June 11, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV)
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Read this verse in context here.
Rest assured that we trust in a God who is reconciling the world to himself. Even in the time of COVID, Christ is at work.
Guess what—it’s “Ordinary Time.” Why, you might ask? Aren’t the times we are in anything but ordinary?
The long period of time after Pentecost until the first Sunday of Advent is called Ordinary Time by many traditions. (Here’s a great explanation at the United Methodist Church’s website, including a very helpful graph diving up all the Sundays of the liturgical year.) The “ordinary” in the name derives from the “ordinal” numbers—first, second, third, etc.—used to count up all these weeks. So, there is a first Sunday after Pentecost (always celebrated as Trinity Sunday), a second Sunday after Pentecost, etc. all the way up to a possible twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, depending on when the date of Easter was.
So, that’s an awful lot of math. Why does Ordinary Time matter? While what we call the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle is important for telling us the story of how Jesus came to earth and lived, and the Lent-Easter cycle is important for telling us the story of how he died and rose again, Ordinary Time is our story. It is when we live out the lessons we learned from Jesus and tell others about his life, death, and resurrection—now that we have received his Holy Spirit and been sent out into mission in the world.
The readings for this season often focus on our discipleship. The Epistle lesson for this weekend is no exception. The verse above is part of a longer passage that talks about how we are to be agents of Christ’s reconciliation in the world, preaching the Gospel of Christ who has made everything new. And I don’t know about you, but I’m really struggling with newness right about now.
When COVID first started, many of us dreamed of quickly returning to the way things had been before. We longed to gather in restaurants and at movies, to worship together and sing with gusto, to travel and visit relatives and see new things—and even to go to the grocery store and buy whatever we wanted without wondering if it would be out of stock.
Perhaps if the pandemic had lasted only a few weeks or a month or two, the world we came back to might have looked more like the world we left. But after fifteen months, we’ve formed new habits. We’ve disconnected from some things we were connected to and connected to other things we might never have considered being connected to before. The economy has changed. Relationships have changed. Churches have changed. We’re used to doing some things very differently. And over all of us hangs the tragedy of those we have lost—3.7 million worldwide, approximately six hundred thousand in the U.S.
I feel—and maybe you do too—that the world has been made new, but not in any way that I expected, or any way that was welcome. There have been beautiful moments of connection, to be sure, but there has also been so much death and destruction. For those of us who believe in a good God who is at work to redeem the world, it can seem awfully hard to see that good God at work right now. COVID seems to be what is making all things new. What about Jesus? Where is he? Where is the new creation?
Tomorrow I want to talk more about where Jesus might be in all of this. For now, rest assured that we trust in a God who is reconciling the world to himself. Even in the time of COVID, Christ is at work.
Where are you having trouble seeing Christ at work making all things new?
Where have you seen him make things new in the last year?
How can you participate in his work of reconciliation?
Years ago, a choir I was a part of sang a choral arrangement by composer Lloyd Pfautsch where he set these verses from 2 Corinthians to music. I’ve never forgotten it, and it echoed in my head as I was writing this devotional for you. Listen to it (if you’re not used to listening to modern choral music, you can follow the music and see the words here), and ask Christ to show you where he is at work, even now.
Lord, please make all things new in our lives and in the world. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Reconciling the Whole World (2 Corinthians 5:16–21)
Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project. She is a priest in the Episcopal Church and an adjunct faculty member at Asbury Theological Seminary. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
Click here to view Jennifer’s profile.