What is it, and what does it have to do with me?
When Greg Williams asked me to start focusing on the Christian worship calendar in Equipper, I thought, “Sure, that will be good for a couple articles. What else?” I had no idea of the depth of meaning and purpose we find in the worship calendar. I knew Christmas and Easter were important; I liked the candles and focus on Jesus’ coming for Advent, and I enjoyed celebrating the birth of the New Testament church on Pentecost, but the other days didn’t seem to have as much meaning. Man, was I mistaken. Focusing on just bits and pieces of the worship calendar is missing the truth that everything revolves around Jesus and reminds us he is the center of the center. Further, it keeps us focused on who he is, who we are in him, and who others are in him.
The season of Advent focuses on the three “comings” of Jesus: his birth, his return, and his entrance into our lives through the Holy Spirit. We focus on the hope, peace, joy, and love of Jesus.
The Christmas season celebrates Emmanuel – God with us. “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us” (John 1:14). The incarnation was not a one-day event. Jesus is still human; he is still with us; he still dwells among us.
The Epiphany season focuses on enlightenment. We focus on Jesus being the light of the world, light that destroys darkness. Jesus told his disciples (and us) to come and see. See what he is doing. By focusing on Jesus’ mission and ministry, we see more and more of his glory.
The season of Lent reminds us to walk with Jesus, to surrender ourselves to his will and his way. (We prefer to call it Easter Preparation because it helps us stay focused on Jesus and not on ourselves.) We do this because we come to know—and know that we know—that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longings. He is the only answer to the pain and suffering we go through in this world. We walk to Jerusalem with him, shouting Hosanna with the others just prior to his descent into Jerusalem.
Holy Week is a time to hear Jesus’ message to us in John 13-17, to love one another and to live in the love of the Father, Son and Spirit. We grieve his death on Good Friday, never forgetting that it is because of his death that we can live free in him. On Holy Saturday we reflect on what life would be without Jesus and realize we would have nothing. We can feel the loss the disciples felt, while understanding they didn’t know Sunday was coming.
The Easter season is more than Resurrection Sunday. We start by celebrating Jesus’ triumph over the grave, which gives hope to all of humanity. We celebrate that the old has gone, the new has come. The 50 days of Easter give us much to celebrate and many reasons to praise God. We focus on words like atonement, adoption, redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, ransom, mediation, acceptance, and love. During this season we celebrate Jesus’ ascension, when he returned to the Father and took us with him – ushering us into a kingdom that is here, but not yet fully appreciated and experienced.
Then we come to Ordinary Time, which begins with Pentecost. This issue of Equipper has a focus on Ordinary Time, which we understand is anything but ordinary. If you want a biblical example of Ordinary Time, I’d suggest reading Acts – the Acts of the Apostles. Ordinary Time begins with the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the beginning of the New Testament church, and a transformation of hearts. After hearing Peter’s sermon, the response was, “What do we do?” This is the cry of Ordinary Time – a time we focus on our participation with Jesus in all he is doing. Ordinary Time brings attention to the call of discipleship – what we are called to do, who we are called to be.
Called to discipleship
We are called to be the body of Christ. And we don’t do this on our own. One of the great promises Jesus gave his disciples was that he would send the Holy Spirit. We want to respond the same way they did on that day of Pentecost: What do we do? Jesus calls each of us to “lose our life for his sake.” He tells us to be his ambassadors, to live in our new creation, to be reconcilers. Each one of us is called to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are called to reveal his light to others, to live in his image, to embody his love.
Ordinary Time helps us develop healthy rhythms of discipleship – worshipping together, serving the neighborhood with neighborhood camps and other events, being present in our church communities, representing Jesus at work, at home, and among our neighbors.
Note what Luke said about the New Testament church:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
Bobby Gross, author of Living the Christian Year, said that the heart of Ordinary Time is participating in the mission of God. That mission is to participate in the rescue of every person from their entrapment in sin and to share God’s love and life with them. In Ordinary Time we are reminded we belong to God, and the Jesus who inspired and motivated the early church leaders is the same Jesus who lives and works in us. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:4-6).
Let me be clear: you don’t have to disciple others in order to be a recipient of God’s love and grace. He loves and blesses you simply because you were created in his image. That’s who he is. But he also created you to be in relationship with him, to participate with him in the things that bring him joy, and he invites you to participate in the joy of being a disciple. Throughout this issue of Equipper, you have articles that will give you ideas on how to be a disciple and how to make the most out of Ordinary Time.
Let’s join Jesus in his mission and make Ordinary Time an extraordinary time for you and your congregation.