I'm not a traditionalist by any means; in fact, I only began enjoying hymns a few years ago. I grew up singing songs with drums and clapping, and even dancing on occasion. Without my informative family (on my hubby's side) I would have no idea that the "Church" calendar was a bit more in-depth than simply Easter and Christmas. Every season has a name, a color and a meaning.
I wasn't sure about participating in the liturgical calendar, but I realized that it is a way to make me consider the history of my heritage, and not just the salvation I have received; a way to feel connected to a larger body of Christ than just those in my non-denomination movement. And so, I'd like to share a bit of what I've learned for this season.
We are in the season of Lent. Unfortunately, many know this only because of the pagan rituals done in New Orleans as many celebrate "Fat Tuesday." I don't think that this is part of the original calendar. Tuesday before Lent was just for people to be ready for the beginning of Lenten fasting. Giving up something usually needs a bit of preparation, but the Mardi Gras Carnival is simply ridiculous and un-Godly. Okay, enough of that!
The reason that Lent is 40 days long (not including Sundays) is because that is the length of time Jesus was in the desert for his time of temptation. Sunday's are excluded because that is the day we celebrate his resurrection. Who shouldn't want to share in His sufferings and so be a bit more like Him?
Ash Wednesday is a time to remember that we are dust, and this life is temporary. I think it may make it easier to give up something important for Lent if we remember "this too shall pass."
One of the reasons we don't participate in many of the liturgical services was given by a wonderful resource, Ken Collins. He writes that the missionaries and church planters did not have a formal education to learn how to have the special events, or even much of a knowledge of the liturgical calendar's purpose. These wonderful spreaders of the gospel learned the Bible and taught the Bible. This is good, and certainly enough for anybody. My thought is that once you've gotten into your relationship with Christ, knowing and practicing these other things can only deepen it. Not cheapen it as many suppose.
Also, interesting to note, many special services are coming back. Advent, for one. Maundy Thursday (foot washing and communion), and Good Friday (a service of darkness to remember the suffering and sacrifice in order to rejoice even more on Easter). Even certain aspects of Lent is being practiced more frequently in non-denominational churches.
The struggle with the traditional churches (such as Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, etc.) is they have practiced the deep things so much, the meaning has gotten lost. They often will fail to see the love and grace of Christ in their daily walk, and leave the thinking to the Reverends, Pastors and Priests. And sometimes no longer practice Lent, or any other event for the right reasons.
The struggle with our non-traditional churches is we often forget that our God is multi-faceted, multi-racial, multi-cultural, and quite ecumenical. He longs for us to know Him deeper, no matter how we do it. Just because we don't agree with everything our Christian brothers and sisters practice, doesn't mean they can't teach us something.