We're doing something new this year: we are moving through the liturgical calendar as a church. Well… the truth is that it isn’t “new.” In fact we’ve been practicing part of the calendar already through the years with Advent, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and a few others. But for us as a church, these were independent holidays and seasons; we selected bits and pieces that seemed important, but we didn’t see how they fit together as a whole for our formation as a people — the the church. This year, we’re hoping to bring more of this historical practice of the church into view and discover how it can shape and form us.
What is the liturgical calendar?
"What is the liturgical calendar?" you ask? The liturgical calendar is gift from the church to the church, inviting all her members to participate in living out the story of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the calendar is not to impose rote practices upon us, but to help us remember the story and life of Jesus in all of our living. Just as we may say a worship sanctuary is holy and thus are called to “take off our sandals on holy ground,” when we practice the liturgical calendar together, we recognize that time itself belongs to the LORD — it is holy — and we remind ourselves to take the our spiritual sandals off our feet for we are bathed in the presence of God in time.
Approaching Lent and Easter
We are nearing the beginning of Lent (it starts on Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019), one of the great seasons in the liturgical calendar. Historically it is a season of penance where we remember the Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13), who gave up all worldly desires to obey the will of God — an obedience that led to the cross. We move together into the practices of prayer, fasting, and giving as a way to lead our hearts to the cross and prepare for Easter.
All too often we only think about “giving something up” for Lent (we’ll get to that below), yet we are also called to engage more deeply in prayer, and open our hands and our hearts in generosity to our neighbors. During this season, pray with one another, consider practices that can shape our hearts to sacrificial love for our neighbors. Share with one another in your community groups how God is speaking to you and calling you to take up your cross and follow Jesus.
Some notes about fasting...
First thing: as with any practical discipline of faith, there is the danger of thinking that we accrue favor with God through our obedience. We are not more or less loved based on our obedience or severity of our fast, but we are seen through the person of Jesus Christ who imputes to us his righteousness.
Fasting should never lead us to think more or less of ourselves or of one another, but always point us to see more and more of our savior, Jesus Christ.
Don't know what to fast?
- Give up something that will affect your day to day and by its absence remind you to remember Christ's presence with you and move you to pray and love your neighbors.
- Don't give up something you shouldn't be doing anyway. (e.g. "I'm gonna give up stealing from my boss"... you shouldn't be doing that anyway!)
- Some, instead of giving up something, take in a new practice or disciple. e.g. Setting aside every afternoon to volunteer at a community organization. Some have discovered, through such a taking on a new way to live into their faith that continues after the Lenten season.
- If you still have no idea, ask your friends; they can often see us better than we can see ourselves and may be able to vocalize what we may fear to fast for Lent.
- Some common suggestions: alcohol, sugar, red meat, bubble tea, social media, video games, tv shows, etc.
All in all this is a time to move into the basic movement of Christian life: to deny ourselves, turn to Jesus, and follow him.
In our community groups, we will be practicing a fast together and then breaking that fast together on Easter Sunday. It will be a way for us to move together as a church and point one another towards Christ during this season and prepare our hearts to remember Christ at the cross and resurrection.