Category Archives: Liturgical Year

On Being Green

It was Kermit the Frog who once sang, “It’s not that easy being green.” I quite agree. The bright red stoles of Pentecost have been neatly folded away. The white and gold of the 50 days of Eastertide deserve good rest after adorning the sanctuary since replacing the dark shadows of the Paschal Triduum. The purples that guided our imaginations in Lent won’t be seen again until the first Sunday of Advent.

Liturgically we’re on the cusp of the long season after Pentecost known as Ordinary Time. It’s the second and longest period of Ordinary Time in the church year. The stoles on the lectern or draped over the preacher’s shoulders will be green for the 24 weeks that follow the white of this week’s Trinity Sunday service. It’s a long season that encompasses the bright greens of June, the lush dog days of summer, the first cool nights, and the glorious tapestry of fall. It can seem like a long, unexciting season for those of us who don’t celebrate minor feasts for saints or other commemorations. Ordinary Time can come to seem a little, well, ordinary. Yet it is in the ordinary where the extraordinary can come to light.

Kermit reminds us that while it’s not that easy being green, “Green’s the color of spring, and green can be cool and friendly-like, and green can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree. When green is all there is to be, it could make you wonder why. But why wonder? I’m green. And it will do fine. It’s beautiful.”

Joan Chittister frames the essence of Ordinary Time this way: “Like an echo off a mountain that ripples and repeats itself down the valleys of life, the Sundays of Ordinary Time stand as a stark and repeating reminder of the center of the faith. Each Sunday, remember, is a feast, a little Easter, in its own right. Unencumbered by the overlay of any other feast, they carry within themselves, stark and unadorned, the essence of the Lord’s Day. Each of them is Easter, a return to the core of the faith, the center of the church, the call of the Christian community that ‘Jesus is risen.'” (The Liturgical Year, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009, p 185.)

Imagine what the church will become if we used Ordinary Time as an opportunity to return to the core of the faith, to get back to the basics of what we have come to believe. Imagine how much more meaningful Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany will be. Imagine what Lent, Easter, and Pentecost will come to mean. Imagine, if you dare, how your life will be transformed when you more fully live the commitment that Christ is risen.

So let’s heed the wisdom of Kermit and Chittister and live into what’s special about being green. Let’s celebrate Ordinary Time in a way that opens our hearts and minds to the extraordinary presence of God in the world. What a tremendous gift Ordinary Time promises to be!

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On The Eve of Lent

In worship last Sunday, when I asked in the children’s message what we do in Lent, someone said, “You give up your favorite things.” I, however, heard “You give up your favorite sins,” much to the delight of many in the congregation if the laughter was any indication. There’s certainly a measure of truth in both, yet the child’s actual definition was by far the more useful. After all, we should be giving up our sins all the time, including our favorite ones!

The more orthodox notion of giving something up in Lent is not so much related to one’s favorite things, but rather to fasting. This means eating only one full meal a day and, in many cases, abstaining from eating meat. One can also abstain from certain activities or behaviors, like giving up chocolate or those expensive coffees from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. Some choose to take the money they save by not buying luxury items and give it to the church at Easter to distribute to those in need.

Abstaining can be an extremely valuable practice. Adding something can be too, depending on whether or not it feeds one’s soul. Adopting a new spiritual practice can be a rich experience. It could be as simple as reading the Bible daily for ten minutes or spending five minutes at night writing in a gratitude journal. There are many spiritual practices (ways of communing with the Divine) and in the next few weeks I’ll explain some of them here, starting tomorrow with Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading).

I invite you on this journey and encourage you to earnestly consider the Lenten practice or practices that will be most meaningful for you. Remember that grace abounds and it’s OK to build up to a discipline rather than attempting too much all at once and feeling you’re failing when lapses occur, as they inevitably do. I’m not in favor of cookie-cutter approaches and feel it’s important for each of us to create space to learn about and adopt practices that work uniquely for us and our individual quests to draw closer to the Divine.

As Ash Wednesday approaches, I offer you this Lenten blessing from the Roman Catholic tradition:

Merciful God, you called us forth from the dust of the earth;
you claimed us for Christ in the waters of baptism.
Look upon us as we enter these Forty Days bearing the mark of ashes, and bless our journey through the desert of Lent to the font of rebirth.
May our fasting be hunger for justice;
our alms, a making of peace;
our prayer, the chant of humble and grateful hearts.
All that we do and pray is in the name of Jesus.
For in his cross you proclaim your love for ever and ever.
Amen.

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