Many followers of Jesus were not raised in church traditions that observed a liturgical calendar. Sadly, many people who call themselves ardent Christians barely know what this even means. Raised as a Baptist, I was leery of anything having to do with robes and stoles worn by leaders in the church. I was clueless to the church seasons and history.
It's been later in life that the richness of this important, life-giving lesson is something that has become very important to me. As I look back on this now, I think this is mostly due to an unfounded fear of Roman Catholicism. And as a result, we have thrown the baby out with the water, so to speak.
In my childhood then and many people even now have such a high and unwarranted fear of anything that might resemble Catholicism. This is true of people who have come to Christ from strong liturgical traditions or the Catholic church and found all of that baggage too much to carry forth now in their new life. What mattered was Christmas and Easter and days or times other than those big ones simply got in the way of sermon series, teaching schedules and strategies to grow the church wider--but probably left the church more shallow, I'm afraid.
The word "liturgy" comes to us from the combining of two Greek words: one meaning 'people' and the other meaning 'work.' A service that follows a liturgy is the work of the people and it offers order, chronology and history. The calendar of the year moves from times and season in the life of Jesus. Each season, we are invited to participate in the time in Jesus life and to allow it to intersect with our own life. Thus, all time becomes sacred and there is no such thing as secular time. All time is in God's hands.We have sacred seasons in life--not just basketball and football but times and seasons in our lives when we look more deeply at our spiritual pilgrimage. The varying seasons allow us to focus, pay attention and glean important lessons from the life of Jesus into our own lives. We wait in Advent. We prepare in Lent and we reap in Pentecost. Each time the season changes, we get to go through it again--to look again to gain what we glossed over; to receive what we did not get and to reap more understanding about our lives and how they intersect with the very life of Jesus. The hope that is repetition, we might actually and finally "get" something that is very important. When churches are so creative that they forget their history, they may be forgetting something far more important than mere history. They may be forgetting a very basic truth.
This coming Sunday is Psalm Sunday. It marks the beginning of what we call Holy Week--the seven days before Easter. You may not realize this but 1/3 of John's Gospel is only about this week in the life of Jesus. It's that important.
As we move towards Easter, each day is rich and potent with lessons to help us prepare for the greatest day of the church's entire year, namely Easter. Easter marks the time when time stood still and Jesus broke through time, space and a grave to live again.Go to a liturgical church service this coming Holy Week. Leave your own tradition and attend an Anglican, Episcopal, Presbyterian or other church that is taking advantage of all of the colors, symbols and rituals pertaining to this very important time.
The first time I ever attended an Anglican church, I immediately was drawn into the service because every symbol--every color--every thing was perfectly understood and invited me in with all of my God-given five senses to enjoy the worship more fully.
When you attend a liturgical church, you have the opportunity to re-visit the very life of Jesus and walk the same seasons that he walked. You do this every year, not just once in a while. Every season you might get something that you missed last year or for many years. Now because, you're more ready--you might be more open to actually seeing something different.In a liturgical church, Jesus' life is lived out every twelve months. We walk the journey of his seasons by having our own. Each year and each season is a gracious invitation to live life out again--but this time--hopefully in a different, better and more life-filled way.
The main reason why I feel that participating in a liturgical church is important is that it helps promote a healthy rhythm to our lives. Every day is not Easter in the Christian life, is it? No, some days and weeks are long, hard and arduous. Lent reminds us of this reality. Sometimes, we have to wait in life---and practice long seasons of waiting, and waiting is validated in the season of Advent. Through the church seasons, we pace ourselves. We know that no season lasts forever and that a hard season will soon pass---it's Friday but Easter is coming. I can make it, can't you?
The Jewish calendar had varying seasons which every Jew was required to participate in and observe (See Lev. 23). Now, the modern church has all but abandoned seasons, rhythm and the times mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3. When we seek to live in rhythm, we need to observe the seasons and the times and all of this helps us realize and reaffirm that God is faithful to us in every season of life and that there is no time that is not in God's hands.
---------------------------------I develop this more in The Jesus Life in the chapter on Dailiness. It's a beautiful chapter that gives a good overview to what liturgy means and how it might really enhance your spiritual life.________________________