Church Year Spirituality: Living in God’s Story

Church Year Banners, by Chinn

By Chaplain Mike

In our introduction to this series, “Church Year Spirituality,” I gave five primary reasons why I think it advantageous for Christians to form their spiritual lives — their walk with God through Christ — around the liturgical year.

  1. It enables us to live in God’s story.
  2. It keeps the main thing the main thing.
  3. It recognizes that one’s calendar forms one’s life.
  4. It links personal spirituality with worship, family, and community.
  5. It provides a basis of unity and common experience for Christians everywhere.

Today, let’s talk about the first point; what it means to be people who are…

Living in God’s Story

Spiritual theology, using Scripture as text, does not so much present us with a moral code and tell us, “Live up to this,” nor does it set out a system of doctrine and say, “Think like this.” The biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, “Live into this – this is what it looks like to be human in this God-made and God-ruled world; this is what is involved in becoming and maturing as a human being.” We don’t have to fit into prefabricated moral and mental or religious boxes before we are admitted into the company of God. We are taken seriously just as we are and given place in his story – for it is, after all, God’s story. None of us is the leading character in the story of our lives. God is the larger context and plot in which all our stories find themselves. (Eugene Peterson)

God created humans, so the old Jewish saying goes, because he loved stories so much. What we have in the Bible is His Story; as Peterson calls it, God’s “immense, sprawling, capacious narrative.”

How did God make the world into a place fit for humankind? People may want to analyze and come up with scientific models, but God tells stories. Why is the world in the shape it’s in, filled with selfishness, conflict, and trouble? Social scientists study data and develop social theory and then policy. God tells us stories about people — people who hide from God in shame, people who refuse to accept that they are their brothers’ keepers, individuals, families, and nations that live for money, sex, and power. Do you want to know how God works to turn the world around? Look at this gaggle of slaves, set free from the world’s powers, and how God shapes them through a journey home. Stories. About people. About life. Stories that, together, become the Story.

Oh sure, there are sayings too. Commandments. Instructions. Warnings. Promises. Reassurances. Propositional truth is spoken, sages impart wisdom, prophets spout diatribes, psalmists chant inspired lyrics, apostles write Gospels and epistles, but these words are spoken always and ever in the context of what God is doing on the ground, in the lives of people, as the Story plays out.

When the Promised One came in the Story’s decisive act, he too told stories. What is God like? Let me tell you about this father who had two sons. What is his Kingdom like? The kingdom of God is like a farmer, who went out to sow seeds in his field…. What will it be like when the Kingdom comes in fullness? Well, let’s hear a story about a great banquet. His own life, in fact, becomes the greatest story ever told — an unforgettable narrative played out in familiar locales: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Galilee, Golgotha, the Garden.

And when Jesus disappears from human sight, exalted to heaven, the Story goes on. From Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Parting of the Red Sea, Chagall

The simplest answer to the question, “What does it mean to live a Christian life?” is: It means to take our place in God’s Story.

Just like the people of Israel in every generation are taught to view themselves as those who have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their patriarchs, as those who have been redeemed from slavery in Egypt, who are cared for by God in the wilderness, made a holy nation at Sinai, and led into the Promised Land, so Christians see themselves as the new Israel, the people of God formed by the Story of Israel’s Messiah. Called by Jesus to follow him, we walk with him among the poor and needy, we scratch our heads and try to figure out his teaching, we receive fish and bread from his hands and distribute it to the hungry, we turn to him when our boat is overwhelmed by the storm, in awe we see him transfigured in glory on the Mount, when he stoops to wash our feet we blush in shame, we sense impending doom in Gethsemane, we weep helplessly and feel all hope leave our hearts as he breathes his last on the Cross, our mouths drop open in bewilderment when he appears alive and transformed among us.

