When I set out last year to write “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas”, I was looking to weave the rhythms of the church calendar liturgies into contemporary Christianity. As an accidental member of the Foursquare church I now refer to myself as a ‘clueless Evangelical’, a term a friend suggested when I bemoaned the loss of such rich traditions. “Clueless Evangelical” captures well the tension between where my faith has been practiced these 40 yrs and that of more traditional churches who honor the liturgies surrounding the church year. (the link to my book is here).
I am still learning about this calendar cycle that looks at days not as some line of squares to check off one row at a time but as a repetition anchored in the life of Christ and the life of the Church. All of history observes this marker: the initials ‘B.C.’–Before Christ. time before Jesus’ birth and the ensuing years since. It makes sense as Christians we would keep time in this way–in reference to Christ.
Living in cycles also appeals to me because of the chance for so many do overs. Literally. Paul confesses “I die daily,” a phrase that’s been tumbling around in my head lately. He wasn’t speaking of physical death but a death to desires, habits and selfishness that took Him away from Christ.
Perhaps that is the draw of the church year; it follows a cycle of dormancy, death, rebirth & growth year in and year out, much like our lives. We are always becoming new, always practicing.
In the current season between Easter and Pentecost, often called ‘The Great Fifty Days,’ I’m aware of a need to “practice resurrection”, as Wendell Berry pens in the last lines of his Mad Farmer poem, for it is practice we are engaged in.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary declares resurrection as, ‘to rise again, resurge. An act of rising from the dead or returning to life.’
When Jesus rose from the dead He didn’t stick around long, instead telling His disciples he had to go away so they could be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is how we rise again, not in our own power but by being renewed, the Holy Spirit breathing on us, filling our lungs with sacred power to surge to life again.
Eugene Peterson renders 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 this way in The Message,
16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”
Will you practice with me in the ensuing days until Pentecost (that 50-days-after-Easter feast)? We are living in the days between Christ’s birth–Christmas–his Death and Resurrection–Eastertide–and soon, after Pentecost Sunday we will be celebrating the life of the Church.
The next season is ‘Ordinary Time,’ according to the church calendar. Ordinary not because it lacks luster, but ordinary from the word ‘ordinal’ meaning counted. Ordinary time is marked by the color green, a time of growth, which I think is fitting for the season of Spring.
Let’s make the days ahead count and be the church, “our faces shining with the brightness of his face” as we live our lives in ordinary time.
#greatfiftydays #practiceresurrection #churchyear #churchcalendar #cycles #HolySpirit
**Here is a Pinterest link with a visual representation, a circle, of the church year. You will see the season after Pentecost is shown in green. I love that each season of the church calendar has a color!
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