Dr. Tex Sample say that what the United Methodist Church needs in order to recover the transformational power and impact of our movement’s earlier days is “the grace-focused content of our Wesleyan theology delivered in pentecostal form.” He was not encouraging us to become anti-intellectual in our theology, but to become Spirit-infused, expressive, and transformational in our proclamation and witness. A movement that is changing hearts and transforming the world is anything but ordinary.
Pentecost turns all Ordinary Time into an extraordinary festival of being unleashed to live in the Spirit.
Our recent annual conference session was a great kick-off for Ordinary Time. There was wave after wave, moment after moment of our being an extraordinary festival of living in the Spirit:
My heart is full of joy and thanksgiving after this annual conference session. I thank God for the “ordinary” congregations in the Minnesota Conference that are becoming extraordinary offerings of God’s love to their neighborhoods, communities, and the world. They are filled with Pentecost energy. They are fulfilling our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. They are global, extravagant, transformational expressions of the reign of God. Thanks be to God!
Bishop Bruce R. Ough is resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota episcopal area.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church