I confess that, outside of the “High, Holy Days” and Lent and Advent, I really haven’t paid much attention to the liturgical calendar very much. Oh, I used to pull out the different altar cloths for each season and change the banners as we moved from Easter to Pentecost to Ordinary Time. But I’ve gotten away from that. It’s mostly because I got out of the practice of preaching the lectionary and moved towards sermon series that were more topical.
But, I still pay attention to those changing seasons and know how to change the prayers around to reflect the Christian year.
However, just trying to incorporate the Christian calendar into our worship life isn’t the end all and be all of evangelism. It can be attractive and meaningful. But there’s more to evangelism. Not only do we need to tune our people to the movements of the liturgical year but we need to tune our churches to the movements of our communities. Therefore Chris Morton, from a few years ago, poses the idea of a “Missional Calendar.” Here’s what he has to say, even describing how his own church incorporates this:
If nothing else, being missional means being missionary. A missionary is one who learns a culture, in order to present the gospel in words and forms that make sense to them. While I sympathize, and happily participate, with evangelicals wishing to reclaim liturgical traditions, we need to realize that those actions alone will not help us present the gospel to the cultures we encounter.
The value of a the liturgical calendar is not in specific rites, but in the idea that how we organize our time defines our lives.
What if, as we set out on our missional endeavors, we took the concepts of time and calendar seriously. Are there celebrations in a local culture that can be redeemed by the gospel? Are their gross imbalances that can be reformed through organized, corporate disciplines? Perhaps borrowing from other Christian traditions may help us address this or perhaps we will find ourselves creating something new.
In my church in Austin, Texas, we occasionally recognize traditionally Christian seasons and holidays. We anticipate during Advent, reflect during Lent and party on Easter. But we also host concerts during SXSW, ride our bicycles through the East Austin Studio Tour, and run around the park during the Zilker Kite Festival. We do these things because we are Austinites. But we do them together because we are the Church.
In the past, evangelicals have eschewed the practices of other churches. Today, they seem to grasp at them in hopes of providing a lost sense of meaning. What if instead, we looked at our neighborhood and asked the question “How does this people organize their lives? How can the gospel be presented within that?”
This is great stuff. And, for our community of Seward, that means participating with the school and with the seasonal flow of workers to the community. It means that what’s important to our town is important to us.