October 24, 2020

Do You Know What Your Church Is Doing Next Sunday?

“Part of the problem is that evangelicals really don’t have traditions,” said Carter. “Instead, we have these fads that are built on the strengths and talents of individual leaders. … But a real tradition can be handed on to anyone, from generation to generation. It’s hard to hand these evangelical fads down like that, so it seems like we’re always starting over. It’s hard to build something that really lasts.”Joe Carter as quoted by Terry Mattingly

What’s your church going to be doing next week?

How you answer that question says a lot about where you are in Christianity.

If you are in the kind of Baptist fundamentalism I grew up in, you know that your pastor is going to preach whatever God leads him to preach, and that’s basically it.

You can usually count on a sermon themed around the national holidays, the election, Christmas and Easter. Other than that, you just never know. (We never picked Pentecost over Mother’s Day at any Southern Baptist church I attended.)

If you are part of the various congregations of the new evangelicalism, you can look at the current sermon series guide and know what your pastor is preaching for the next several weeks. You may be going through a book of the Bible, a topical series on sex and marriage, or a more open series on questions asked by the congregation.

You may or may not have a Christmas or Easter emphasis. It depends on what your pastor is doing in his current series. You trust your pastor(s) to lead worship and plan preaching with church growth and church health in mind.

If you are in a Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran or most mainline churches, you can pretty easily know what’s going on next Sunday at your church. The Christian calendar- which varies a bit from tradition to tradition- and the accompanying scripture readings from the lectionary- will guide the liturgy, preaching, music and even visual dimensions of the worship service. You know what your church is going to be doing this Sunday next year.

I’m a strong advocate for the use of the Christian calendar. I believe it is useful for churches, families, individual Christians, children and anyone wanting Christianity to make sense. But I realize there are two sides to that discussion, because the calendar is a kind of tradition, and that makes evangelicals suspicious and fundamentalists automatically opposed.

Does the Christian calendar un-empower pastors and leaders? Does it create a framework that ignores the needs of the congregation and the church? Does it keep a pastor from talking about money or congregational problems? Does it make preaching and worship predictable?

Or does the use of the Christian calendar in worship provide a much needed focus? Does it move the congregation towards more Biblical spirituality? Does it honor God more than it honors the celebrity power of pastors? Does it help children learn the Biblical story and provide a rhythm for every Christian to re-experience the Gospel each year?

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 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.

When I was a young Southern Baptist preacher, we were trained in seminary to plan our preaching around the various denominational emphases that occurred each month, particularly putting the various missions and denominational offerings up front as the focus of preaching. These were great for stressing the denomination’s strong points, and a terrible way to get the total picture of Biblical truth.

In contrast, conservatives in our denomination were championing “preaching verse by verse through books of the Bible” in the mid-70’s. This was a counterpoint to the denomination’s approach to preaching.

Many young preacher’s today want to preach through books, but I would suggest they pay more attention to the broader, faster approach of Mark Dever rather than the kind of “Sermon #87 from Leviticus” method of some young preachers.

But the 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 worse 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.

Comments

  1. I work at two Methodist churches. In one, the sermons will be based on the lectionary but focused toward Lent. The other will begin a pure sermon series on People of the Passion, about finding yourself and your life story in the passion story.

    Sometimes it is nice to get back to the lectionary after a period of sermon series. Both churches go back and forth.

    The problem with a sermon series on a particular theme is that if someone doesn’t really resonate with that theme they might take it as a pass to skip church for the next 3 weeks.

  2. For the first time in my life (Anglican conversion having happened in August) I can say that I know what will be happening next week!!!!

    Looking forward to the ashes.

    I think I agree with you about preaching … but on the other hand it is great to have your pastor tethered to something and need to face up to what might otherwise be disregarded scriptures.

    My pastor’s sermon on the transfiguration – which should be available soon – was incredible this week and who knows how long it might have taken him to get there without lectionary preaching.

  3. “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.”

    That one point pretty well sums it up; the church calander as a tool to be used as fits, not “law and Gospel” to be enslaved to.

    As for next Sunday, I am expecting our Pastor will probably continue his series through the Gospel of John, (section by section, not “verse by verse” as such.) Evening service will probably be a continuation of a sytematic survey of the books of the Bible with Daniel the next one up. And did I mention how our church uses a mix of older hymns along with some of the better contemporary Chrisitan music available?

