Last weekend, we all know, was Memorial Day weekend. I hope you all had a good time enjoying the long weekend, honoring those who have given their lives for this country, and ushering in the summer season. But less well-known is that this past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, the Sunday we would associate as the birthday of the Church. I would venture a guess that many more churches acknowledged Memorial Day in their services than Pentecost Sunday. (At Beacon, we kinda did a little of both.)
To be honest, I had almost forgotten about Pentecost Sunday. I'm not surprised about this; I never celebrated it growing up. There are a lot of these kinds of church holidays that get lost in most evangelical churches. They are mostly celebrated by, pardon my broad generalization, Catholic churches that follow strict liturgies each week. Evangelical Protestants (once again, forgive the broad generalization) feel they have to continue in the footsteps of Luther and his contemporaries and do away with these things; church is not meant to be ritualistic, right? Liturgy really gets a bad reputation these days, but what most people think of as liturgy is not the whole story!
In his book Rhythms of Grace, Mike Cosper writes that "The word [liturgy] comes from two Greek words meaning ‘public work,’ or (as it’s often described) ‘the work of the people.’ To talk about liturgy in its most basic sense is to talk about what the congregation is gathering to do. In this sense, every church has a liturgy; we all gather with work to do." Wherever you gather each Sunday, that church has a basic routine surrounding their weekly Sunday gathering, guaranteed. This is not a bad thing! Scripture commands that the gatherings of Christ-followers be orderly; Paul lays this out in I Corinthians 14. And he gives a reason for it: "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (v.33).
But this is more than just a general order to a worship service. Let me reiterate what Cosper writes, that liturgy is the work of the people. Our liturgy is really lived out in our lives, both inside and outside of the church service. What the church teaches, its congregation lives out. At Beacon of Hope, it is our goal each week to reiterate the gospel message. Maybe that comes from focusing on one aspect, or giving a broad overview. I aim each week to pick music that will serve this goal, and Pastor Steve prepares a sermon to that same end. Our deacons and elders work toward this goal in the ministries they are each part of as well. This way, we are laying a strong foundation for the church to remain gospel-minded throughout the week, through the work of the Spirit.
So it's okay to acknowledge that your church has a liturgy of its own, as it's also okay to acknowledge liturgical holidays throughout the year. There's nothing wrong with celebrating patriotic or cultural holidays like Memorial Day or Mother's/Father's Day, I don't want to sound like I'm bashing these holidays. But if we pay more attention to the holidays of the present culture, we lose the chance to share in the history of the church together. Josh Hayes writes in an article for Relevant Magazine, "We have a fever of doctrinal forgetfulness in our present day—and, unfortunately, the prescription is not more cowbell." These church holidays -- Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, Ascension Thursday, Trinity Sunday, just to name a few -- can help us be reminded of core doctrines to our faith. This certainly is not something we want to throw by the wayside.
None of this needs to be blatantly declared. No doubt your church is already well aware of the structure of your worship service, and there doesn't need to be some huge celebration for each of the church holidays. But these are things that should be acknowledged, and in a way that brings God glory. Don't implement things like this in your church if you're only doing it to show how you're better than other churches in the area! These are meant to remind us of who we are in Christ, and that ought to humble us.
A simple servant of the Master.