As we move into the month of November, it feels as though we are doing more than simply turning a page on the calendar. Things just feel different. The air is cooling, the leaves are disappearing, and the stores are bustling. Ready or not, the holiday season is suddenly upon us.
We are entering into a new season on the church calendar this month as well. The period between Pentecost (“fifty days” after Passover, celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian church) and Advent (the beginning of the Christian year, celebrating the “coming” of Christ into the world through his Incarnation and Virgin Birth) is commonly referred to as Ordinary Time. The final month of this Season after Pentecost, the period between All Saints’ Day and the First Sunday of Advent, has been designated as Kingdomtide in many church traditions, an intentional time of celebration and reflection on the reign of Christ.
Personally, I find it difficult to describe the ongoing, life-altering, transformational ministry of Jesus in the lives of his followers through the power of the Holy Spirit as “Ordinary Time.” I much prefer the term “Kingdomtide,” emphasizing the central message of the gospel which was continually proclaimed by Jesus and the early church: “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15).
Regardless of our personal views regarding the church calendar, I know that we can all agree on the centrality of proclaiming this “good news of the kingdom” (Mt 24:14), through both word and deed, until our Lord’s return. We have all been called to engage in a common mission as we join our hearts, minds, hands and feet in the corporate embodiment of our Lord’s prayer: “May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).
This is also in keeping with the good and beautiful dream that has been entrusted to us as an extended family of Friends here in Mid-America:
We dream that whatever is true in heaven be true on earth … in our local churches, in the communities where our churches serve, and in the family of churches called Evangelical Friends Church-Mid America Yearly Meeting.
So how might we embody our prayers during these high and holy days on the church calendar in such a way that “whatever is true in heaven be true on earth?” And how might we proclaim the good news during this season of Kingdomtide in such a way that our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors might be genuinely transformed from something merely ordinary and lifeless to something truly extraordinary and life giving? And how might these seasonal practices become increasingly integrated into our daily lives throughout the remainder of the year as well, converting good and beautiful dreams into unforced rhythms of grace that faithfully reflect the rule and reign of Christ?
Each of us will need to answer these questions for ourselves, of course, but allow me to offer just one practical suggestion in order to help prime the pump just a bit:
Invite someone outside of your own family to join you for Thanksgiving dinner.
For some of us, this is already a common practice. If so, we might consider how to expand our guest lists this year. For others, this may be a brand new idea. If so, I would encourage you to try it on for size.
In an iCulture that is rooted in rugged individualism and increasingly saturated in national self-interest, the ministry of hospitality is an increasingly rare and priceless commodity these days. A recent study published in the American Sociological Review indicated that at least “25% of all Americans have no close confidants” whatsoever. And yet, from the very beginning of human history our Creator made it clear that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Ge 2:18). As Henri Nouwen once observed, “We are able to do many hard things, tolerate many conflicts, overcome many obstacles, and persevere under many pressures, but when we no longer experience ourselves as part of a caring community, we quickly lose faith.”
Inviting someone new to Thanksgiving dinner won’t instantly remove loneliness from the world, but it will certainly reduce the risk for the folks who gather around our tables. In the process, we may find that our capacity for extending Christ-like hospitality to our friends, neighbors, co-workers and even complete strangers will increase exponentially. We may even find that “loving foreigners” (Dt 10:19) and “caring for orphans and widows in their distress” (Ja 1:27) is no longer reserved for special seasons, but is considered nothing more than a normal Christian life. Before you know it, we may just end up living in such a way that our entire lives become so permeated with the passionate, relentless grace and mercy of our good and beautiful God that the people around us can’t help but proclaim, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
– David O. Williams, General Superintendent