    Peace…

  4. I would love to answer that question. Unfortunately, right now I’m church-homeless. Finding a new place to worship is a drag. At one time I thought it would be interesting to visit other churches. I’m no longer interested. I just want a place to belong. All in God’s timing.

  5. It seems to me that most of the integration of the church year into the main worship service is done by the pastor. As a worship planner and NOT the preacher, I’d be interested in learning different ways the church year can be integrated into evangelical services without changing the sermon, besides the obvious emphasis on certain days of importance. Has anybody here been at an evangelical church that has explored this creatively?

  6. I think a lot of Methodist churches, PCUSA, Christian reformed, etc. do exactly that.

  7. I am now often convinced that evangelicals have two Gods, regardless of how much they insist that they believe in the Trinity. The two Gods are the two Gods of Marcion, that is the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. Oh, of course, that is rejected and it is argued that such is never done.

    But, I find it suspicious that the Old Testament God commanded Liturgy, incense, regular repeatable holidays, liturgical practice, and strict adherence to the rules. In fact, the strict adherence to the rules was so strict that a person unthinkingly touching the Ark of the Covenant, in order to keep it from dropping to the ground, is struck dead for violating the Law.

    Meantime, the New Testament God hates liturgy and incense, wishes to have a spontaneous non-repeatable worship, and abhors vestments, liturgical practice, and any worship rules that a pastor must obey.

    In order to harmonize the Old Testament and the New Testament God, the evangelical is forced to insist that St. John is simply using Old Testament images of worship in the Book of Revelation, and that he is using them only so that the reader can make the connection that there is a continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is, therefore, obvious that the second century Church must have totally misinterpreted St. John in their liturgical practices and their Church structure. (Yes, I am being facetious.)

    Now, this is not to argue that every practice can be justified by a quote from Scripture. But, then, uhm, even the New Testament does not insist on justifying its every practice by quoting the Old Testament.

    iMonk, I think you are arguing from a few websites and people when you talk about he necessity of preaching from the Gospel alone and not doing a series. While that is certainly an emphasis in Church history, the recorded teachings of people such as John Chrysostom show that the exegetical preaching of books of Scripture is quite allowable. I most often preach from the lectionary, but I am doing a series from one of the books of Scripture right now. We are encouraged to preach lectionary, but we are a long way from being bound to preach lectionary.

  8. I’ve started out using the lectionary for many years and still use it from time to time. Currently I’m using predominantly topical sermon series because it allows me to go much more in depth and to highlight a great variety of aspects which would never fit into any single message. I also find that the lectionary becomes quite repetitive if you happen to preach in the same church for more than 10 years, and it is also very limited in its scope.

  9. Every Sunday has a reading from the Psalms, and there are lots of musical settings of Psalms – you could sing that. In addition, there are musical settings of other Biblical texts, or songs based on them, which could be useful in planning the service. Many of these are very old but are still serviceable, and newer settings for various instrumentations are available. If you want to get really ambitious, you could translate and re-set the medieval Gregorian chant associated with the particular week.

  10. Thanks for posting on this. I come out of an evangelical/charismatic background, and a little over a year ago a group of friends and I started a worshiping community (church?) centered on observing the liturgical year and preaching from the lectionary. I think all of us have felt more deeply grounded in the life of Christ than we ever have before. I honestly cannot imagine going “back” now.

    Last year we followed the lectionary exactly (Revised Common Lectionary) just to dive into the deep end right away, and it forced us to confront texts and issues we probably never would have if I was just picking what to preach on from week to week, and it ended up being a great blessing to our community.

    This year, after Pentecost, we may do more of a “flexible” approach like you advocate in your post. Again, thanks!

  11. I love the church year and I use a Lectionary, even though I don’t feel enslaved to it if a great need arises. If I can Imonk I would like to link to a few paragraphs I wrote about why Lectionary Preaching is Good that I wrote. I don’t want to take up space with a long post.

    http://pastorgoggans.blogspot.com/2009/01/why-lectionary-preaching-is-good.html

    I loosely try to follow the church year, but I am at a church where if I mention to much about the church year folks would get very suspicious. My folks don’t even know I’m on a lectionary. I haven’t hid it, I just don’t think the vast majority of them even would know what one was if I said it. I don’t mean that condenscendingly. It is just the fact.