This is our Family Story, our heritage. It is who we are. We are Christ-ians. In each generation, we tell our children the family name and what it’s all about. We recall the stories. We celebrate the family holidays and mark the special occasions. We practice the family rituals. In baptism we relive every Biblical story about how God brought his people safely through the waters, from life to death, from chaos to new creation. At the Lord’s Table, we give thanks for God’s provision and receive sustenance as we feast together in love and fellowship. When we marry, we speak of Cana, remember water turned to wine, and share the joy. At the grave, our grief is tempered by hope of resurrection and new creation — concepts made real by the fact that it happened before — in our family! It is our Story!

Following the Church Year is how we do it. The seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost form our family traditions.

  • In Advent, we take our place in the Story alongside the people of the First Covenant, who longed for God to rend the heavens and come down that this groaning world might give birth to a new creation.
  • In Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation of the Promised One, who joined us in our poverty that we might have our Father’s eternal riches.
  • In Epiphany, we follow and watch as Jesus is baptized and set apart for ministry. We walk with him through the villages and towns of Palestine, amazed at each word and act which shows the compassion and glory of God.
  • In Lent, we learn that following him means taking up our own cross. He bids us come and die with him. We know this death has arisen from our willfulness; we recognize our failures, weakness, our sins, and utter hopelessness apart from him. Without Jesus, our story is “ashes to ashes.”
  • In Holy Week, we join him in the streets, in the Temple, in the upper room, in Gethsemane. We stand at a distance in stunned disbelief as Roman soldiers nail him to the Cross. Overwhelmed by the shock of grief, we return home in silence.
  • On Easter Sunday, and for fifty days following, it is suddenly and unexpectedly springtime. Light breaks through — Jesus is alive! God raised him from the dead. We see him, we hear him, we touch him — we try to take it in. He ascends to his Father, and bids us wait for the next part of the Story to begin.
  • On Pentecost, it does. Fire falls from heaven! Good News is proclaimed to all people, in their own languages! Jerusalem is shaken. The Church is born. No matter who you are, or what you’ve done, you can join the family. Come, take your place in the Story! It’s all about Jesus! For everyone, everywhere.

Practicing the Church Year is how we live in the Story.

The concept should not be unusual to us. Our families, communities, and nations celebrate special days and seasons annually. We follow a pattern of life that forms our identity. These commemorations reinforce who we are, what we believe, how we live, and what our values are.

Just so, in God’s family, the cycle of the Church Year has been developed so that we might live in the story of the God who created us, redeemed us, and is making us new in Christ forever.

49 thoughts on “Church Year Spirituality: Living in God’s Story

  1. I ran into too many Matthews during my time in and around the Evangelical Wilderness. All their Utter Righteousness did when inflicted on me (which they were all to eager to cite — see “Little Brothers of St Archie Bunker”) was leave me in total despair and near-suicidal depression. Constant one-upmanship just like High School, except with a Christian coat of paint — Who’s More Right With God instead of Who Made Three Touchdowns in One Game.

    Note how even his parting words just drip passive-aggressive one-upmanship:

    “Make no Christian your standard of what is right in faith and practice, however high his name, his rank, or his learning. Let your creed be the Bible , and nothing but the Bible; and your example Christ, and nothing short of Him.”

    As in “I have The Bible, AND YOU DON’T. My Marching Orders come directly from God (Sola Scriptura), AND YOURS DONT. I am the Real Christian, AND YOU’RE NOT.” Basically, what he’s been saying on this blog all along.


  2. But what then of the Body of Christ? Otherwise, we all sit in our own little bubbles with the Bible clutched in our hands and our eyes on the ground, and no community of believers.

    Welcome to the world of “My PERSONAL Lord & Savior,” the end state of a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.


  3. Matthew, yes.

    But what then of the Body of Christ? Otherwise, we all sit in our own little bubbles with the Bible clutched in our hands and our eyes on the ground, and no community of believers. That’s what the liturgical year is about; corporate worship and exploring the life of the Church through the life of Christ.

    If another Christian is influencing you to do X, Y, or Z that is falling away from the Gospel then the Ryle quotation is very apt. The irony, of course, is that the quotation can be turned against itself: don’t even listen to Ryle! He’s just another Christian, not the Bible!


