Ordinary Time

By Ed Little

A Reading from Revelation 5:1-11

5 Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals, 2 and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. 4 And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, with seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8 When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 They sing a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to break its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God
saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;
10 you have made them a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.

Meditation

The long, green season after Pentecost is often called Ordinary Time. The prayer book doesn’t use the term, but Episcopalians have picked it up from our Roman Catholic friends. Why “Ordinary”? The word, in fact, refers to the numbered days that click by, Sunday after Sunday. But it sometimes feels as though, in this Ordinary Time, nothing special happens. The great seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter are over. We settle in for the long haul. We relax into the routine, read Scripture in course, sing familiar hymns, allow the rhythm of the prayer book to envelop us.

But is that really the case? When you worship this morning, does nothing special happen? Today’s reading from Revelation reminds us that our worship, even in Ordinary Time, reflects the timeless worship in which we shall all one day participate. The risen and ascended Lord is handed a scroll “written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” He is both “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David” and the “Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered,” the Conqueror and Victim who has won our salvation. Immediately heaven erupts in wondrous praise. Twenty-four elders, “each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” — our prayers! — “sing a new song.”  Not merely one song: the passage offers endless praise, proclaiming the greatness of the Lamb.

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals. … Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. … To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.” Our own worship pales before this profound outpouring of praise. And yet, when you sing “Holy, holy, holy” this morning, you join the whole company of heaven and anticipate your eternal destiny. Ordinary Time is far from ordinary!

The Rt. Rev. Edward S. Little II was bishop of Northern Indiana for 16 years after serving parishes in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin. He is the author of three books; most recently: The Heart of a Leader: St. Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager (2020).

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Academy of Classical Christian Studies, Oklahoma City, Okla.

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