How the liturgical service enriched my non-liturgical faith.
When the first Hunger Games movie was released in 2012, my daughter Bethany was 11 years old. Influenced by a determined lobby group of pro-Hunger Games preteens at her school, she mounted a vigorous campaign at home. She very badly wanted to see the movie; I was equally committed to her not seeing the movie.
At one point, completely exasperated, I demanded of her, “Why in the world would you want to see a movie that portrays the death of children as entertainment?”
Her answer surprised me. “I think, Mom,” she said thoughtfully, “that for a story to really matter, you have to know that the stakes are high. You have to realize that it’s life or death.”
I won’t tell you who won the movie debate. But I found myself remembering Beth’s insight into stories almost exactly a year ago, after I attended my first Ash Wednesday service.
My husband, Mark, and I both came to faith in the sort of evangelical environment where “church calendar” means a list of congregational events and birthdays. We celebrated Christmas, of course, and Easter too—but that was about it. My experience with Advent was limited to chocolate-laden drugstore calendars. Pentecost was for the charismatics down the street. And Lent was a mysterious, rather gothic observance reserved for the Catholics.
It wasn’t until we were well into adulthood that we became more curious about the ancient rhythms of the church. We developed some friendships with folks who were following Jesus in liturgical traditions, and we could see that their observance of certain rituals and seasons was bringing them life. No matter how relentlessly the world of clocks, crises, day-timers, and deadlines …