Yesterday my church honored “Sanctity of Life Sunday.” The sermon and Scripture reading were both about the importance of life in the face of abortion in the United States. It appears that my church did it a week early. I have no idea who invented “Sanctity of Life Sunday,” determined its date, or anything, which is part of the reason why I am struck that we observe this holy day. I do not necessarily have a problem with honoring “Sanctity of Life Sunday,” but it makes me to wonder what causes churches like mine from shunning so much of the church calendar. When I say this, I hope the reader will not take this as some kind of rant against my church’s leadership; I love my pastors and pray for them.
The circles I run in (not just my church) seem to be rather inconsistent with respect to the observance of holy days. While days like Trinity Sunday, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Epiphany, and so forth are not observed, other days like Mother’s Day, the Fourth of July, Christmas, and so forth are observed. How did we go to the point where we embraced this “American Evangelical-Patriotic-Hallmark Church Calendar”? We have days like “Pastors’ Day,” but we do essentially nothing on Reformation Sunday.
I suppose that there could be at least two responses to my remarks. One may want to defend the status quo, but to this individual I would simply observe that it seems somewhat inconsistent to embrace an ad hoc calendar fusing the sacred and the secular, while excluding the calendar of traditional Christianity.
Another response would be to eliminate holy days altogether. To a certain extent, I am sympathetic to this approach. Pauls says in Col 2:16-17, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (ESV). Unless I am reading this passage wrong, I would say that this is a warning against mandating any observance of holy days. We should not feel guilty if we decide not to observe a particular holy day. Yet, at the same time, I would encourage us to consider adopting more of the church calendar (Kevin Bauder also argues for this here). The principle is this: someone will be planning your church’s liturgy on any given Sunday. This person is a man (not God). Thus, we may conclude that the origin of your liturgy is from man. Likewise, certain men developed the church calendar over time. It is difficult to see why implementation of the church calendar (which has been used by some Baptists, by the way) is in itself evil. There may be certain circumstances wherein your church may shy away from the church calendar (like a large converted Catholic contingency), but by and large it serves to help the local church reflect on the life of Jesus Christ and certain key doctrines and figures throughout the year in a systematic way. The church calendar also seems to have with it a large amount of Scripture reading for the public worship, and most fundamentalist churches with which I am familiar could use a good bit more of that as well.