Living seasonally

Published 1:08 pm Saturday, January 31, 2015

by Andrew Book

As a pastor, I spend a lot of my time immersed in the world of church happenings. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it is bad. Good or bad, there are a few lessons about life that I have learned living based on a church calendar and leading the life of the church. One of those lessons is how powerful it is to live seasonally and to use the seasons of life to give us opportunities to grow, change and thrive.

For many hundreds of years, church life has revolved around the seasons on what is called the “liturgical calendar.” The liturgical calendar breaks the year up into different seasons. Some of these seasons, such as Christmas and Easter, are based on holidays that are celebrated widely in our culture. Other seasons are a little less widely practiced but still recognized by many people (such as Advent, the season preparing for Christmas, and Lent, the season preparing for Easter). The entire year is divided into different seasons, and these seasons provide a great opportunity to focus on a question, topic, celebration; or discipline for a period of time.

Honestly, I was not very excited about the liturgical calendar when I entered ministry. I found it to be a bit obscure and wondered how it related to everyday life (you may be asking that question too). However, as I have watched the rhythm of life over the years I have been in ministry, I have realized that these seasons are truly powerful in their ability to focus us, for a time, on specific areas where we want to grow. We may find committing to a year of regular Bible Reading daunting, and the idea of joining an ongoing small group to help us follow God in daily life may be scary. However, when we reduce those commitments to six weeks, all of a sudden we have a manageable commitment we might actually fulfill in the midst of all the rest of the things that go on in our lives. Then, after six weeks, we have a pretty good idea if we want to recommit to our Bible reading plan, join another small group, or redirect our attention elsewhere!

Making a commitment for a season is a valuable tool for trying new things and fulfilling new goals in any area of life. So regardless of whether you are a person who is seeking to grow in their faith or not, I want to offer you a challenge. The season of Lent is a time of preparation for Easter in the church. It is a period of 40 days (plus Sundays!) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday and it is a perfect season to delve into an area of life you have been wanting to grow in but are not sure how (or if you are ready) to make a long-term commitment. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is on Feb. 18, so you have a few weeks to figure out if (and how) you want to accept this challenge.

For the people of Courtland United Methodist Church, the challenge will be more specific. Our worship through Lent will be a part of the series: “Psalm Shaped Faith: Praying God-breathed Prayers” and the commitment for Lent will be the “Psalms Challenge.” That challenge is to read, reflect and pray through all 150 of the Psalms during Lent as well as to gather with others in the church to talk about how we have encountered God through the psalms. I would love to have you join us in this spiritual practice through Lent! In fact, each week during Lent the daily readings, reflection questions and prayer focuses will be included in The Tidewater News so you can join us in this journey from a distance. Even better: take the few weeks between now and the beginning of Lent to invite a few friends to pray through the Psalms with you and plan to meet each week to talk about how you have encountered God in this practice!

The Psalms have been central to worship for millennia. They were the worship songs that shaped Jesus and have been a tool that has shaped the faith of women and men of faith since that day. They are a tool that will shape you if you let them, so why not give it a try? After all, the most you have to lose is a few minutes a day for 40 days!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or