I grew up in a church tradition that did not take seriously the Christian Church Calendar. Even as I went to college and moved into communities that took some level of tradition more seriously (which was usually limited to quoting Puritans and Reformers in sermons), the Church Calendar wasn’t that big of a deal. It was seen as something sort-of cool that could be incorporated into the already established life of the Church; a buffet from which leaders could pick and choose some aspects that might be helpful in organizing some sermon series or songs. But it certainly wasn’t seen as something that a church should actually incorporate itself into, or build it’s own rhythm around.
I’ve had the privilege of having this paradigm rocked the past several years at my church, and have fallen in love with the Church calendar. It influences much of the rhythm and timbre of my everyday life–both ecclesial and otherwise. I find such life in living within a stream of thought that was not simply created within the past generation by baptizing modern Western American cultural ideas.
I love finding myself as embedded within the cloud of witnesses that have gone before me as possible–even those I may disagree with passionately and fundamentally. Because, at the end of the day, they are my family, and families have traditions. Sure, you can be “that guy” that does his own thing and doesn’t participate in the family rhythms, but where’s the life in that?
I say all this because I’ve been reminded by a few conversations that not everyone feels this way. I had forgotten I was in the extreme minority in my love for the calendar. There are many reasons why people might not think it a big deal. For some it’s from leftover cultural fears of being “Catholic” and “legalistic”. For others it’s simply that they feel they’ve flourished well-enough so far in their life without the Calendar being a big deal, so what could it really add?
And still for others there’s a sense that any level of putting oneself under any sort of historical structure or pattern is tantamount to losing the Reformation banner of the priesthood of believers. There’s this feeling, it seems, that the gold mines of history are good for picking at little bits here and there if they’re useful to you, but damning if you decide to live your life in them. We tend to stress our individual priesthood and forget the believers part.
In fact, I’d argue we seem to believe more in priesthoods of believers. We forget that there is only one priesthood–Jesus’–and by his Spirit he has joined his collective body of believers into that one priesthood. We are not all the priests of our own little temple-bodies. Rather Jesus is the priest, the world is his temple, and he joins us to himself as a collective whole so we can be his priestly hands, feet, and presence in this temple-world.
This is why the Christian Church Calendar is built around the life of Christ. It is this life that we–as a unified history of believers–are mysteriously joined to. His life is our life, and so, in my (and most of the Church past and present’s) opinion, it only makes sense to structure our time and space around that very life.
Is observing the Church Calendar “necessary” to be a faithful Christian? No. But should we live our Christian lives based on what’s “necessary” or based on what might facilitate our union with Jesus and One another all the more?
And so, maybe you find yourself in that group of people that don’t take the Church Calendar seriously. Maybe you feel no inclination and desire to have anything to do with it. Can this post, perhaps, serve as my offer to you to just give it a try? Just for Lent. Take this one six-week period and be at least a little more intentional about how you spend your time, money, etc. Could you do that?
Here’s what I and others are doing this year. Hopefully these can be some resources to help you get started. Feel free to jump onto any of them.
- Lent & Easter Prayerbook: If this is one of your first times participating in Lent, I can’t suggest enough using a prayer book of some kind. My church has teamed up again with Restoration Living to create a stunningly beautiful and comprehensive prayer book for you to use in this time.
- Holy Day Services: my church and many others throughout the world are doing Ash Wednesday services tomorrow. There are also other Holy Days during this season, like Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and of course, Easter morning.
- Lent Mixtape: Yep, I’m posting the Lent Mixtapes up for free download again. Feel free to use these to create an ambiance for this season and may it help your meditation and reflection.
- Blog Series: I can’t decide between two possible series I want to do this year (maybe I’ll do both). I’ll be doing a series either on Baptism or on Lament and Weeping in the Bible. You can also follow all my past Lent-related posts.
- Bible-reading Plan: Maybe a prayer book is too much for you. Maybe reading blog posts by some random twenty-something isn’t appealing. Then maybe you’d be up for jumping onto one of the man Lent reading plans available all over the web.
Whether you’re an old Church Calendar pro, or someone who’s taking me up on this invitation, I hope and pray these resources can help you engage in this season all the more fully.
Are you participating in Lent this year? Why or why not? If you are, how are you doing so?