Matins Devotion: May 9, 2023
Imagine you’re looking over a little booklet with the title “St. Louis Cardinal’s 2023 schedule” with a friend. So your friend spots a date that reads July 27: at San Diego. And your friend says to you, “at San Diego for what? Are the Cardinals going out there for a beach vacation? Are they going to Comic Con?” And you say “no, that means they’re playing the San Diego Padres.” And your friend says “well, why doesn’t it say that specifically,” how would you respond? Well, you’d probably look at your friend, pat him on the head, and say “the Cardinals are a baseball team. You can just assume that all these events are baseball games. You don’t need to call this schedule ‘the baseball schedule of the St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball games.”
In the same way, when it comes to our reading from Leviticus this morning, I don’t think we really need to refer to this schedule of religious festivals as a religious calendar or a liturgical calendar. That’s all a bit redundant. God’s people are, by default, a religious group in the same way that the St. Louis Cardinals are, by default, a baseball team. The Israelites exist because their God called them into existence through Abraham and the covenant of circumcision. They still exist in the moment of our text because their God brought them out of slavery in Egypt and gave them new life. In Him they live and move and have their being.
That’s why every week of their lives is centered around the Sabbath, the day when God invites them to share in His rest and to rejoice in the gifts of salvation He has poured out upon them. That’s why their entire year is scheduled around religious festivals and celebrations of God’s mercy and favor, centered around sacrifices that proclaim how one day God will send His Son, His spotless lamb, to die for their sins and win them eternal life. The Israelites are not first and foremost farmers and smiths. They’re first and foremost the children of God, which is why God structures their entire year around that promise.
And this is how we should view ourselves with regard to the church year because the church year, though not divinely mandated, is a pious invention of Christians whereby we tell ourselves the story of salvation. That story begins with Advent and the joyous anticipation of our King’s arrival. The calendar story continues with the celebration of Christ’s incarnation throughout the Christmas and Epiphany seasons. It continues with the story of His suffering, His passion and death throughout the Lenten season. That calendar story bursts back into joyful songs of “Alleluia” during the Easter season and then welcomes us into that story as we focus on the life of the church in the Trinity and Pentecost seasons.
As Christians, we are not first and foremost accountants and teachers plugging our way through January or July and only occasionally getting a break to hear the promises of Christ. No, we are first and foremost the children of God who have every right to rejoice amidst the freezing snow or the scorching heat because we are surrounded by the story of salvation. As Christians, the Church Year is our default calendar. Let every other calendar take its place far behind our Lord and His promises.