Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Christian calendar

Next Sunday is the first in Advent and the beginning of the "Church Year" for those worship traditions guided by it. In a post from 2009 Michael Spencer, a Baptist, advocated greater use of the Christian calendar in traditions like ours:
I’m in favor of a modest use of the Christian calendar. I’d use the major seasons—Advent, Nativity, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost—as dominant themes in worship, but I would make many of the minor feasts and days optional. I’d use the lectionary for scripture readers, but be less encumbered by it as determinant for preaching.

I think there is a danger of being too slavish about lectionary preaching, especially in traditions that expect the Gospel text to always be the sermon text. I would counsel a great deal of freedom for any preacher in what he feels he should do on a particular Sunday within the appropriate theme related to Christ. And that is what we want to do, right? Relate all things to Jesus? ....

The Christian calendar should provide guidance and a framework, but not an oppressive confinement. It should be a help to Christ-centered Gospel worship, and be in the background, not the forefront.

For instance, Ordinary time following Pentecost should not be defined closely by the calendar and the lectionary at all. Instead, preachers and leaders should be able to address topics and emphases they feel are important for the church’s overall health. Series that address particular groups or issues can come in at that point. ....

...[T]he Christian Year can help all of us in preaching and planning worship, no matter what our situation. A good use of the Year can allow a journey through books, exegetical messages on key doctrines and creativity in coordinating word, liturgy, music and other elements of worship. Nothing about the year precludes messages on stewardship or church planting. Just look for ways to integrate with the themes available.

It is not necessary to adopt the worst aspects of the use of the Christian Year in order to use it. A modest use, with plenty of flexibility, can bring together the best of several traditions.
iMonk Classic: Do You Know What Your Church Is Doing Next Sunday? | internetmonk.com, the image is from The Anglican Church of the Resurrection