The liturgical calendar has developed from the earliest days of the church as an aid to reflect on the life of Christ. The early church began celebrating Easter Day, then Good Friday as a separate remembrance, and the calendar slowly developed, incorporating Christmas and times of preparations for the major festivals. The calendar reminds us that time never stands still and that God’s grace is “new every morning”.
The church year gives shape to the set Bible readings, known as the lectionary. At Pymble we follow the Revised Common Lectionary, which includes 4 Bible readings for each Sunday in the year: one each from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the gospels and an epistle. This 3-year lectionary focuses on one synoptic gospel per year, with many portions of the gospel of John included at Lent and Easter. In this way, the lectionary covers almost 80% of the Bible.
The season of the year and the Bible readings for each week set the tone for the Sunday service along with the joyous idea that every Sunday is to be a ‘little Easter’ that celebrates the resurrection of Christ, which stands at the heart of our faith.
The church year begins each Advent as it looks forward in hope to the coming of Christ at Christmas and reflects on how Christ continues to come to us anew today.
The Christmas season is a celebration of God taking human form in the person of Jesus. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Epiphany reminds us that Christ’s light is made known to the entire world; that God’s purposes began with, but are not limited to, the Jewish nation.
Christ’s willing march to the cross, and subsequently, our own walk of discipleship is the focus of Lent, which includes Good Friday.
The 50 days of Easter call us to celebrate the life of the Risen Christ in the church and the world today and concludes with the Day of Pentecost.
The long Season after Pentecost gives opportunity to reflect on how the Spirit of the Risen Jesus impacts our lives and calls the church to mission.
There is no compulsion for congregations in the Uniting Church to follow the lectionary or liturgical year, but I choose to for a number of reasons:
- it helps me explore a range of Bible readings, not just my favourite passages;
- it provides some shape and direction to the year, helping us have a sense of moving forward. We notice the seasonal colours changing and recall this week is different from last week.
- it provides a small ecumenical link with other churches around the globe and across denominations as many share the same readings each week.
So the liturgical year and lectionary become an aid in our worship, not something to be legalistic about.
Rev Steve Aynsley