    I grew up in fundementalist churches where it was like the pastor sometimes went out of his way not to preach topical sermons even on Christmas.

    i.e. a sermon from Jonah on Easter

    or the mysteries of Ruth on Christmas

    it is strange

  12. okay,

    now that i have gotten my two year old and four year old off to bed i have a little more to say

    I was raised totally ignorant of the church year, and a lectionary was unheard of and would have been seen totally as “binding” the preacher

    now that I have been exposed to the richness of the church year I feel cheated, almost to the point of being mad about it

    i knew some great preachers growing up, i sincerly mean that but after hearing them for a little while you could tell exactly where they were going with their messages, and most only had about a hand full of messages anyway

    a lectionary gives you much more discipline

    as to it being repetive, most folks couldn’t tell you what I preached a month ago, let alone three years ago so i don’t find the repition repetive

    using a lectionary has saved my sanity as a bi-vocational pastor

  13. Jeremiah Lawson says

    I, too, am liking the broader and faster approach of Dever these days. Just discovered his sermons on Job recently and was blown away at how broad yet succint his teaching was.

    I like teaching through books of the Bible in theory but one of the pitfalls of that approach I’m just now discovering in the last few years is that it can still devolve into the pitfalls of topical preaching. A pastor who likes epistles and wisdom literature will come back to that and be good at it but never touch the psalms or the prophets. A lectionary and a church calendar prescribe readings that can ensure that more scripture is read Sunday per Sunday than in evangelical churches. THat’s why some of my friends are Anglican or Lutheran.

  14. Our pastor will be in Texas, but the back-up will pick up in Luke where he left off yesterday. We’ve been in Luke for about a year now (with a several-week break to go through Amos.), and we’ll be in Luke for at least another year, I think. But he did mention yesterday, regarding some hard verses that he just skimmed over, “If I didn’t have to hit certain parts of the text at certain times, we’d spend a couple of weeks on these verses.”

    Other than that, someone will be doing their very first special music during communion. (If I don’t pass out from nerves before hand.)

    Then there was the pastor who announced Mothers’ Day one minute and started talking about submission the next. He totally compartmentalized the service so much he didn’t notice. We didn’t let him forget the next year. 🙂

  15. >iMonk, I think you are arguing from a few websites and people when you talk about he necessity of preaching from the Gospel alone and not doing a series.

    Cathilics, Lutherans, most ECUSA.

    Not sure what the “a few websites and people” means exactly.

  16. Fr. Ernesto,

    I’d love to get some info on how and why things in St John’s Revelation are interpreted to be a model for liturgy by GO churches. I have heard this before, but never had it explained.

    It seems like the idea comes from assuming more continuity between the expectations God put upon a theocratic nation and the expectations he puts on a very different type of community.

    We don’t practice a lot of things that God commanded Israel, but not because He is different, but rather beacuse we are different than Israel.

    I appreciate the calendar and more formal liturgical worship, but can’t see a reason to make it a mandate or even expect it to be a norm.

  17. I want to be clear I never meant to imply it was anything other than a helpful option.

  18. ElShaddai Edwards says

    Next Sunday we will continue our expository series through 1 Peter, augmented by a gospel music celebration and potluck. This is at a Minnesota Baptist church.

  19. “Does the Christian calendar … keep a pastor from talking about money?”

    Bwahahahahahaha. Hoo hoo. Oh boy.

    As a traditional Latin Mass-goer, who knows what every word of next Sunday’s liturgy will be, from the Introit to the Last Gospel, I can assure you Michael that there are no thrones, dominions, princedoms or powers that can keep a pastor from talking about money in the course of a church service.

  20. o.h. said

    “Does the Christian calendar … keep a pastor from talking about money?”

    Bwahahahahahaha. Hoo hoo. Oh boy.

    As a traditional Latin Mass-goer, who knows what every word of next Sunday’s liturgy will be, from the Introit to the Last Gospel, I can assure you Michael that there are no thrones, dominions, princedoms or powers that can keep a pastor from talking about money in the course of a church service
    In our Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, there is never any mention of money in the sermon or in Bible study. The sermon is purely Law and Gospel.

