Us sola scriptura types have traditionally not placed a great deal of emphasis on the church calendar. In debates now long forgotten by everyone else, the disciplines of Lent such as fasting were thought to have the stench of self-righteousness and works-justification about them; while the church calendar hinted at tilting us towards the authority of tradition and so away from the Bible. All of these were no doubt real and present dangers in 1530...
In 2010, I am not convinced that we need to be so reactive, but can pro-actively use ancient church traditions for our good! Endlessly Restless, in his blog has suggested a helpful and positive way to use the Lent period running up to Easter. His emphasis there is not on giving something up for its own sake, but on adopting a good habit instead. He's invited us to join him in a 47-day reading through John's gospel, stopping to pray and reflect during the day. To see the reading plan and the suggestions he makes click here:
The first challenge he sets out is to mark a phrase or verse in the text that you have not noticed before! Today's section (John 1:1-18), is so packed full of awe-inspiring theology, of Incarnation, ripe with Trinitarian implications that I have usually glossed over the following phrase which is part of John the Baptist's description of Jesus:
16From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.
The 'fullness of his grace' is a wonderful phrase, which focuses our thoughts not just on our overwhelming need of God's grace, but on Christ himself, where that grace is to be found. In him that grace is not in short supply either, but we are supplied from his fullness!
"We have received one blessing after another!" John's previous sentence has usually overshadowed this one, when he mentions Jesus' eternal pre-existence. This sentence dramatically earths that insight, as Jesus incarnation from unlimited time, bring to us within time, unlimited blessings, one after another! This phrase reminded me of Paul's joyously convoluted sentence: He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? The picture is of a millionaire who we have committed a crime against: instead of pursuing us in the courts, gives us his Rolls, his mansion, his fortune, and his friendship, why then would he quibble over sharing a mars-bar with us!? The suggestion is ludicrous in its proportions! So if God has gives us Himself in Christ, we can trust that He will not withhold any good thing from us, in this life or the next; because in Him is 'one blessing after another.'
(I have no intention of blogging all the way through John - but posted this to kick-start the process!)