An ending and beginning

Only a few days left until the end of the year – the end of the liturgical year, that is.  This coming Sunday marks the final Sunday of the ecumenical church calendar and is followed by the beginning of Advent, a rebooted cycle in the life of the church.

Although I did not grow up with it, I have come to love the lectionary and liturgical cycle.  The current lectionary is organized as a three year cycle and was created in the early 90’s by Catholic and Protestant groups.  The practice of weekly scripture readings on an annual cycle, a lectionary, may very well go back to Jewish practices preceding the birth of Christ.  There have been various lectionaries in church history and the current Revised Common Lectionary offers a gospel, epistle, Old Testament, and Psalm reading for each week.

Mennonites are late joiners to the lectionary party, but it is catching on.  Since we are a ‘free church’ tradition we have more…freedom…to choose whether we wish to follow the lectionary on any given week or focus on another theme.  Worship at CMC is often shaped by the lectionary.

What is especially wonderful/formative/valuable/beautiful about the lectionary is that it gives us a particular way of experiencing time.  A sacred calendar overlays our mundane lives and takes us, every year, through the cycle of expectation and awakening of Advent, the celebrated birth of Christmas, the light and radiance of Epiphany, the wilderness and loss of Lent, the resurrected hope and energy of Easter, the universal gifting of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the steady, faithful calling of Ordinary Time.  Go through that cycle enough years and it starts to get in you.  Or at least that’s the idea.  We are a story-shaped community, and the lectionary keeps that story of birth, death, and redemption in front of our faces on a weekly basis.

This Sunday will be both contemplative and celebrative.  The lectionary Psalm is Psalm 46, with verse ten saying: “Be still and know that I am God” – an invitation into a kind of knowing only possible through a stilling of the body and mind.  We will also celebrate the dedication of Natalie King and share in the Bountiful Table.  It will be our end of the church year pause, and party.  And then we start something new with Advent.