  21. Henry N.,

    There’s no mention of money in our sermons, either. But there are announcements before Mass, and announcements between the Gospel and before the beginning of the sermon. There’s no opportunity for the sermon-length stewardship appeals one has to endure occasionally at the vernacular Mass, but still space enough for mentioning financial needs.

  22. I knew the Lutherans would get it right. 🙂

  23. The only time I ever attended a Lutheran service, when I was at my friend’s Missouri Synod parish, the fairly lengthy sermon was about the tremendous importance of tithing.

    After having experienced the Liturgical year for a while now, I can’t conceive of why anyone would want to have Church without some form of lectionary cycle. It just doesn’t compute anymore. Church without the lectionary is like Church without music. My pastor certainly doesn’t feel too constrained by the scriptural readings, often preaching about whatever strikes him.

  24. Austin,

    I think that we were at the same church one Easter. I did hear a sermon on Jonah that year (twice because I was in the choir). It was about the sign of Jonah.

    My thoughts, right before I left to resume church hunting, is that it would have been an excellent pre-Easter sermon.

  25. I guess I would just say that all apprenticeship is constraint at first. The problem, in my experience, isn’t that you can’t take off in a new direction and leave the beaten path of the lectionary behind for a while. It’s that most of us haven’t been willing to submit to the tradition first, letting it shape us before we go charging ahead with scissors to shape it.

  26. We’ll use the Lutheran Service Book’s version of the western mass. Setting 1, in case you’re interested. We rotate settings seasonally. Lent begins tomorrow (Ash Wednesday – no ashes in our congregation).

    Sundays are Sundays “in” Lent, so they are little Easter exceptions to the somber season of repentance and fasting. Lenten hymns are great. The Gospel text (3-yr lectionary) will be Mark 1:9-15, the temptation of Christ in the wilderness.

    We’re going to have the touring chorus from Concordia Seminary-St. Louis with us, so the liturgy will have a bit more of an edge with 25 male voices. There is nothing quite like the sound of an all-male chorus.

  27. Good insights. Everything you said reflects upon your desire to take the best of evangelicalism and inform it with the best of ancient and historical practices. I learned this from your previous post. 🙂

    Much of what you have said here is similar to what Robert Webber has written in his wonderful book, Ancient Future Time. He advocates following the lectionary more closely during the first half of the Christian year and then doing more of a book study or topical approach during ordinary time. I personally think this is helpful, particularly for non-liturgical evangelicals. It’s a way to have the best of both worlds.

  28. iMonk, are you going to post those Lent links again this year? I made it through about half of the readings from the Patristics last year and am looking forward to making that a special focus again this Lent.

    At any rate, the small fellowship where I’m currently going tends to follow (rather loosely) the Levitical cycle, as it’s being run by Jewish Christians… one thing I like about the “rather loosely” part is that while the Torah reading is set per week (based on the Jewish lectionary), the other two readings are quite variable. The 2nd reading is either the Prophets reading from the lectionary or an Epistle reading of the preacher’s choice. And the 3rd reading is alwas NT, usually Gospel reading of the preacher’s choice.

  29. Memphis Aggie says

    I really like the calender and the fact that if I travel pretty much anywhere I can drop into a Catholic Church and get the same readings and similar liturgy. Of course the preaching varies a lot and frankly I do enjoy a good fired up Baptist preacher now and then. We generally only get that kind of vocal zeal during special parish revivals when a Paulist might pass through. These meetings are outside of mass and set to coincide with Lent or Pentecost. That’s maybe once or twice a year. Our homilies are modest, directly from the readings and brief at 15-20 minutes at most.

  30. For those committed to teaching through books of the Bible I would recommend a model I found in a John Stott devotional book. He divides the year into thirds. Devotional readings and sermon texts Jan-Apr come from the Gospels, May-Aug, the Epistles, and Sep-Dec, the Old Testament. I think I remember that the Psalms were included throughout the year.

    As a pastor you could choose which books to cover in each third, giving you flexibility, but it would also keep you from getting bogged down in a two year study of Luke. You could map out a way to preach every book of the Bible over a certain period of time.

    I like the time spent in each. Though the OT is much longer, it’s also largely narrative and can be covered in much larger chunks. It keeps you loosely connected to the church calendar – Advent can focus on the OT passages anticipating the Messiah. Christmas can begin the Gospels. In Easter you’re in a Gospel.

