Jesus said, “Have you never read what David did when he & his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, giving some to his companions too. In the same way, the sabbath was made for humanity’s sake — humanity was not made for sabbath’s sake. The Son of Man reigns over the sabbath.” (Mark 2:25-28)
The sabbath was made to nourish & nurture us, and to remind us of stillness & wellness. We weren’t made so that the sabbath had someone to observe it.
Likewise, the Church Year — the liturgical seasons from Advent through Lent, into Ordinary Time and culminating in Reign of Christ Sunday — is crafted to nourish & nurture us, and to remind our hearts of God’s love story. Humanity wasn’t made just so the liturgical seasons would be celebrated sequentially.
For some of us, the seasons of the Church are a rule that we follow, a liturgical orthodoxy, a plumb line by which we order & organize Sunday worship. For others of us, those seasons of the Church are flexible — sometimes life-giving to the community, sometimes not. For many of us, the rhythms of Church life & worship are shaped not only by the liturgical seasons but also by community habits and cultural norms: the Sunday School kick-off, the Blessing of the Backpacks worship service, the Watch Night on New Year’s Eve, the every-Sunday-or-only-on-high-holy-days practices of communion, the summer revival season, the election & installation of church officers, etc.
Liturgically speaking, I’m inconsistent with my Church Year orthodoxy. I feel strongly that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are separate stories & separate events in congregational life and faith … however I’m not one to gnash my teeth if a stray “Alleluia” slips into the hymn choices during Lent. I cringe in November when Reign of Christ Sunday is distorted by the inclusion of American Thanksgiving themes, but I’m amenable to interspersing Christmas hymns throughout the four Sundays of Advent.
The Church Year was made to nurture our lives; we weren’t made to surrender our lives to the orthodoxy of the Church Year. Which leads me to ask:
How can the Church’s season serve this political season?
How might the liturgical year be broken out of its (our) orthodoxy to pastorally support our lives in the world?
And really: why haven’t we broken it out of its orthodoxy yet?
Is this not a season that needs the wild, incarnational miracle of Christmas?
So Love has come,
no longer a heavenly concept
or ontological mystery
but a Life
of breath and flesh
showing that Love lived
Are these not days that beg for an Ash Wednesday confession of our frail and weary humanity?
With a sigh and a muffled sob, I set down my ashes:
this fragile life, this fragile ego, these vain illusions
of all that I might do…might have…might be.
(Ash Wednesday/Lent 1)
Are we not motivated in our daily prayers to decry immigrant imprisonment, family separation, interpersonal & institutional racism, gender-based violence, and more, as a plea for the coming Reign of Christ — not only in our prayers once a year on Reign of Christ Sunday?
Thine is the kingdom,
mine is the repentance.
Thine is the purpose,
mine is the peace.
Thine is the power,
mine the humility.
(Thy Kingdom Come)
We have a whole Church Year of life-giving, soul-mending, heart-convicting liturgy at our disposal … why are we not using it to its fullest to support our political lives? Has orthodoxy constrained us? Have we liturgical folks been so shaped by the church calendar that we neglect to shape the church calendar so that it nurtures our faith and life?
Why isn’t the Church in the streets these days, wearing sackcloth and ashes? Is it simply because we’re not in the middle of Lent?
Why isn’t the Church burning its own expectations and making room for the Spirit to multiply its capacity to welcome all people? Are we waiting until Pentecost Sunday to change?
Does the Church Year only nurture the Church’s life in season?
Pastors, for the sake of our political spirits & vitality, I invite us to tap into the liturgical year out-of-season for such a time as this. Plan a worship service that ponders the exquisite agony of Ash Wednesday. Preach a sermon — right now, in Ordinary Time — that evokes the wild Advent hope that recognizes God even when the sun turns red and the mountains quake. Make room for Lenten contrition to support a faith community that is contending with its historic (and current) complicity in injustice … for the sake of pastoral care to our whole lives, for the sake of the Church’s political voice.
We are not Easter people only at Easter.
We are not Spirit-filled people only on Pentecost Sunday.
We are not dust only on Ash Wednesday, not the imago dei only at Christmas.
How can the Church’s seasons serve our spirits in this political season?
Rachel G. Hackenberg‘s book with co-author Martha Spong,, Denial Is My Spiritual Practice (and Other Failures of Faith), includes memories of church nurseries and grandmothers, opinions about labyrinths and weddings, and an abundance of caffeine, as Martha and Rachel strive to make sense of faith through the trials & failures of life.
RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.