  4. There’s some truth in the Ryle quotation, but I wonder where Ryle ever saw the Holy Spirit. Now that there is no temple and we individually and corporately are the dwelling place of God, how do we see the Spirit at work if we never look to other human beings? Not to idolize them, but to see God through them.


  5. Btw, I was thinking of the second hardcover book when I said second “volume”…it actually comprises several “volumes” according to the tableof contents. Look at the entire period from Constantine through Justinian. Look at the history of Athanasius and circumstances surrounding him. Look at the rapid shifts in emperors between pro Arian and pro Orthodox and how ecclesiastical and civil appointments shifted accordingly, each group as soon as they came to power taking revenge on their predecessors. The two religious factions were associated with circus sports teams in Justinian’s day and these factions wreaked havoc. More broadly, many Barbarians became Arian Christians and this fact was central in establishing their power in the West. Pro Arians in the empire often welcomed and aided the barbarians as a way of breaking orthodox power and this prompted revenge on the part of the orthodox. Hope you have a chance to do some good reading!


  6. Still waiting for the source of that “Somebody famous who I’m not going to name said that 91% of Catholics don’t believe Christ is the only Savior, therefore I Am Still Right About THEM” claim. Not holding my breath.


  7. Matthew, I had to google the quote because it was meaningless without a reference. It turns out to be from a sermon by R.C. Ryle. But you didn’t include what immediately preceded it:

    “Call no man father upon earth. Do not build your faith on any minister or set of ministers. Let no man become your Pope.”

    I think I have heard that from you before. I’m not a Roman Catholic either, but the practice of calling a priest “Father”, or believing in apostolic succession, or having bishops, cardinals, and a pope, is nothing that I’d be willing to go to the stake over. While the details of these practices may not be commanded by scripture, neither are they forbidden. In fact, the general practice of authority within the church is quite scriptural. See Acts, chapter 6, or 1Timothy chapter 3, for example. Even Luther didn’t have a problem with the hierarchy of the Church per se; rather it was the abuse of power, the heresy of the time, and the unwillingness to repent from it.

    I’m afraid that you yourself may be putting too much stock in tradition. In this case, the tradition that feels that anything coming out of Rome is apostate. And that can’t be so. Some of what Rome says or does is from God, as Martha pointed out. And Headless Unicorn Guy may have got under your skin, but I can imagine Jeremiah or John the Baptist using all caps, too.

    I hope you’re not leaving. You do have an important voice here, and mostly you have a good-natured way of saying it.

    So stick around. Please?


  8. Oh, and those short forms are titled “Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families.” They don’t really incorporate the liturgical cycle, though. They’re basically stripped-down daily office liturgy. The regular Daily Office services do incorporate the liturgical cycle, however.


  9. OK, I found a copy of Gibbon’s work online. It looks like the relevant chapters are 15-21. I’ll spend a few days looking over them. I skimmed 21 a bit and found a few incidences of the orthodox being killed by heretical groups or of secular rulers doing/sanctioning violence and getting rebuked by the orthodox bishops. But I’ll save any further stuff until I read and study those six chapters.


  10. Aloha iMonk. Ciao. Adios. Catch ya later mate.

    “Make no Christian your standard of what is right in faith and practice, however high his name, his rank, or his learning. Let your creed be the Bible , and nothing but the Bible; and your example Christ, and nothing short of Him.”


  11. Matthew, the First Council of Nicea also declared the relationship of Jesus to God the Father: that He was True God and True Man, Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, God made Man.

    Are we to take it that this was an imposed doctrine as much as that of Lent, and that the “other brand of Christianity which held to doctrine contrary to the Roman church” were right on this? Or is it possible that poor old Constantine and the assembled Bishops might have gotten this one correct?

    And if so, that they might have been not too far off the mark when establishing church discipline? If we’re going to model what a modern-day congregation should be like on what Jesus says about it, then we’re going to end up with “Wander the land, sell all you have and give to the poor, and I never said anything about putting the national flag in the sanctuary either or which translation of the Gospels you need to have.”!


