Scottish Old Believer Presbyterian

Many wonder why it is that I do not practice the church calendar. There are several reasons. I don’t intend to get into them too deeply here, so this is just a brief explanation. The main issue is the authority of Scripture. Scripture authoritatively directs how we worship; though, many today would probably never have given this a thought. The Apostles gave specific ways to worship in the New Testament. They highlighted the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the first day of the week as the only holy day for Christian worship. They also refused anyone who would complain about them not observing other holy days such as new moons, feasts, or sabbaths (Col. 2:16-17). The implication of this line of reasoning is that one must observe what the apostles observed, and not consider oneself above the authority of the apostles in adding other Holy Days.

Those in favor of the calendar have to at some point defend the church’s authority to legislate Holy Days for the worship of the church. I believe this was only the prerogative of the prophets and apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture- who gave us only the Lord’s Day. Those who defend the Calendar must swallow the pill whole that the historical church has authority to legislate worship days, and this is based on a view of the authority of the church, where the sacred tradition of the church has authority to legislate worship days (e.g. the high church Anglican and Eastern orthodox argument), or that since the church creates the Word/Scripture then the the church has authority to legislate absolutely (the Roman Catholic Position). What I mean by swallow the pill whole is you cannot practice the Calendar without accounting for how you got there by your interpretative method and view of Scripture’s authority in legislating worship.

A secondary issue is that the Holy Days breed a different spirituality than does the Lord’s Day. Some days, like Christmas or Easter Sundays are considered as greater events to celebrate than an average Lord’s Day. This cuts against the one in seven theme of the Lord’s Day Worship, and it breeds a way of treating some Holy Days with less seriousness. It use to be the case that one could tell the difference between a protestant and a Roman catholic (generally) since the Roman Catholic individual went to church only on Christmas or Easter, whereas the protestant would attend weekly services on the Lord’s Day- often morning and evening. Now this pattern is not the case, many evangelicals attend cyber church, attend one service a Sunday, or have spotty attendance, after which they leave immediately. These same evangelicals now see attendance as perfunctory, and would rather get it out of the way. Another parallel to this lack of seriousness about the Lord’s Day worship is in how the Roman Catholics use to meet on Sunday, and Holy Days, but in the 1960s Romans added the Saturday Evening Mass so the faithful could get it out of the way before Sunday. In the past decade all of the megachurches, and many of the not so mega ones in the east county, and I would guess wider practice in the United States, have introduced the Saturday Night Alive Service. That way their parishioners can get it out of the way and have their Sunday to themselves. Just think of how absurd it is when people even say this, “I want to go to church on another day than The Lord’s Day [note the possessive third person singular Lord’s] so that I can get it out of the way and I can have my day [note the possessive first person singular, my].” That’s why I don’t deviate from the Lord’s Day’s supremacy. It breeds a faulty Spirituality. It would go to far to say that the church calendar alone is responsible for this, but it is a structure which gives plausibility to this brand of religious practice and devotion (or lack thereof) when one considers that it grades (at least in the minds of the masses) one Lord’s Day as more holy than another.

Another is issue is that the Calendar teaches funny things about the Gospel to the flock. Now, the date on a calendar when an event happened is important to note. That is why we learn dates of events in history class. However, the whole Gospel is not taught in one event on the calendar alone. Think of Ascension Sunday. It highlights the ascension of Christ. What a great theme! It is one which has been greatly overlooked by evangelicals, yet it rarely falls on the actual date every year due to its celebration being on a Sunday. This is because our calendars do not use the lunar cycle. Still, If we act out, note, and highlight the ascension of Christ on one day, we may miss the forest for the trees. The Gospel/Good news includes a series of historic events which are a whole message. Christ’s incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and return are the Gospel. That is the good news about Him who is the Good news, and each part can be spelled out, but it does not give a picture of the whole Christ when set in isolation.

Another reason is that it messes up the whole flow of expository preaching. Imagine if you preached a special sermon on each of these Holy Days, and then you’d have people clamoring for Independence Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, Earth Day, National Doughnut Day, and secretaries day. You’d never get through the Epistle you want to preach. You’d never have a chance to feed the sheep. It strikes me as confusing shepherding. We feed the Lambs the Word.

Another issue is within the practice of the Calendar itself. Most evangelicals are not aware of the whole calendar. I think this is due t the democratized approach to theology American Christians take. Theology is like a buffet from which one takes a little from here, and a little from there, but don’t realize the mutually contradictory views within the component parts of one’s personalized dogmatics.

