Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

You and the Liturgical Year

PrayerCandle.jpgLots of folks write to me about the use of liturgical prayer, and my book on prayer (Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today
) has been of help to some. But many want more than just to learn how to use liturgical prayers, which goes back (by the way) to the Psalms themselves. What many want is an introduction to what the Church or Liturgical Year is all about, and how knowing that can help them practically.


Bobby Gross has written just that book, and I am more than happy to recommend it to you: Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God : an Introduxction and Devotional Guide
. This book could be of use to thousands of Christians who want to enter into the Liturgical Year with more than a bag full of ideas but not knowing how to make use of them. This book not only gives the ideas, but provides a weekly devotional to introduce how one can enter the Liturgical Year.


The practice of liturgical prayers has grown dramatically in the last few years, and you might be surprised by some of the low-church types, leaders in fact, who are now using liturgical prayers on a daily basis. But this book by Gross is about more than that:

Gross examines the Church Seasons and provides both a brief study of the themes of that part of the Church Year and devotional exercises for each week. You can enter into this book any week fo the year (it is the 12th Sunday after Pentecost today). If you’d like to see a nice Church Calendar, go to my Sidebar and scroll down to the “daily prayers” section and click on “Lectionary.” Thus,

1. Advent
2. Christmas
3. Epiphany
4. Lent
5. Paschal Triduum
6. Easter
7. Ordinary Time

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posted August 23, 2009 at 6:43 pm

The liturgical year has been my companion since 1980 when I left seminary. It was a wonderful gift to give coherence to worship, the church life and my soul’s growth. It integrates so well with hymnody and choral works. Gestures and colors, responsive readings and prayers come from many centuries and other cultures. I could not have imagined leaving it, but now I have been out of it (except for sporadic dips during Advent and Lent) since moving to California in 2005. Why did I leave the lectionary?
Because the culture (not just in California but increasingly in Minnesota) was biblically under-taught (a better word than illiterate). The lectionary assumes a basic understanding of the bible and the biblical story. The Christians I work with do not have that foundation, so I have resorted to a more intentional theme in worship and preaching. Also, many christians do not attend worship weekly, but more sporadically, so any theme is missed by irregular attendance.
I applaud Bobby Gross’s work and will get the book. I could certainly use some help.

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posted August 23, 2009 at 7:13 pm

I’d also recommend Laurence Hull Stookey’s Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church.
Stookey’s book was impacted me quite a bit. It is a bit more theological than an introductory book, but it is still manageable.

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posted August 23, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Just curious, and in your humble opinion, how and why do you think so many churches – especailly evangelical – got away from the lectionary and liturgical year?

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Scot McKnight

posted August 23, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Rick, I don’t know the whole story, but part of it is a reaction to the use of the church calendar and liturgical reading of Scripture in mainline, liturgical churches over against which the low church evangelicals reacted. What is mainline/liturgical is that out of which we came, therefore it is to be abandoned.
Other Bible reading programs were developed for home — from Luther and Calvin onwards.
I’m not entirely sure. What is remarkable is that most of these leaders, who are the inspiration for much of low church evangelicalism, used and even wrote prayer books.

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posted August 23, 2009 at 9:43 pm

I would also add the recently published Treasury of Daily Prayer, from CPH, which doesn’t merely talk about the Church Year (the last thing we need, right?–more talk ABOUT a healthy devotional life!), but immerses you in praying and meditating on Scripture through the Church’s calendar, with the Church. It’s an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning to live within the rhythms of salvation history while cultivating a disciplined devotional life. See

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posted August 23, 2009 at 11:56 pm

How interesting. The education team at our church is discussing having a class on the liturgy since so many who’ve come into our church are from non-liturgical backgrounds.
A suggestion for personal devotion following the lectionary is:

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Terry Finley

posted August 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm

There are many great helps available
for Bible Study and devotions.
thanks for sharing

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Jim Robertson

posted August 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Hey Scot – thanks for this… and here is beautiful calendar that will compliment the book (printed, not online) – it is arranged in the 7 church seasons rather than the 12 calendar months. Walter Brueggemann, Stanley Hauerwas and Eugene Peterson each give a glowing review, the graphic work and art are gorgeous…
The publisher, University Hill Congregation in Vancouver, states that
“This alternative calendar was created in 2000 to enable the re-telling of the life and story of Jesus Christ. It encourages people to live differently from the dominant culture; its unique shape and design remind those using it that there is a different time going on here – that we’re living in God’s time, not the world’s time. ”
“Our secular calendar has its beginning with the Roman Empire where on January 1 Roman state officials took office. The Christian calendar is to be a daily reminder that we are first citizens of the kingdom of God and secondly citizens of the state and culture.”

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posted August 25, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Here is a page I created that has some resources I have found for praying throughout the year. Also a page on audio files that are published daily.

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