Spiritual Formation

Following the Church Year

By August 8, 2016 No Comments

One of the practices that we are observing as a new church in Portland is the observance of both the Church Year, and Lectionary readings. As a church that is not connected to a mainline denomination this sometimes strikes people as curious. In this entry into the journal we will briefly unpack the “why” behind this practice of our church.

Following the Church Calendar connects us to something bigger than ourselves. for centuries the Church has organized itself around the idea of the Church Year. The major themes of the church year are: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time. During these seasons of the year we enter into different sections of the narrative of the Gospel.

In Advent we focus on being refreshed and surprised by the Lord. Our attention is set on the anticipation of the coming Christ, and incarnational reality of Faith. What we see in the first Advent is an people who identified with God become stagnant, Christ breaks forth to surprise, renew, and restore things to how they should be. We acknowledge that Jesus has come, and that he is coming again. Advent helps us to live into the tension of the already and not yet of the Kingdom of God being present. It is a time when the Lord breaks into our lives restoring and renewing us.

At Christmas we celebrate Christ has come. Our attention is set on hope breaking into the world, it is the starting point of our salvation. Leo a Bishop of Rome, thought of this season in this way, “think of the Lord’s birth, wherein the Word became Flesh, not as a past event which we recall, but as a present reality upon which we gaze.” Christmas is a time to rejoice in the Lords coming and arrival into redemptive history and into our lives here and now. In Christmas we acknowledge salvation has come, past and present for all those who believe.

During Epiphany we focus on the manifestation of Jesus as Savior of the world. During this period in the church year, we examine and contemplate the beginning of Jesus’ manifestation to the world that he is the Christ, the light of the world come to deliver us from darkness, sin, and death. Epiphany finds it’s roots in the visit of the wise men to Jesus as a young child. This visit by the Wisemen signifies the greatness of who Jesus was, and what he was to become. Our mind and discipline during Epiphany should be shaped by the reality of the manifestation of Jesus as our Savior.

In Lent the church enters into our identification with the suffering of Jesus. This season begins with Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and contemplation of the suffering of the Lord on our behalf. The time spent there after, is meant to place an emphasis on faith being more than a belief system, but as an embodiment. During this season we have a heightened focus of our need for repentance and the call to deny sin. We identify that Jesus was tempted just as we are, yet was successful in conquering temptation and sin. Lent ends on good Friday, where we observe the death of Jesus on the cross.

Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. This celebration is not just acknowledging the reality of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, but our participation in resurrection as a disciple of Jesus. Easter is the event which all the events of the church year hinge on. Everything we observe and celebrate in the church year flows into and out of the Easter event. As we celebrate resurrection in our lives it points us to the beauty of the Lord’s involvement in the world to resurrect, restore, reconcile, and renew all things back to himself. Easter is the day that culminates the mission of God as accomplished.

At Pentecost we enter into a focused time that the church is the sent agent of the Lord through the Holy Spirit into the world. In this season we acknowledge that the Lord has not left us, that he has given freely of himself to us in the Holy Spirit that is inside all those who have believed. We focus on our empowerment as a people to go into all the world and proclaim the good news of the kingdom.

The final season of the church year, Ordinary Time, brings into focus that we live each of the truths of the church year in the everyday stuff of life. During this time we focus on the broader teaching of Jesus “along the road”. It is during ordinary time that we see how the Lord intends us to live in the fullness of truth found throughout all of the church year.

As we work the the church year as a local church in Portland, OR. we desire to see people understand and grasp a greater understanding of the Christian Life, deepening each participants life as a disciple of Jesus. This also helps us as a church to communicate the Gospel in a clear and meaningful way. It also helps us to remember that the Gospel is connected to the greater metanarrative of Gods work in the world.

by Paul Hoffman

Author Paul Hoffman

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