21 February 2012

the rhythm of lent

The church calendar takes a sharp turn in these next few days, into the season of Lent.  One of the fascinating aspects of the church years is that it seeks to set a certain rhythm of life into the annual experience of all believers.  By and large, many evangelicals do not take these special days and seasons seriously . . . at least, not in life practice.  But the reason why we are to self-impose this sort of rhythm over our lives is because we need to align ourselves with the tempo through which God brings his kingdom.

Lent is a season of life.  Church time is intended to disrupt our normal routines and schedules so that we might discover something higher, truer and more profound than we otherwise allow ourselves to experience.

Not too long ago I sat through a talk in which the speaker, one of those identified wizards of church-smart, said that the modern church is losing out because our church rhythms are not in line with the life rhythms of the average unchurched person.  (No kidding, but doesn't that simply follow the distinction between 'churched' and 'unchurched'?  I mean, it's like saying people who don't work out don't have schedules that are designed around exercise.)  The solution being advocated by this person was a dramatic change of church rhythms in order to match with life rhythms, I suppose it's some sort of church-wide 'all-things-to-all-people' approach gone awry.

Maybe I learned this the wrong way, but I was under the impression that the rhythms of the church are so imposing with the intended purpose of altering our own life rhythms, which are leading us further on the road to death and destruction.  I understand the notions of accommodation of how the church goes after its objectives, but the fact remains - and Ash Wednesday is a stark and powerful reminder of this - that humanity's rhythms are corrupted by sin and must be replace, painfully at times, by the cadences of the Creator.  Taking this too lightly will not make for a healthy church.

Now, maybe there are alterations and accommodations and translations that must take place in order for the sacred seasons of the church meaningful - and that's certainly understandable, for the traditions of the church, although powerful, are not inerrant.  But we have been instructed not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Hence, taking the annual seasons of the church that seek to give us a community embodiment of the story of Christ and bending them over the fact that our culture likes to fish, shop and watch movies simply will not do.

So here is to one more year of Lent, may God speak to us through our weariness of fast so that we might die to self and find resurrection with his only begotten Son.

No comments: