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Category: Church Calendar

Lent: A Journey Towards Crucifixion

Back in 2014, I decided to make Lent part of the regular rhythm of my calendar. Now I’m not a Catholic, and so I didn’t bother with only eating fish for dinner on Fridays. But in this crazy-busy world, it isn’t hard to see the value in abstaining from something in order to make room for more important things. So what’s it all about? I wrote about Lent in 2018 and 2017 but packaged simply, Lent is a 40 day period of reflection, repentance, and preparation which begins on Ash Wednesday (6th March in 2019, you’re welcome) and ends with the celebration of the triumph of Easter Sunday. Back in 2014 I wrote about my first experience of Lent:  Where do you start? Everyone’s journey…

Reflections from Ash Wednesday

Yesterday I attended my first Ash Wednesday service at the Cathedral of St. Stephen, a few blocks from my office in Brisbane city. It was a remarkable, foreign, fascinating experience with which I found a number of resonances (not just off the Cathedral walls) and a few reservations (because hey, they’re Roman Catholic). Before I begin, you might want to read Four Thoughts on Lent 2018 to get a picture of where I’m coming from, before you decide to come for me. A few thoughts: A Time to Focus on Sin The opening words were a solemn call for repentance. The speaker highlighted that the world knows nothing of sin proper; they understand making mistakes, errors of judgement, and bad decisions (consciously, or in hindsight) but…

Four Thoughts on Lent 2018

Every year as Lent approaches, I encounter mixed opinions in the Christian world regarding this season on the church calendar. Here are a few simple thoughts on why I embrace Lent as a season of anticipating the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and honour him by making space to examine myself as the one in whose place he died. Lent Reminds Me of Who I Am John Calvin wrote that true wisdom consists in two things: knowledge of God and knowledge of self. For Calvin, there could be no knowledge of self without first knowing God. Like the rhythm of a regular Sabbath, or unplugging from technology once or twice a year, Lent is an invaluable period in my calendar where time is deliberately carved out…

Unending Joy

Could it be that many of the pursuits that pervade our magazines, cover stories, and current affairs today are simply differently sized and shaped searches for real, lasting joy? Of all the gifts that we can receive at Christmas, perhaps the most meaningful for our world today is joy. Few would deny that amongst shining pockets of hope that dot the landscape like lonely Christmas lights, the world is mostly getting worse. Wars, slavery, abuse at an all-time high, and many people powerless to the machinations of world leaders that no longer seem to hold to a system of ethics that aligns with traditional Christian values. So on this, the third Sunday of Advent it’s more timely than ever that we remember that Joy has…

I’m Glad Today is about Hope

If there is one thing that the world needs more of, certainly it would be hope. We live in a world which continues to suffer as a result of moral decline. Drawn-out periods of war, political ignorance of the plight of the poor, and widespread support for issues which contravene the created order. On one hand, its easy to see that the world is increasingly a place without hope. However, as I sat with our two youngest boys this morning, we talked about the significance of today in the calendar of the church. Today is the first Sunday of Advent; the season of anticipation in which we look forward to the coming of the saviour of the world; both the arrival of the Saviour at…

Not Halloween, Reformation Day!

The fact is, there are plenty of Christians—not to mention everyone else—who struggle to see the relevance of Reformation Day on October 31, and fewer again who could give a comprehensive reason as to why it’s so important. Who was Martin Luther? Isn’t October 31 actually Halloween? And why is he trying to hijack this popular day? Reformation Day is the symbolic day on which the Protestant Church celebrates Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the castle door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. These theses were largely a protest against the current practice of indulgences, but included other calls for Christians to return to a more gospel-centric life. While Luther had no intention of sparking a revolution, his actions started a wildfire which…

Engaging Diversity for God’s Purposes

Australia faces many challenges at present. Economic. Political. Spiritual. Integrity. Globalization. Morality. Others? Which challenge concerns you the most? One of the significant issues occupying my mind constantly concerns diversity engagement. I know this choice is different to the standard or common selections from the options above. However, diversity is a feature of Australian life, creating potential threats to social cohesion and unity. Numerous headline stories in recent weeks highlight the tensions present currently in society and the struggles to respectfully dialogue with opposing views. The Same Sex Marriage postal vote is causing animosity and igniting extreme acts to shut down the opposing side. The statues in Sydney vandalized over the debate concerning Australia Day have polarized the population. The constant reminder of the fear…

The Heart of Holy Saturday

Yesterday we paused to remember that God the Son was crucified – for blasphemy, of all things. In churches around the world the death of the one and only saviour of humanity was proclaimed on Good Friday morning. We came together to worship God by giving him thanks; acknowledging that the death of the saviour Jesus Christ was an act of pure grace extended towards us, and that without God’s grace-filled intervention on our behalf, we would all be lost. I also observe every year that for some pastors there remains a strong temptation to make sure that their service doesn’t end on a sombre note; after all, we need to remember Jesus’ death… but we don’t want to risk sending people away sad, so we…

Give Up Lent for Lent?

Recently The Cripplegate published a thoughtful piece on why evangelicals should consider giving up Lent. Like everything on the Internet, it was praised or pummeled with opinions from every point along the spectrum. The post contained a helpful overview of (Catholic) church history pertaining to the development of Lent, followed by a self-diagnostic of sorts where we take a good look at our motivations for participating in Lent and step back to look at the way in which we’ve choosen to engage with it. In short, this author felt that the act of giving something up as a way of preparing for Easter is simply anachronistic. Far from a response that would be titled ‘here’s why I think he’s wrong’,  I offer these thoughts to encourage what…

Love: The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Having re-lit the candles of hope, peace, and joy, we take this fourth Sunday of Advent to reflect on the coming of love. In God taking on humanity to seek and save humanity, we see clearly the greatest loving act that the world has ever known. This transcendent God – who himself made everything that was made – loved broken humanity so much that he humbled himself to take the form of a man and lived among us. The arrival of God incarnated in human flesh was itself a wondrous, supernatural, history-changing event; yet the Bible tells us that he had no great status, handsome features, or charismatic personality with which to draw a crowd. But come the crowds did. This Jesus, born in a…

Joy: The Third Sunday of Advent

Having spent the last two weeks considering that Jesus is both our hope and our peace, we come to the third Sunday of Advent and remember that Jesus is our joy. We live in a society that is pulled between two poles when it comes to joy. Either life and the world pull us down so much that we have no joy or we find our joy in our life and the world. To both of these positions Christmas reminds us that Christ is our joy. For many people this year has been tough; it seems like everything has gone wrong and to top it off the world around us is becoming increasingly unstable. Culturally the Church has become largely irrelevant at best and hated…

Peace: The Second Sunday of Advent

Having lit the candle of hope last Sunday, we take time this week to remember that as well as being the hope of the world, Jesus is also our peace. In the busyness of the Christmas season, it’s easy to get carried away with the pressures and anxieties that society places on us through the expectations of the season (or, what we in the West have imposed on it). But God desires that those who place their trust in him should not live as ones who are characterized by stressfully straining to succeed with the perfect presents or the most magnificent meal. Rather, we remember that after God created the heavens and the earth he rested (Gen 2:2), that Jesus taught us seek to peace…

Hope: The First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent; the season of anticipation leading up to the celebration of the arrival of the one Lord and Saviour of the world. But before we rejoice and sing “it is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth”, we remember our desperate need for such a Saviour to save us from sin which is not only in us, but is us. We look to the history of Israel – which the apostle Paul tells us is our shared history through the finished work of Christ – to their hope for God’s coming Messiah to save, forgive, and restore them. Traditionally, the Sundays of Advent are marked by the lighting of a candle. The candle for this first Sunday is hope.…

The Light Has Come

In many Protestant churches – particularly those who don’t closely follow the rhythm of the traditional liturgical calendar – Advent has faded into the background, and the gap of silence between All Hallow’s Eve and Christmas Eve is filled only with the red and green consumerism that fills store shelves from November 1. But this tradition is rich with meaning and beauty that serves to enhance the significance of not only the coming that it looks back on, but also the future coming to which it points.