For most people, the church year consists of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. However, for me, being a minister for over 50 years, the church year became a frame for my life and work, although my congregation was probably unaware of the significance of the church year except for the change of colors and certain holy days. As my Evolutionary Christian perspective developed, I saw the church year as a paradigm for the unfolding story of creation. The scriptures are the human memory of how God is present in every place and stage of life. The Christian story is not stagnant–already cast in stone. It is an evolving story in which all of us are participants, decision makers and influencers who shape our destiny–a destiny that is not decided yet. So, this year I chose to live into the seasons in a contemplative way. From the hanging of our Moravian star in the dark days of COVID, to Jesus’s words to the remnant disciples after the resurrection, I discovered it is still the story which gives my life vision and purpose.
Advent claimed me right away with the word Hope. In the ninth month of being defined and confined by COVID 19, the question “What is the hope you are living with?” became my leading light for Advent and for this whole church year. My Advent Blog explains this in more depth.
Christmas was not the usual high energy celebration. I missed many traditions such as church services, special meals, and meeting with friends and family. As I was contemplating Jesus in my life, Richard Rohr came to the rescue with the idea that Jesus was the second incarnation, and God entering the world in creation was the first incarnation. This was a confirming thought for my Evolutionary Christian faith which holds that God is in everything; we can discover God’s presence if we look and listen and embrace the whole world in all its diversity. Jesus leads us to continually move beyond boundaries and expand our consciousness. In the fifth year of my retirement last summer, I became restless and felt it was time to enter into something — to engage with the world again. But not work. The Christian year seemed to be bringing me and world together again, to participate in some loving action.
The Epiphany story of the three wise men brought me the message, “Once you’ve been to see Jesus, you need to take a new way home”. Somehow life is different; we are changed. In offering our gifts, the path home becomes the way of Transformation: Gold is the use of our physical resources when we use them to express our love for creation; Frankincense is the smell of being in a sacred space as we live in love; and Myrrh is the sacrament of anointing, setting ourselves a vocation where God acts through us to forgive, inspire, and create the world anew.
Lent was shaped by a study called Human Beings, Being Human, an exploration of our mortality, and a realization that Jesus did not come to make us more spiritual. He came to help us understand what it means to be more human.
The gift of a pandemic is that it allows us to reflect on what is really important in our lives. “What am I missing, who am I missing, what is changing, and how am I participating in that change.” The question of change seems to be coming up everywhere. We’ve had to learn to face our problems differently, find new ways of being together in the church and in the world. We found that we can work together to solve our problems, and even work together as a world to solve even bigger problems. Is there a new normal for us at the end of this? Maybe the world is not so much about acquisitions as it is about contributions.
And Easter took on new meaning in the statement: Easter is not a transaction (death for forgiveness of sins); it is a transformation (new life). Our minister said, “Easter is a Way; Not a Day” to lead us into the fifty days of the Easter season.
Easter people are those who have been touched by the love of God and live with hope and spirit. What stood out for me was the scripture where Jesus tells the disciples that the Spirit is the gift God gives us to guide us on our way. The post-Easter/resurrection Jesus (in John and Acts) says “I am with you always, the Spirit is also yours, but you really don’t know how to live into this new life yet. So go home and stay together, love one another, pray together, work together. Share your life with one another.”
This resonates so much for me in this pandemic. I imagine on day 30 there were some disciples complaining about being locked down, confined, and wanting to get on with it. This is day 410 and that is the way I feel off an on; but when I remember the story, I am reminded to wait for the energy, not the ego, to inspire and ignite me. And not to go alone. Spend this time to develop a cadre of people whom you love, and who love you. People who will support us are critically important, because when we enter into the world like Christ–like Christ did–our dreams of success and wild joy and satisfaction will be fleeting moments in a long journey of commitment, hard work, failures and difficult times. We need each other.
Pentecost is the longest season because it is the season of living the life, doing the work, proclaiming the hope and truth that our species and our world depend on. I am finding this is a time of preparation. I do this by getting together online, by staying present, not living in the future or the past. Memories and vision are good, but they are not the places we are supposed to live.
The church year has renewed my faith and experience of God acting in this time of my life.