An Ordinary Lent

Six weeks ago I announced we were giving up church for Lent.  Six Sundays! It has been an interesting journey. My family and I have weathered it pretty well. Only my youngest daughter has really mentioned it's absence. I'm not really sure how to interpret that yet. I'm looking forward to hearing their feedback on the way to Maundy Thursday service tonight though. But first here are some of my own reflections.

After the second Sunday, I noticed that I really wasn't missing worship. What I did notice was the effect that this was having on my weekly schedule. I never realized before, but without even knowing it I was making room in my schedule for worship. Let me explain. Being a student, husband, and dad at the same time, I am forced to plan ahead. Something that really goes against my grain. When I take a look at the coming week, I plan my homework around my other responsibilities. Usually Sunday morning is blocked out for church, Saturday being the only day I get to sleep in. This Lent however, I found myself with not only a whole extra morning but another day to sleep in! What I never realized before was that I was setting this time aside for church and that it was affecting my whole week's schedule. This may not seem profound but it has been an interesting insight for me.

An even greater insight has been to see what this has done to my own internal liturgical calendar. The Christian liturgical calendar is separated into three major cycles: Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. This last cycle has gone by many names: The Time of the Church, the long green season, Ordinary Time. This last one has always struck me as odd. Maybe because the word ordinary usually has negative connotations associated with it in our culture. But here ordinary simply means normal or "business as usual". You see, during the time between the Easter season and Advent there are no major Christian holidays to focus on, only our ordinary work as the church.

Since I didn't attend any worship services during Lent, my internal liturgical clock has slowly become out of whack. I didn't even know I had an internal liturgical clock! The best way I can explain this is by remembering what Christmas was like in Alabama. When we lived there during last Christmas, the major difference in weather alone, from what we were used to in Pennsylvania, made Christmas feel a lot less "Christmasy". There's just no other way to explain it. Likewise, Lent without worship, without hearing the familiar stories heard and preached about (hearing about the readings and sermons on Facebook that others have heard has been painful!), without singing some of my favorite hymns of all time, without purple, without the covered crosses, without the non-alleluia services, this all added up to a Lent that was a lot less "Lenty", and very, very ordinary. Now I am wondering how "ready" I am for Easter.

Does one need to be "ready" for Easter? Well, I suppose not. Does a triathlete need to train? I suppose not. Does a student need to study for a test. I guess not. But doesn't the experience and the outcome have a much better chance of "success" if one is prepared? Will I recommend others to take some time off from church like this? I'm not sure about that, but I do know this, the Lenten journey, and it's purpose, has never been more clear for me.