  31. George C – my answer would have to be too long. So, let me leave you very dissatisfied by saying that when one looks at the early Christian writings, such as the first-century Didache, etc., there is already present a liturgical worship. It is not as complex as today’s but it is the same outline, as is the description by St. Justin the Martyr. In other words, the Early Church did not consider it to be theocratic worship to be liturgical, but rather the very nature of how God set up worship.

    The Book of Revelation describes a heavenly worship. Since the pattern of that heavenly worship is akin to the pattern of the Temple worship, it is not the least surprising that Early Christians saw God as having a consistent worship pattern which He altered but did not completely change. Many of us would say that a type of liturgical dispensationalism is found in non-liturgical communities in that it seems that New Testament worship is an anomaly that will be rectified when we get to the throne of God. You see, every time I hear Christians preach about “when we get to heaven” it seems as though whenever God is mentioned that suddenly the talk is of thrones and bowing and reverence. In other words even congregationalists become royalists when they talk about the heavenly worship. I prefer to be a royalist here in the earthly worship as well.

    iMonk – the difference in the use of the Gospel vs the requirement to homiletize on the Gospel is akin to the debate among Protestants as to whether the preaching can be topical or whether the preaching must be exegetical. It is the difference between whether I am allowed to diverge or whether I must do it a certain way. Only a few people and websites insist that I must preach that Sunday’s Gospel. But, I am encouraged to preach the lectionary Gospel every Sunday. I may, however, diverge although if I were always diverging, I would probably receive some “suggestions” from the bishop.

  32. I was raised Disciples of Christ (i.e. Campbellite), & made the transition to Assemblies of God (pentecostal) as a teen. The concept of the liturgical year is foreign to my experience, and I would guess also to 95% of the folks I worship with. It might make an interesting experiment to bring in elements of it to our services, but the odds of that happening are vanishingly small…

    But here’s a thought. I know a lot of people raised liturgically (not their actual child-rearing, mind you– just their church experience!) who feel like they came alive when they encountered a less-structured, “freer” worship experience. I also have heard a number of people raised on the other side of the fence who find comfort and insight in the structure of a more “traditional” setting. I personally will break out in tears when in that kind of service. It’s almost like you have to see both kinds to really get it.

    So, here’s what we should do: start a foreign-exchange program for churchgoers. Not to foreign countries, but to foreign traditions. The Baptists & Pentecostals would go to the Lutheran’s potlucks afterwards, and the Lutherans would go to Applebee’s with the host Evangelicals. They might even leave a tip! [sorry ;-)] And we’d all get a better appreciation for our own traditions as well as those of our fellow Christians. You would have to pre-screen people, though, making them agree to go committed to worship God with an open heart.

    Huh? Oh. You’re right. It would never work. People might not give their tithe to the right “storehouse”…

  33. I have been a member of two different churches that practice the Church calendar. One was a non-denominational church led by elders that teach at my university. The church heavily emphasized the different seasons and even had extravagant feasts. It was pretty cool.

    My current church (United Methodist) also incorporates the seasons but not as hardcore(which I like). We also have our seasons: times of remembering our baptism and a time during mid-summer in which we focus on being disciples of Jesus by going through a portion of one of the Gospels.

    Going from a non-liturgical/ordered church life to a more ordered/seasonal way has been really transformative for me. It has not hindered or corrupted my evangelical convictions but has expanded them to encompass all of life and the scriptures.

    This year is especially special. Last year my university was hit by a tornado that destroyed a third of the school. Almost all of the destruction centered upon the dorms and almost all of the students were home studying. Thankfully no one was killed but my family and I did have to evacuate. We came back to our home church the very night that they were celebrating Ash Wednesday. When the pastor said “from ashes you came and to ashes you shall return,” I knew what he meant! Death had come way to close for us but not as close as it came to Jesus. It is hard to believe that it has been a year since then. Good stuff.

  34. I would argue that the death, or feared death, of verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter teaching is greatly exaggerated. I had the same fear and even mocking tone when I found out that my pastor had taught the ENTIRE book of Leviticus. But when a leader and people actually submit to that and exalt God’s Word over their preferences, amazing things happen. If THIS is the calendar that determines the teaching and focus, I have seen again and again how God meets the needs of the congregation at a particular point in time. When that happens, guess Who gets the credit? it’s amazing the pitfalls and extremes we can avoid by trusting that God’s whole Word was intended for us and the rough edges that are sanded off by submitting to it. Anybody who’s curious as to whether even the Law can come to life can visit the archives at reachthetriad.com.

