Friday, March 5, 2010

Role of Worship in Spiritual Formation (4)

A communal sense of time

Closely aligned with a community’s worship of God is its sense of time[i]. The Christian calendar gives a sense of the liturgical year which has bind Christian faith communities together in a common tradition of worship through the centuries[ii]. It serves the function of marking time, and “continually orders the pattern of our spirituality into a remembrance of God’s saving deeds and the anticipation of the rule of God over all creation.” (Webber 2004, 27 italics author’s). The activities of the events commemorated are important because it reminds Christians annually who they are and their place in God or the Christian story.

According to Webber, “Christian-year spirituality” is a spirituality of being identified with the life and work of Lord Jesus Christ (2004, 23-24). However it does not stop there. It also allows the Holy Spirit to work in the Christians’ lives. Bruce Lockerbie, an educator, is convinced that the Christian calendar “has helped many Christians become spiritually more mature.”[iii] (1994, 141). Similarly Dubley Weaver, a Presbyterian pastor also finds that the Christian calendar is a “helpful way of helping children live the story of God’s love in Jesus Christ and emphasizing the distinctiveness of the Christian faith and commitment in the midst of a secular world.”[iv] (2002, 67). All this serves to remind English-speaking Presbyterian churches in Malaysia to go back to the liturgical calendar as many churches has abandoned it except for Easter and Christmas celebrations. Presbyterian/Reformed churches in other countries still follow the Christian calendar. For some unknown reason, this has been discontinued in the English-speaking Presbyterian churches in Malaysia. The Christian calendar is Christo-centric as is the process of Christian spiritual formation. Following the Christian calendar forces the English-speaking Presbyterian churches to plan their preaching and church activities around the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Works cited

Lockerbie, D. B. (1994). Living and Growing in the Christian Year. In K. O. Gangel & J. C. Wilholt (Eds.), The Christian Educator's Handbook on Spiritual Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Weaver, J. D. (2002). Presbyterian Worship: A Guide for Clergy. Louisville, KN: Geneva Press.

Webber, R. E. (2004). Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

White, J. F. (2000). Introduction to Christian Worship (3rd. rev. exp. ed.). Nashville: Abington Press.


[i] In Ancient-Future Time, Robert Weber writes about the Christian practice of time. He divides the church year into two cycles: a cycle of light (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany) and a cycle of life (Lent, The Great Tridium, Easter).(Webber, 2004) He calls it “Christian-year spirituality”.

[ii] James White indicates the presence of the Christian calendar indicates Christianity takes time seriously. Compared to other religions which did not take time seriously, Christianity shows a God who intervenes in historic time. (White, 2000) p.67-80.

[iii] Lockerbie make a strong case for observation the Christian calendar by giving six reasons.

(1) Observing the Year provides each Christian with opportunity to fulfill one of the most basic human instincts, the chance to start all over again, (2)The Year’s cycle provides those principles and discipline each Christian needs, (3)We need to walk with God’s people through history, to “walk where Jesus walked,” by means of observing the year, (4) Observing the Year means marking a season of several days or weeks rather than just one day, (5) Observing the year sets believers part from secularists for whom the holy-day has become a mere holiday and (6) Marking the season gives time to develop a biblical understanding or theology of the season.” (Lockerbie, 1994)P.136-139.

[iv] This is particularly important because typically children and youth are left out of the Christian calendar year except for Easter and Christmas where they are expected to perform for the adults, in the form of song items, skits, and dances.

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