The Non-Festival Time
The long, green season of Trinity is here. Trinity Sunday, which is June 7 this year, marks the end of the festival portion of the Church year and ushers us into the non-festival portion of the year. There are few religious holidays until we enter Advent again on November 29. We could celebrate the beginning of Lutheranism, the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, on June 25. Some churches also celebrate the secular holiday of the Fourth of July, but church holidays that are generally recognized and celebrated by the Church are few and far between until we get to Reformation Day on Halloween or Thanksgiving, November 26 this year.
The non-festival part of the year is primarily because we are entering into summer. Churches used to confirm their youth on Palm Sunday because schools let out that week-end in Europe in the olden days, so the young people would be free to help with the planting and harvesting, and all the work in between while crops grew. Society was primarily agricultural, back then, and there were no large machines to help with the labor; just the family. After Easter, people did not want holidays to interfere with getting the crops planted, cultivated, and harvested. So, the church backed off the celebration stuff.
When winter comes, the crops are in, supposedly, and the people were eager to have some merriment and the occasional party. The church supplied much of that in the old days, with Advent and Christmas and Lent and Easter for a culture that took their religion very seriously and had fewer distractions and entertainments open to them. That all changed in the 1970s for our culture, and technology made doing farm work less child-friendly and child necessary. These days we have many other entertainments drawing our attention away from the Church year-round, and farming tech and social media have freed young people and even many adults from the need, and often from the desire, to focus on the church and its celebrations.
The past couple of months have pushed many people farther away from church. The COVID hysteria has created a fear in people of gathering together, and many in the church have taken it as a reason to stay home and stay away. The latest “science” on the issue has come to the position that the lockdowns were unnecessary and perhaps even harmful. The mask hysteria has been shown to be misplaced, as masks do not accomplish what people had been led to believe and maybe even be harmful. The effort to “flatten the curve” took about two weeks to be successful, but people have been given more than two months to become accustomed to staying home and staying isolated, and not attending church.
First of all, “science” has been misused. Science is the process of falsification. It can only prove something to be wrong. Science cannot tell us the things that the “experts” have been saying it did. The “experts” counted on people not understanding that and being baffled by the use of the word. And they were.
It should have become apparent to people when the science was shown to be so wrong time and time again. The death toll was wrong – greatly exaggerated. The use of masks was said to be bad for you, then good for you, then necessary for you, and is now known to be harmful to healthy people. In spite of science and common sense, our governors were forcing infected people into nursing homes where contagion spreads easily, causing the unnecessary deaths of many elderly. Science can only learn by trial and error, and when no one knew what to expect from the virus, science could not tell us anything reliably.
But Christian faith can. In prior pandemics, even the black plague of the middle ages, Christians put their faith first. They trusted God and understood that He would keep them – and if they were to get sick and even die, they were in the hands of their Savior and they would be in His hand for eternity. If the worst thing that can happen – death – is also the best thing that can happen – going to heaven – they understood and firmly believed that they really had nothing to worry about.
The non-festival portion of the church year is about living the Christian life day by day. Every Sunday is a celebration of Easter, and every day is another opportunity to show forth the glory of God in the lives of His children. Daily life is how we serve God, worshiping Him by living out what faith in Him means, and what the forgiveness of sins does to us. See Romans 12:1-3. When there is no difference between the people of God and the people of the devil (which is everyone except Christians), something is amiss.
Some things are the same for everybody. Arithmetic works the same whether you are a believer or not. One plus one equals two. There are many things that are not changed by faith in God, although the use we put them to may be. The challenge of the Christian life is to discern where the differences lie and what we are to make of them as God’s children. The challenge is not unlike the “game” I play in Bible Study, when I ask, “What does it mean that your sins are forgiven?” Anyone who has played can tell you that the answer is not a definition. The question is not “what does this mean?”, but “So what?”
During the non-festival portion of the church year, we are tasked with seeking out what difference it makes in us and in our lives that we are Christians – Lutheran Christians in specific – while the people around us are not. Our answers are not delivered in a paper, or out loud in a Bible class, but in our living of our lives. It changes how we deal with one another. It affects our response to the common challenges of life. Everybody faces the same challenges, but as the favored people of God, forgiven and blessed in particular, we can deal with the terrors and temptations of life from the basis of what God has told us and what He has promised us and our trust in Him.
Unbelievers have no knowledge and no hope in God. We who know Him and hope in Him should be living that knowledge and that hope out and it should make us different. After all, if we are not different, we are the same – in hope as well as behavior. The non-festival portion of the year gives us pause to consider that and bear witness to God by how we answer those questions.
Yours in the Lord,