  12. The Book of Common Prayer daily offices all have short forms in the American 1979 version.


  13. Lent was not observed by the first century Church! It was first addressed by the church at Rome during the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized that church as the Roman Empire’s state religion. Any other brand of Christianity that held to doctrines contrary to the Roman church was considered an enemy of the state. In A.D. 360, the Council of Laodicea officially commanded Lent to be observed.


    Okay, Matt, we all know the church went Apostate into Romish Popery under Constantine and NOBODY was Saved until either the Reformation or the founding of your non-traditional New Testament Church tradition (and even then, 99.9999999% of humanity is Damned to Eternal Hell because even the best of them got their Theology incorrectly parsed, unlike you) and that Lent is Pagan and all that. YOU’VE BEEN TROLLING THIS BLOG IN ALL YOUR THEOLOGICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS AND UTTER CERTAINTY FOR YEARS AND HAVE BEEN TELLING US ALL THIS OVER AND OVER, NEVER MISSING A CHANCE! SO GIVE IT A REST!


  14. Off hand, I’d suggest what’s called the “Breviary” or “Liturgy of the Hours” or “Office of the Hours” for a starting point for investigation. There’s got to be a “short form” version in there someplace.


  15. Easter eve was a time dedicated to baptisms in the early church.

    It still is in mine. Every Easter Vigil Mass I’ve ever attended has paused in the middle for an hour or so of Baptisms & Confirmations. All the RCIAers get baptized at Easter Vigil, the culmination of their year’s Instruction.


  16. Hi Isaac,
    Gibbon consulted and compiled the writings of ancient writers and, as I understand it, is still considered an authoritative documenter of those ancient authors. In his narrative, he has copious footnotes documenting the explicit references in the ancient sources and if there’s any question about historicity, it’s not about Gibbon but rather about those sources. There are so many references and sources, however, that I think the facts are unassailable. I agree that there is an anti-religious sentiment to some extent in Gibbon, but this shows more in his ascribing of motivations to people and a willingness to see more of the bad side of Christians and the good side of non-Christians—but it doesn’t show in alteration of or manufacture of the facts themselves. The second volume of his work is probably the best reference to consult to see examples and you don’t have to look far to find what you’re looking for. From the reign of Julian down to that of Justinian, there are endless examples. Honestly, I’m not just “punting” here—-if you really picked up that volume and got into it, I think you would see that the persecution of Christians by other Christians is a pervasive and well documented theme. If I had it in front of me, I could put out specific chapters.


  17. Not to belabor the point, but I’d still like some specifics. Gibbon has been criticized for that particular point because modern historians find no evidence for his claims. Rather, it is suspected that Gibbon is making 18th-century Enlightenment anti-religious assumptions. Honestly, I haven’t read Gibbon (just about him). However, I’m looking for specific examples, not glittering generalities or sweeping claims. Who are all these people that were supposedly slaughtered by early Imperial Christians? I’d even take specific incidents rather than specific people. I just need more evidence than “so-and-so says they killed people.” I’ve looked for it and can’t find any specifics at all!


  18. If you read Gibbon;s History of the Roman Empire, you’ll find page after page of detailed accounts of Christian violence against other Christians. I think the statement is accurate that Christians killed other Christians in greater numbers than pagan non-Christians killed Christians. The Arian vs non-Arian controversy was probably the single biggest source of church-on-church violence. When Arians were in power, they slaughtered non-Arians and vice versa. Things were as bloody as Catholic/Protestant warfare of later times. It’s so far back in the past and many of the groups (like Arians) have disappeared so that much of that warfare has been forgotten, but it was very real and very thoroughly documented by many sources, most of which have been compiled together into a single narrative by Gibbon.


  19. The only instance I can see of Christians dying violently at the hands of other Christians for religious reasons in the period of the Fathers is when Priscillian and a half dozen of his followers were executed for “practicing magic.” And most of the bishops condemned his execution.

    And I can’t really find either killings or sword conversions of the pagans or Jews at this time either.

    Again, I’ve gotta ask, where’s all this alleged spilled blood?