Going back to preaching a series, imagine what would happen to an expository series if one did keep the whole calendar. where your expository sermons would fit in if you were consistent in fighting for the calendar. Take the pill whole or nothing.

Christian holidays celebrated in year 2016

DAY
DATE
HOLIDAY NAME
  • Wed
  • Jan 06, 2016
  • Sun
  • Jan 10, 2016
  • Tue
  • Feb 02, 2016
  • Wed
  • Feb 10, 2016
  • Sun
  • Feb 14, 2016
  • Thu
  • Mar 17, 2016
  • Sat
  • Mar 19, 2016
  • Sun
  • Mar 20, 2016
  • Thu
  • Mar 24, 2016
  • Fri
  • Mar 25, 2016
  • Sun
  • Mar 27, 2016
  • Mon
  • Mar 28, 2016
  • Easter Monday
  • Sat
  • Apr 23, 2016
  • Sat
  • Apr 30, 2016
  • Thu
  • May 05, 2016
  • Sun
  • May 15, 2016
  • Sun
  • May 22, 2016
  • Thu
  • May 26, 2016
  • Wed
  • Jun 29, 2016
  • Fri
  • Jul 15, 2016
  • Mon
  • Aug 01, 2016
  • Mon
  • Aug 15, 2016
  • Thu
  • Sep 08, 2016
  • Thu
  • Sep 29, 2016
  • Mon
  • Oct 31, 2016
  • Tue
  • Nov 01, 2016
  • Wed
  • Nov 02, 2016
  • Sun
  • Nov 20, 2016
  • Sun
  • Nov 27, 2016
  • Wed
  • Nov 30, 2016
  • Tue
  • Dec 06, 2016
  • Sat
  • Dec 24, 2016
  • Sun
  • Dec 25, 2016
  • Wed
  • Dec 28, 2016
  • Sat
  • Dec 31, 2016

If one does not keep the whole calendar, as in the case of most evangelical churches, then there is still a problem with keeping the rhythm of preaching and feeding the flock consistently. Think of this common experience. A church advertises a special service for a holy day. A visitor comes into the church having heard about this special day, they hear the Gospel (often as these days are typically singled out for evangelism) and they hear a sermon calling them to believe the Gospel. It is only part of the gospel. Usually it is not a full exposition but a shorter homily. They may leave and have the impression that the church always does this, and since they don’t get the impression that there is a lot to learn, and they don’t see the normal rhythm of discipleship of the flock as a weekly series is unfolding with continuity, they do not come back until the next high holy day. They get the impression that the holy days are important, but the regular days are not. So why bother? The regular member knows to bring people for the special day, but they are expected to put up with all the cliche`s of the evangelistic revivalist sermon they’ll hear. Most will tune it out for themselves, and not be sanctified by it as they’ll be too nervous about if there is an unbeliever in their midst. Curmudgeons will curmudge about how things didn’t use to be done this way in his day (which is also traditionalism in a different context). In the rare events that someone attends a church on Easter and heard the revivalist message one week, and then attends the next week to hear the resumption of the series on Genesis on the lectio continua text about how Esau was a hairy man, and Jacob was a smooth man, he would be at least confused as to why the church does not keep on that emotional high, and would be unlikely to return a third time, or would attend somewhere that has a big production every week.

Finally, the church calendar adds another unnecessary  layer of complication to the message of the Gospel. The Apostles spoke the word in their day to their day. The Anglicans in the early English reformation did so in their day to their day. The Puritans did so in their day to their day. Many ministers are enamored with a historic context and believe we must emulate it completely as that was the purest time of church existence in the golden age. The reality is that Calvin (for example) spoke to his day in his day, and though the truths be timeless, the specific situation is different and requires fresh application and language. This is an unnecessary additional layer of complication to the uninitiated, the young, and the unintelligent. The Bible is complicated enough, and is designed for exposition and clarity of application to be brought by preachers, not to be obscured further in the deep recesses and wheels within wheels of symbolism and shibboleths in Latin or from the church calendar.

In short, the great benefit of old school (or as Groundskeeper Willy would say- Old Believer) Presbyterianism is we are able to update our language and be clear today about what scripture says today. We are able to seek the Lord where he may be found on the Lord’s Day. I personally desire to be under the authority of the apostles and prophets of the Lord, and not my own, nor a Pope, or a magisterial sacred tradition, or an autocratic ecclesial system of cardinals and creeds. And the Calendar has no place in there for me. The Lord’s Day does. Expository preaching does. Clarity does. Not symbolisms and shibboleths.

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