This week is the Fifth Sunday in the season of Epiphany in year C of the revised common lectionary. The previous sentence only makes sense to preachers and real church nerds. Stay with me a little and I will not only explain it, but try to show why it matters.
Churches count the Sundays according to a liturgical calendar. The church years begins with Advent, followed by Christmas, then the seasons of Epiphany, Lent, Easter and, the longest, Pentecost. The day of Epiphany is the celebration of the visit of the wise men to the manger. The season of Epiphany stretches from that commemoration until Ash Wednesday. Because the dates of Lent move with the lunar calendar, Epiphany can stretch from four to nine weeks.
Thematically, Epiphany is an extended exploration of the coming of the light. As the wise ones followed a star to the manger, so we follow the light of Christ to a new understanding of what it means to be a child of God. The lectionary readings for Epiphany begin with the magi and then recount the baptism of Jesus and some of the early stories of the Bible.
The church seasons are kind of like sacred versions of the seasons of nature. Nature gives us the seasons, but our naming them helps us to keep track of the movement of time. Church seasons help us to shape the experiences of faith that may grow and develop by following the events of Jesus' life and resurrection.
Epiphany is long this year–seven Sundays. It always feels to me like a back to basics season as the Bible readings include many of the early stories of Jesus' ministry. So this year I am going with that and preaching on some basic Christian topics. This coming week is on surrendering to God.
I like the church seasons because of the structure they give to my year, and my preaching. The repeating schedule helps the journey of faith feel familiar, while the changing seasons help to move me to new levels of understanding.
See you in church,