|Calvary Episcopal Church, Rockdale
February 25, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
This is, as you know, the First Sunday of Lent – the beginning of a new season of the Church’s
liturgical year, and, as always on the First Sunday of any new season, I like to take a little peek
with you at the Season to come. And, as usual, on the First Sunday of Lent, our Service, this
morning will run a bit long, so I try to keep my remarks short. Not that the Service is terribly long:
the Penitential Office and Litany, themselves, include much of what would normally be in our
Sunday service – notably the Prayers of the People and the Confession – and having heard the
Exhortation, and done the Decalogue, the Penitential Office, the Great Litany and the Lessons, we’
re almost at the Passing of the Peace, already.
So, now we’re in Lent. A season of introspection and a season of self-examination; two qualities it
shares with the season of Advent! But much, much more than Advent, Lent is a season of
penitence. In fact, Lent is, in our new/old understanding, the season of penitence!
The tradition of centuries in our Anglican tradition had been to set the tone of the season by
beginning it with the Great Litany, and, indeed, the Litany is appropriate throughout Lent!
Unfortunately, its use has faded in most of our churches, and it had been virtually missing from
our worship for decades! We will not, of course, do the Litany throughout Lent, as we might, nor
will we repeat that other long-neglected tradition, the Long Exhortation, which I just read. But on
most of the remaining Sundays of Lent we’ll use the Penitential order, alone, to begin the liturgy –
including the Ten Commandments. All these things make fitting additions to our worship, during
the season – and their revival helps to connect us, not only to the theme and the mood of the
season, but to the long, rich tradition that is our great Anglican heritage.
And, of course, all of it – along with the season, itself – fits into the rhythm and variety that
characterize the Church year – just as they characterize our lives in the seasons of the year
outside these walls!
In fact, Lent probably illustrates those qualities – rhythm and variety – better than any other of the
Church’s seasons because it typically spans one of the most dramatic shifts in the climatological
season, as well – beginning, as it does, in the depths of winter and ending well into spring.
And just as the seasons change, the worship of the Church was never intended to be static and
unchanging; the same, week after week and month after month, punctuated during the course of
the year only by a sprinkling of festivals and special observances. It is, rather intended to be
alive and variable, with ups and downs, highs and lows, providing a palpable rhythm, throughout
Change is natural and necessary. Life itself changes. It changes with the seasons of the year; it
changes with the seasons of our lives. Life involves times of joy, times of sadness; times of new
beginnings and times of growth and movement; times of quiet and “settling in.”
The Church Kalendar both reflects life and models it. And the best way to understand the Liturgy,
the way to get the most Out of the liturgy, is to embrace the liturgical Kalendar with its rhythms
even as we embrace the rhythms of life: embrace the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany,
Lent, Easter and Pentecost, along with the dozen or more major feasts that punctuate it.
Indeed, the best way to get the most out of not only the liturgy, but of the faith, itself, is to live the
Kalendar!… to bring the Kalendar home with us – not to leave the seasons and occasions of the
Church year inside these walls, but to take them home with us and incorporate them into our own
lives, into our family life – just as we do Christmas and Easter.
The Christian liturgy is a great drama. But the drama of the liturgy is not intended to be
encountered only within the doors of the Church. It is meant, through the church Kalendar,
through the seasons of the Church year, through its feasts and its fasts, through its traditions
and practices, its moods and its spirit, to enter into our daily lives, to lead us through the seasons
of our years, and through our very lives, themselves!
The liturgy – the “drama of worth-ship” that we celebrate week by week – when it is embraced and
lived, is a powerful tool for life and for growth, a powerful channel for celebration and joy, and a
powerful comfort in the seasons of death and sadness that come to each of us.
There are so many occasions every year when the meanings our lives are best illustrated, best
clarified and explained by elements of our liturgy – because, in the end, that’s what the drama of
the liturgy is really all about – our lives. Our liturgy, the work of the people, is really - as our
Eucharistic Prayer, the Great Thanksgiving, says - the offering of our lives, themselves, our souls
and bodies, and the Liturgy is really all about learning to live our lives!
The liturgy of the Church is the longest-running drama in the history of the world! Think about the
fuss made when a Broadway show reaches it’s first, second or third-year anniversary. Well, the
liturgy has had a world-wide run, to date, of nearly 2 thousand years! And it’s the longest running
drama in history precisely because it is real; precisely because it speaks to our lives; precisely
because it is life – designed to be experienced as participants, and not observed as an audience!
Make this Lent not just something you remember on Sunday morning; but take the Sunday
morning liturgy home with you. Make it a part of you, and live it! Live Lent – its moods, its
attitudes, its spirit!
And if you do that, then when Lent ends, you’ll be ready to make the Easter Liturgy a part of you,
too, and you’ll be ready to live that, as well: ready to live the joy of the Resurrection, ready to live
the whole new outlook on life the realization of the Resurrection brings to us!
Learn to live the Church’s Kalendar! Learn to live the Liturgy. Learn to live Lent! And learn to
teach your children and your grandchildren to live them, too.
Making the Kalendar – the Liturgy – a part of your family’s life is the best way I know to give your
children, your grandchildren, yourself the greatest gift I know to give: the gift of life in Christ!
In His Name. Amen.