Inhabiting the Christian Year: Holy Week

This is part 6 of a series exploring the Western Christian year (liturgical calendar). For other posts in this series, click a number: 12, 3, 4, 5.

So far, we've looked at Advent, Christmas,Epiphany and Lent. The first three constitute what some call the cycle of light. Lent then begins the cycle of life, which continues with Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost. In this post, we'll explore Holy Week, which includes Palm/Passion Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Let's begin with a quote from Living the Christian Year by Bobby Gross. It will provide some important historical context. Originally, the first Christians recalled and celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus in a single day---and they did so once a week, on the Lord's Day! But it was not long, probably by the end of the first century, before a more elaborate annual Pascha was established. In that sense, as Laurence Stookey has suggested in response to the maxim that every Sunday is a …

What shape should our worship take?

Worship is the church's primary ministry. Through worship, the church prepares to participate with Christ in his mission to draw the world into worship.[1] Worship and mission are thus integrally connected. Knowing this leads us to ask: What shape should our worship take? The answer from Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian experience is that authentic Christian worship is Christ-centered and gospel-shaped.

This understanding has significant implications for how we approach liturgy (our form of worship). Though some Christians favor what is sometimes called "non-liturgical" or "free" worship, it can be argued on the basis of Scripture and Christian history that a liturgical form of worship (one that follows the pattern shown below) is a helpful, even essential tool for honoring God in worship while drawing the church together in unity of belief and practice, leading to the spiritual formation of its members, including their involvement in mission.

A little h…

Inhabiting the Christian Year: Lent

This is part 5 of a series exploring the Western Christian year (liturgical calendar). For other posts in this series, click a number: 12, 3, 4, 6.
Cycles of Light and Life So far in this series, following an introduction, we've looked at Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. These three seasons of worship comprise what is sometimes called the cycle of light because all three focus on the coming/revelation of Jesus, who is the light of the world and the light of life (John 8:12). That cycle is then followed in the liturgical calendar by the cycle of life, which includes Lent, Easter and Pentecost---three seasons that focus on the purposes for which Christ came, namely
the self-giving sacrifice of his life to free the world from the domain of Satan and thus secure forgiveness and healing for the peoples of the world. Consequently, as we reflect on both the cycles of light and life, we are drawn into the inescapable fact of how the birth and death of Jesus are of a single piece, a garme…

GCI’s Theological Conversion

In a special worship service held on October 14, 2018 in Charlotte, NC, Dr. Joseph Tkach passed the baton of Grace Communion International's presidency to Dr. Greg Williams. As part of that service, several GCI leaders recounted aspects of Dr. Tkach's legacy. One presentation was given by Dr. Gary Deddo, President of Grace Communion Seminary. Below is the text of his presentation. To watch a video with presentations from Dr. Deddo and others, click here
A central element of President Tkach’s leadership has involved overseeing GCI’s theological renewal, indeed, its theological conversion. With his guidance, the denomination became comprehensively biblical, Christ-centered, grace-based, new covenant oriented, trinitarian and therefore historically orthodox. That conversion of fundamental belief and orientation of the church’s life and worship showed itself in many ways. It had an impact to some degree in every dimension of the denomination’s life and of …

What Sort of Human Nature Did Jesus Have?

The doctrine of the Incarnation declares that the eternal Son of God, in adding humanity to his divinity, became Jesus Christ—one person with two natures; fully God and fully human. Reflecting on that truth, many ask, What sort of human nature did Jesus have? Some say it was the one possessed by Adam and Eve before the fall. Others say it was human nature corrupted by the fall.

Though GCI does not consider this issue to be a core doctrine, it does (in alignment with historically orthodox Christian doctrine) teach that our salvation as humans is directly and fundamentally related to Jesus being human on our behalf in every respect. By uniting human nature with his perfect and perfecting divine nature, the Son of God brought to humanity the regeneration and healing we so desperately need yet are unable to achieve for ourselves. This means that Jesus not only took upon himself our sinful external condition but also our human nature, corrupted by the fall. This understanding clarifies th…

Inhabiting the Christian Year: Epiphany

This is part 4 of a series looking at the Western Christian year (liturgical calendar). For other posts in the series, click a number: 12, 3, 5, 6.

So far in this series, we've looked at the meaning of Advent (the season of waiting) and Christmas (the season of wonder). Now we'll look at the meaning of Epiphany---the season of manifestation, which focuses on key events in Jesus' earthly life that manifest (reveal) his identity as the incarnate Son of God, our Savior.

Our word epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “to cause to appear” or “to bring to light.” Bobby Gross, in Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, notes that the Greek word
can refer to the visible manifestation of a deity (also in ancient writings, the arrival of a ruler honored like a god) or to an experience of sudden insight or revelation: those “aha” moments when we “see the light.” (p. 83) The apostle Paul used epiphaneia in referring to the manifestation (appearing

Inhabiting the Christian Year: Christmas

This is part 3 of a series looking at the Western Christian year (liturgical calendar). For other posts in the series, click a number: 12, 4, 56.
Last time we explored the meaning of Advent---the season of waiting. Now we'll look at Christmas--- the season of wonder. Christmas is a season (12 days), not just one day. As noted by Robert E. Webber in Ancient-Future Time, Christmas "points to the mystery of redemption that took place in the incarnation" (p. 57). Note the two elements: incarnation and redemption. Christmas celebrations within the church should address both for, as noted by Thomas F. Torrance, they are inseparably linked in God's plan of salvation through Christ:
It is in the resurrection that we have the unveiling of the mystery of the incarnation: the birth and resurrection of Jesus belong inseparably together and have to be understood in the light of each other.... We are to think of the line from the birth of Jesus to his crucifixion as the line of…