Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Calendar

I've been using the church calendar as the main guide for my devotions for four years now, so I guess I have to admit it's no longer an experiment and is now just my usual practice.  So as this is the last Sunday of the year, here are some notes.  You'll notice that I've become quite enthusiastic.

Firstly a qualification: I'm following the Anglican lectionary, and therefore get caught up in all kinds of feasts and festivals which I could happily do without.  If I were to commend the calendar to evangelicals outside the Anglican tradition (and I would), I'd want to strip it down a bit.  Get rid of all the saints, minimise the number of feasts that don't relate directly to the life of Christ.  I think the following seasons, fasts, and feasts ought to be sufficient:

Holy Week
All Saints

I'm keeping Trinity and All Saints (the only ones not directly relating to the gospel story) because I think they potentially keep important truths in view which would otherwise be lost.

So why would I commend this scheme?

Primarily because it keeps the gospel on our minds.  We're always re-treading the story of Christ, remembering him, living our lives in the context of his work.  (Think about it - the calendar provides the context for life; a secular calendar puts life in a secular context, and a Jesus-shaped calendar in the context of the gospel).  Christians are people with new lives, and I think it helps to mark time in a new way.

Secondarily because it provides teaching opportunities.  Can I be honest and say that I don't think I've ever heard a sermon explicitly dealing with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, or the Ascension of Christ, or the Trinity?  Of course those things have come up, but the exegetical and sequential preaching of contemporary evangelicalism (whilst having much to commend it) means we're much less likely to get this sort of doctrinal preaching.  I'm sure that leaves dangerous holes in people's knowledge and faith.

As an aside, there is still a whole lot of Ordinary Time in the calendar which can be given over to this sort of preaching - at least half the year.  And obviously the seasonal preaching could, and should, still be expository and possibly sequential as well.

Thirdly, and this one contains a bit of a grumble, I do feel that evangelicalism can become dangerously self-obsessed.  The most important things easily become the big events in our congregational life rather than the events of the gospel, and the notices take on more significance than the worship.  Might not the church calendar give us an opportunity to take our eyes off our programmes and focus them on Jesus?

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