  20. It’s simple historical fact that more Christians met with violent death at the hands of the new “Christian” state than were killed previously by pagan Rome — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of pagans who were either killed or marched at sword-point to baptismal fountains.

    I’m going to need specifics here. I simply can’t think of any widespread persecution by Christians in the first five or so centuries of the faith. And I can’t think of a single heresy that should have survived. Who are all these supposed martyrs? Or are we just reading issues from the late medieval time into the era of the Fathers and assuming that the same stuff that happened in the Inquisitions and Reformation occurred then?

    I’m not saying that the move to an Imperial model was a good one. In fact, I think it’s usually a bad idea for the Church to have too much temporal power. It tends to make us lose proper focus of our mission, etc. But the question remains: which of those early heresies should have survived?


  21. And while Jesus certainly didn’t celebrate a time of the church year called Lent, he did undergo forty days of fasting in the desert, which we in a small way re-experience with him during our own fast.


  22. The simple/home church fellowship of which I am a part is currently trying to come to turns with our obvious lack of structure and consistency. The Church Year Calendar just might help — except that many of the high church-style observances just can’t be realistically done in somebody’s living room. Besides, we all come from liturgy-light backgrounds. So, I’m wondering — Are there any Church Year traditions that are geared toward family practices in the home? And are there any resources out there for that kind of thing?


  23. Who were they bullying? Come on, Isaac. While I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to completely demonize the imperial era church, it’s certainly not fair or accurate to whitewash everything the church did or instituted during that time — or to rationalize these things away as God breaking a few eggs in order to make a divinely inspired omelet. It’s simple historical fact that more Christians met with violent death at the hands of the new “Christian” state than were killed previously by pagan Rome — not to mention the hundreds of thousands of pagans who were either killed or marched at sword-point to baptismal fountains. Heck, if it weren’t for Augustine’s arguments for tolerating unconverted Jews, the entire Jewish population of the Roman Empire might have been wiped out. The only way I see God’s hand in all this is that it was a test — a test to see if the church would follow Jesus’s teachings and example and treat their enemies better than their enemies had treated them, once the tables had turned. I’d have to say the church failed that test miserably.
    If there is a single, most-destructive error that was embraced by the imperial era church and then passed on to the church of the middle ages (and even on to the early state-controlled Reformation churches), it is that the gospel of Christ and participation in the church were ever intended to be matters of compulsion. It quite clear and obvious to anyone who reads the the Gospels and the other NT writings that the good news of Jesus was presented to mankind as a matter of choice — and that forcing matters of belief and faith on others through the threat of torture or violence is a glaring contradiction of everything that Jesus and His apostles taught. Pardon me if I do them an injustice, but I can’t help but believe that the leaders of the imperial era church recognized this truth just as well as I do — they just chose to ignore it in the name of their newfound social status and power.


  24. Easter eve was a time dedicated to baptisms in the early church. And, one did not get baptized on a whim. There was a period of preparation, teaching, and even exorcism before the rite. Lent was when the catechumens, unbaptized believers, were prepared for baptism. The early church took believing and belonging very seriously. Lent reflected that.


  25. Matthew-

    I love your zeal and ardor for God brother, but you might need to brush up on your history a wee bit. Emperor Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan, which ended official state persecution and commanded the toleration of Christians, and made their (Christians) worship legal. As in, they didn’t have to “hide in the catacombs”.

    It wasn’t until 380 AD, under the Emperor Theodosius I, the Edict of Thessalonica, that Christianity was declared the state religion of the Empire.

    I also don’t see how you make the connection between the Great Commission and Lent.
    Jesus indeed commanded the Church to make disciples of all nations, and to observe that which He had taught them. One of those things is to “take up your cross and follow me”. This was seen as so important and central to the Christian life that while it is to be done everyday, we devote a whole season to it to remind ourselves. And providentially, it is right before Easter (I mean Pascha… er, Pasch… er, Resurrection?). So that traditionally, after the greatest and harshest time of self-denial and repentance, we might experience the glory of the Resurrection, along with all the joy and forgiveness it brings. Pretty smart, no?

