One day early in our engagement, my then-fiancée now-wife, Laura, and I were locked in a stalemate: Where would we go to church once we were married?
It began politely enough but devolved into exasperation. I wanted to find a church with great expository preaching and rich liturgy. Laura preferred a church with stirring worship and emotive stories of life-change. The conversation went nowhere. Week after week, we searched in vain to find the right church, and each experience gave us something new to critique.
Eventually a friend of ours recommended that we visit an Anglican church in the western suburbs of Chicago. The day we visited was the last Sunday of Epiphany, and the church was preparing for a journey we had never taken: the 40 days of Lent. Without knowing why, we were drawn back to worship with them again, observing this strange communal practice like anthropologists visiting a foreign culture. Don’t all these rituals reflect a works-based understanding of salvation? What’s the point of giving up the comforts of life? God doesn’t need that from us! Like many evangelicals who love the gospel, I had my doubts about Lent.
Thirteen years later, I now pastor an Anglican church in Chicago filled with people who have little to no background in the cycles of the church calendar—the ancient way of ordering time around the life of Christ and his church, which includes Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Eastertide, and Pentecost. I frequently have conversations with Christians and spiritual seekers who feel drawn to walk with Christ through the practice of Lent but need to be taught the basics. Perhaps you are in the same place. You might not be quite sold on the idea because you have some lingering qualms ...1
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