  35. Fr. Ernesto,

    Thanks for the reply. I get it. It has been a while since I’ve read the Didache or anything from the Fathers. I may just have to go back and examine them again.

    Is it also assumed by the OC churches that the “traditions” Paul mentions are liturgical?

    Do OC churches believe that a certain liturgy is obligatory?

  36. Fr. Terry Donahue, CC says

    To provide some detail on the Catholic perspective on homiletic content, here are two quotes from Magisterial documents:

    “The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 2002, par 65, http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/GIRM.pdf)

    “The homily 46. Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. The homily is ‘part of the liturgical action’, and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful. Hence ordained ministers must ‘prepare the homily carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of Sacred Scripture’. Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided. In particular, I ask these ministers to preach in such a way that the homily closely relates the proclamation of the word of God to the sacramental celebration and the life of the community, so that the word of God truly becomes the Church’s vital nourishment and support. The catechetical and paraenetic [exhortational/persuasive] aim of the homily should not be forgotten. During the course of the liturgical year it is appropriate to offer the faithful, prudently and on the basis of the three-year lectionary, ‘thematic’ homilies treating the great themes of the Christian faith, on the basis of what has been authoritatively proposed by the Magisterium in the four “pillars” of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the recent Compendium, namely: the profession of faith, the celebration of the Christian mystery, life in Christ and Christian prayer. [To this end the Synod has called for the preparation of pastoral aids based on the three-year lectionary, to help connect the proclamation of the readings with the doctrine of the faith; cf. Propositio 19.]” (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, par. 46, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis_en.html)

  37. We will be continuing in Mark, with a Lenten emphasis on the path to the Cross, building a tension climaxing at Easter. The message will be 30-35 minutes. We will still have an Elder read scripture, usually a Psalm, the praise band will lead the congregation in about 3 songs, one pretty upbeat. We will go to the Lord’s table. After services most of us will hang around for a half an hour to an hour and a half for fellowship, prayer, sharing , guidance.

  38. JimBob Wrote:

    But here’s a thought. I know a lot of people raised liturgically (not their actual child-rearing, mind you– just their church experience!) who feel like they came alive when they encountered a less-structured, “freer” worship experience. I also have heard a number of people raised on the other side of the fence who find comfort and insight in the structure of a more “traditional” setting.

    For me, I was raised in a liturgical setting, got away from it for years, and then eventually returned to it having realized how much I missed the liturgy of my childhood. I had GREAT experiences as a kid in the liturgical churches, though. On the other hand, I had less happy experiences in less liturgical churhces. And those experiences have very little to do with the liturgy or lack thereof. However, I wonder if those experiences might be a part of how I feel about the liturgy anyway.

  39. By the way, we never do father’s day or mother’s day, too much baggage. Childless people, broken relationships,divorce, loss of custody,it can be a distraction to the gospel. And yes, I am suspicious of a liturgical calender. It seems so formal and there is extra biblical stuff. Feasts, Fasts, if it puts wind in your sails, go for it.

  40. George C wrote:

    It has been a while since I’ve read the Didache or anything from the Fathers. I may just have to go back and examine them again.

    Last year, iMonk posted a few Lent links thant included a 40-day reading plan from the Church Fathers. I didn’t make it all the way through ’em, but I really enjoyed what I did read. This year I hope to get more finished. Patristics was one of the weak points in my studies, so I thought this was a neat thing to do.

  41. What is the extra-biblical stuff in the basic calendar? Christmas and Easter are “extra biblical,” but they are celebrations of major Biblical emphases. Same with Advent and Lent. No seasons defined. I agree. But putting major Biblical themes into the calendar seems to be a good way to catechize. I mean, we all live by some kind of calendar. Why shouldn’t Christians use the events of the Biblical story to mark time?

    I would join you in rejecting the whole thing as done in the RCC, but the basic calendar seems to have few negatives.

  42. ChooseyBeggar says

    I was really gung ho about the pastor at a church I attended. One day I was kept in because of a task that needed to be done, instead of attending the early service. While I was waiting, I noticed the denomination on TV and watched. it turned out that the work was cancelled and I went to the later service. My pastor gave the same sermon flawlessly, almost word. for. word.