    Finally- Jesus didn’t institute new Passover symbols. Bread and wine were used since long before Christ. Rather, He took them (bread and wine), and imbued them with new meaning and purpose. I’ll leave it at that, and won’t even get into Eucharistic theology here.


  26. Well, at Nicea the 40-days was standardized, but the practice observing numerous days of fasting prior to Easter goes back MUCH further. In 180ish we have Ireneus noting that the number of days varied from community to community, for example.

    I’m not sure where you get the idea that Christ specifically commanded celebrating Passover. Though we certainly see him observing the various Jewish holy days, I don’t recall him specifically commanding anyone to do likewise. He’s pretty silent on holy days and such. The John passage you mention isn’t proscriptive, it’s descriptive. He’s not giving instructions for celebrating Passover. Rather, it’s describing some of what occurred at the last supper.

    Finally, I’ll put to you a question I put to my Theology/Church History professor: Which of the movements/groups in the first five or so centuries that was declared a heresy should have survived? I really can’t think of one. I don’t really understand why folks paint a picture of some bullying Imperial Church. Who were they bullying?


  27. Believe it or not, Lent was never observed by Christ or His apostles. He commanded them to “Go you therefore, and teach all nations…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I havecommanded you”

    Jesus never commanded them to observe Lent or Easter. He did, however, command them to keep Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. In fact, during His last Passover on earth, Christ gave detailed instructions on how to observe the Passover service. He also instituted new Passover symbols (John 13:1-17).

    Lent was not observed by the first century Church! It was first addressed by the church at Rome during the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized that church as the Roman Empire’s state religion. Any other brand of Christianity that held to doctrines contrary to the Roman church was considered an enemy of the state. In A.D. 360, the Council of Laodicea officially commanded Lent to be observed.



  28. And a LOT of the problems with Evangelicalism are probably due to forgetting or deliberately ignoring/suppressing that heritage. When you have no institutional memory, you’ll find yourself making the same destructive mistakes and reinventing the wheel over and over and over.

    ANIMALS — not People — have no memory of anything before themselves.


  29. Very well said, I really love that 5 reasons why we should go to spiritual lives. It’s really true to us and to me based it on my experience. It’s very relaxing to have God on our side. You can really see or even experience yourself how He works on us especially through our problems and needs. You can really thank Him a lot and weep for your happiness to have Him in your life.


  30. This idea of “living in God’s story” is a refreshing and powerful way to think about living out our lives. This is very good and much needed writing.


  31. “When it comes to Tradition, the late Jaroslav Pelikan made a great distinction. “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.””




  32. I suppose it is a bit self serving, but I don’t get royalties off the book. If anyone is really serious about wanting to follow the church year and have its rythm shape their lives I suggest ordering “To Live with Christ,” by Bo Giertz. It explains the seasons in its daily 10 minute devotionals, while using appropriate texts and making doctrine come alive and personal.


  33. Nice irony.
    I liked your line about “it all looks like, and sounds like…’us’.”
    G.K. Chesterton, in “Orthodoxy,” I think, said that Tradition is a way of extending the vote to our (dead) ancestors, who have much to offer us. Personally, I prefer the wisdom of old, dead Christians to church growth guru’s, consultants, and people with titles like “Associate Executive Pastor for Marketing and Organizational Development.”

    When it comes to Tradition, the late Jaroslav Pelikan made a great distinction. “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”


  34. Who needs ‘liturgical church year calendars’ ?

    We are wa-aaay beyond that stuff. We don’t need church pews or altars or pulpits or church organs or vestments…or any of that ‘church stuff’.

    We’ve got it streamlined now, so that it all looks like, and sounds like…’us’.


  35. Since links are not liked here I guess I will simply mention it: ‘We are family’ by sister Sledge on youtube… to get us all into that ‘family feel’…


  36. CM,

    Nice series on the liturgical year… there is an aspect to this that is profoundly ecumenical. Many mildly orthodox to fringe catholics who are no longer ‘in good standing’ with Rome might more easily join one of the churches of the Reformation if the liturgical year would be more visible during the services.

