Thinking Out Loud

March 1, 2020

Growing Up Lent-less

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:17 am

I posted this as part of the comments at Internet Monk yesterday. If you wish, I encourage you to read all the comment threads there on the topic of Lent.

Growing up Evangelical, much of the liturgical calendar was foreign to me, if it even registered on my radar at all. Working in a Christian bookstore environment allowed me to connect with people of all denominations, and so I became aware of Advent, and today in our corner of the world, many Evangelical denominations light Advent candles and incorporate the themes of each week in the teaching time. I hope this is more than just appropriation.

Similarly, I am seeing Lent becoming increasingly visible. While some of the above comments have centered on its profile in the Roman Catholic church, I think we can look to the Anglican/Episcopalian tradition for a good model of how to process through these 40 days and also make a better distinction between Good Friday worship and Easter Sunday worship. It’s so easy in our North American and Western European mindset to rush through the observances in light of how we know the story ends. But as Jesus moves toward the cross knowing the bigger picture, his disciples have no such luxury; the story will only become clear to them with the benefit of hindsight.

This was best expressed for us in a Tenebrae service we attended. If you have the opportunity, don’t miss it. There is simply darkness at the end. And you feel it. That day, that holy Saturday between crucifixion and resurrection. Who could possibly know the mind of those disciples during those hours? And then later, you consider that 90% of your Evangelical friends have probably never been to a service quite like this.

To which I say, ‘Lent? Bring it on! Bring on the deeper meaning. Bring on the silence. Bring on the heightened identification of Christ’s death.’ We’ve done it the other way. We need this greater measure of awe, mystery and reverence right now.

April 3, 2018

Cruising the Liturgical Worship Continuum

A few years ago, Evangelicals starting using words like Advent and Lent and Lectio Divina. While some purists probably thought this was the proverbial “Road to Rome,” some of us were thankful that the Episcopals, Anglicans and Catholics didn’t have a copyright on the liturgical calendar.

However, at the same time as this is taking place there is another distressing trend at the other end of the worship continuum. Increasingly, worship leaders seem blissfully unaware that there are songs which are especially suited for Easter Sunday and more disturbingly, Good Friday, or the mandate that these days issue to them.

I attended a number of Good Friday services this year and got to witness this firsthand. The lack of focus was rather appalling, however, as I said, the standard has been eroding for at least the past decade, to the point where younger worship leaders and worship planners have never had an Evangelical Good Friday service properly modeled for them.

I covered this in two previous articles:

One of the services I attended included Hosanna, which is a song for Palm Sunday and comes packed with the mood you’re not trying to create on Good Friday. Ironically, of all the services we attended or watched online, it was a capital “L” Liberal denomination’s church that got it right. We sat in a room with only 22 attendees and although there was no sermon, I give them 100% for liturgy and 100% for music in terms of capturing the intent of a Good Friday service.

This is a rant I will never stop. I’m sorry, but… well, here’s what I tweeted a week ago, possibly in anticipation of the weekend which was to follow.

It’s not just Good Friday, either. Thanksgiving has slowly fallen off the worship leaders’ radar. I’m not saying we need to sing We Gather Together or Come, Ye Thankful People Come endlessly; I’ll take a modern worship expression of the same theme. But the people choosing our songs apparently live in a total vacuum when it comes to awareness of the seasons in question. (And yes, I know Thanksgiving isn’t part of the liturgical calendar.)

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