  43. George C – Both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics say that St. Paul is referring to more than just liturgical tradition. In the various passages in which St. Paul deals with both “tradition” and the “traditions of men,” he deals with issues as varied as festivals, liturgy, foods, etc. That is why the Ecumenical Councils, even when dealing with eminently practical matters, not related to liturgy, insist that what they are declaring is in accord with what they have received from the Fathers. All of us receive from the Fathers not only orthodoxy but also orthopraxy.

    Both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics use more than one liturgy. The most common Roman liturgy is the Latin Rite. However, the Mozarabic Liturgy is still celebrated in the Cathedral in Toledo, Spain. Venice has its own special liturgy. Some of the different Roman orders (Benedictines, etc.) have their own allowed variations.

    The most common Orthodox liturgies are the St. John Chrysostom and the St. Basil. But, which liturgy you use at what particular time is not up to the individual decision of a priest. Having said that, both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics have “options” within their liturgies that do allow for some small variety. At bottom, however, all liturgies have the same backbone (outline). The argument is that this backbone, along with some details, is what we have received from the Fathers, through Scripture and Tradition.

  44. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    For me, I was raised in a liturgical setting, got away from it for years, and then eventually returned to it having realized how much I missed the liturgy of my childhood. — Obed

    I was raised pretty much non-practicing, then got my head messed up by what was essentially an overgrown non-liturgical house church gone cultically-bad, then ended up being introduced to the liturgy through the indirect method of a fantasy novel. And liked what I saw in the RCC Roman-rite Mass. Bells and Smells, the rote prayers and responses instead of the total improv (which I am lousy at), and especially the structure of the liturgy and the liturgical year, the solid historical trace of 20 centuries of Christians.

  45. arent the sun moon and stars a sort of heavenly liturgy? isnt that the whole point of seasons?

  46. The whole liturgical calendar thing was totally foreign to me as well. This past year, I have been working my way through the Easter and Christmas controversies and discovered the background that the liturgical calendar and readings were seemingly patterned after. It turns out that the Jews had a liturgical calendar with its own readings as well. I found a site that combined these readings with a selection of New Testament readings (the first 5 books of both OT and NT are covered each year) as well and have begun to use that this year. We are using the reading schedule for our weekly Bible study and it has been a lot of fun and very enlightening.

  47. Actually the titles of some of the days are a bit off-putting to me, as i come from a very fundie background. You are right, the substance is biblical, but the verbiage is foreign, With my group I would need to do stealth liturgical calender, even the word “liturgical” would be a controversy as many still rebel against anything that has the least bit of ritual. [ cut them a break, they are getting better as God heals]

  48. The Guy from Knoxville says

    Michael,

    Thanks much for this post – very, very insightful and yet another thought provoking post for me as my wife and
    I are yet closer and closer to washing our hands of the SBC church we’re at and, quite possibly, the entire thing as it is now. As I’ve stated before, my wife was raised church of Christ and the church she was at when we met did have a liturgy, albeit simple, yet the service was very much structured as to how it flowed. They didn’t follow the christian calender (taboo there as it is in many baptist churches) and sermons were usually topical series as best I remember at the time and no emphasis on any aspect of the calender other than singing (unaccompanied) Joy To The World near or
    on Christmas. You could pretty much count on the structure and flow of the service which always had communion in it to be consistant week to week. I know what I described is not liturgical in the sense that it’s spoken of in the post and comments but I find I did
    like (enjoy) the more structured approach that they had and the fact that communion was always a part of that – of course there were the usual theological/doctrinal issues but I could deal with that just to have the other and I consider it a good experience for me. Can’t say the SBC has been that favorable/good for my wife though – another time on that one!

    We are not planning on going back to CoC but a good Anglican (AMiA) or perhaps a non-denom that follows
    the christian calender – something more structured
    seems the direction and everytime I’m in that setting
    there seems almost a confirmation that that’s were we need to be…. at least for awhile.

  49. “But putting major Biblical themes into the calendar seems to be a good way to catechize.”

    That nicely summarizes the purpose of the liturgical calendar and the lectionary. All the basic themes of Christianity in an annual cycle. It’s a great discipline. As a preacher, I prefer to work with assigned texts rather than searching out the Scriptures for texts to prove my point.