    For to us protestant services are so ‘bare bones’ and cold at times. To avoid exaggeration in imagery? Fine. To strip churches of anything that has to do with art and colour? Not so fine.

    In the Netherlands, ‘middle of the road’ catholics already have no place to go within the roman fold…. a reconnection with the shared past of the undivided church of the first 10 centuries is THE way to get catholics who are seekers to join another church.


  37. Along the lines you speak of regarding family heritage, when I go into a Catholic church filled with images of saints, perhaps their relics in some cases, etc—-I tend to get the impression of a refrigerator filled with favorite family pictures, mementos, things we take delight in remembering and keeping in front of our eyes every time we go to get something to eat. Without even thinking about theological issues, I think being reminded continually (and actually *wanting* to be continually reminded) is a great thing.


  38. Thanks CM, it makes me wish I were actively participating in a church that was intentionally being formed by this rhythmed story along with millions of others throughout the world, instead of more on my own in the congregations of which I am a part. Even so, as you poigantly illustrate, I am not alone in it!

    And yet, there are many churches that simply go through the motions of this storied calendar. “Motions” and rthyms are not bad but we need the Spirit to continually breath his life into God’s story in us so that it is familar but ever new, ritualized but full of new surprises, like Eliot’s , arriving each year “to the place we had started, and know the place (story) for the first time”.


  39. I certainly agree with the other comments here CM. I came to faith in Christ during the days of the Jesus Movement and have worshipped with the blue jeans and t-shirt crowd ever since, even did 3 decades of “ordained ministry” in the blue jeans and scandals crowd. While there is nothing wrong with the clothing part of all that, it certainly wasn’t a corporate worship experience that you are descibing here. Recently my wife and I have been attending services at a ELCA church near our house and we still don’t know when to do what or when to say what during the liturgy but we are learning. This series is going to be so helpful in helping us understand the depth and spiritual beauty of what we are experiencing. Thanks.


  40. Wonderful, concise explanation of the Church year.

    It really makes you examine life differently when you consider it as narrative. I think yesterday that there was a quote along the lines of “Sin is refusal to grow”. Along the same lines, we could say that “Sin is refusal to turn the page.”

    Thanks, IM, for being a part of a good start to the day.


  41. Excellent post, Chaplain Mike. And I love, “God created humans, so the old Jewish saying goes, because he loved stories so much.”

    And Damaris, I like your “So the church year is like a ritual family story time, a way of setting up life to guarantee that people will spend time together and go through the important stories together, making sure they’re not too busy to remember their heritage.”

    I do LOVE those stories of our heritage!


  42. Amen. The church year as a gift and form of spiritual practice is something I too, have come to appreciate since I became a Lutheran in the 1980s. As a seminarian on internship, I am more keenly aware of that, especially when preparing for the next season, Advent and thinking ahead to Lent etc.

    Well done, Chaplain Mike.


  43. There’s been so much emphasis on “me” and “use” in the church for so long that we forget this is God’s story, not ours. This is one of the messages of “Mere Churchianity” (like I needed to point that out). For some time, several of us have been doing a blogging discussion about the book, and one of the things we’ve talked about is not that “God has a wodnerful plan for your life” but that this is God’s story, and he loved us so much that he wanted us in it.


  44. You’re right about stories, Chaplain Mike. We’re doing a Bible study at church now of the book of Acts. I’m reminded as I read it of how much I love the stories in that book. Every week I think, “Oh, hooray! It’s Stephen! (or Philip, or Paul, or Cornelius).” As you say, these are the stories of our family. Children like to hear their favorite stories over and over, snuggling down in the same position with the same blanket, not allowing any variation in content or intonation. They say, “Tell me about the time Grandpa ran away from the cow. I love that one.” I feel that way about some of the books in the Bible I love the most: “Tell me about Cornelius again. I love that one.” So the church year is like a ritual family story time, a way of setting up life to guarantee that people will spend time together and go through the important stories together, making sure they’re not too busy to remember their heritage.


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