There was a time when time was not. God began to speak. The heavens and earth came into existence. The rhythms of life within the eternal Trinity began being imaged in the rhythms of the creation. Day one. Day two. Day three. Day four. Day five. Day six. Day seven. A steady, twenty-four-hour rhythm turns into the rhythm of the week. The rhythm of weeks turns into the rhythms of months. The rhythms of months turn into rhythms of seasons. The rhythms of seasons turn into the rhythms of years. What started as a slow steady beat has turned into a symphony of layered rhythms; some consistent, some syncopated, but all moving the creation relentlessly forward.
In order to conduct this symphony, God put the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament-heaven. They separated the day from the night and were for signs and festival times. The heavenly lights were God’s authoritative clock to tell the world the time (Gen 1.14-19).
The world knowing the time wasn’t merely a point of information. These times would govern the rhythms of the entire creation. Creation was to stay in rhythm with God’s clock. Man himself as a part of creation was subject to these rhythms.
Time is not something standing outside of man by which he measures the rhythms of creation. Time is a part of man, controlling waking and sleeping, eating patterns, hormone production, brain wave activity, and cell regeneration. We are creatures of time.
Being part of creation, time is an aspect of creation over which man as the image of God is to take dominion. In the old creation (the creation before Christ came), man in his childhood was given a schedule to keep. The sun, moon, and stars determined the calendar. When God separated Israel from the nations, he gave his young son a strict calendar to follow; daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and weeks of years. Israel would look to the sun, moon, and stars to learn what they were to be doing.
However, when man matured he would not need a strict schedule set for him by his Father. The rhythms that he learned in childhood would inform the rhythms of his life, but he would have to create new rhythms in wisdom. In his childhood man learned (or should have learned) that time itself was to serve man in bringing the creation to God’s fullest purpose. God set up rhythms to bring man as individual and community into his presence. The calendar was one way in which God created community. As people shared rhythms of life, it drew them together. When the Sabbath was a regular, weekly convocation, the lives of the people were planned around it. When feasts were on the calendar, the lives of individuals and the community would have to adjust. Whatever the occasion, when the life of a group of people submitted to the same rhythms, it drew them together into community.
Things have changed. The Sun of Righteousness has risen (Mal 4.2). He is the Ruler in the firmament-heaven and, therefore, the one who controls the calendar. But there is more. He has seated us with him in these heavenly places (Eph 1.20-22; 2.6) where we shine as stars (Phil 2.15). We, the heirs of Abraham, are now the stars in the firmament-heaven. We are all grown up in Christ. Our Father now let’s us determine the calendar. Having learned from our childhood, we know that we need rhythms. We can’t float along being pulled this way and that by those who would love to determine the direction of our lives by controlling our calendars. We understand that whatever sets the rhythms of our lives is moving us inevitably to be a certain type of people. So, we must take dominion of the calendar in our personal lives and as the church. We are to learn from the Scriptures what type of people we are to become and adjust our calendars to fit those rhythms that will move us there.
As the catholic church we do this by sharing a calendar that is defined by the life of Christ. It is called the Church or Liturgical Calendar. All over the globe, we identify ourselves with one another by the rhythms we share. Our shared time is a witness to the world that we are the church of Jesus Christ.
Local churches also have calendars; calendars determined by the stars–the pastors–that Jesus holds in his right hand (Rev 1.6, 20). These calendars should be set so that the people of God have the opportunity to set the rhythm of life together in order to become what we ought to be as the church. We are not to be engaged in activity for activity’s sake. Our schedules as churches ought to be purposeful. Regular Lord’s Day worship is a given. It is the primary rhythm. But then there are other times of prayer, study, feasting, and serving the world outside the church that must also be incorporated. Pastors (and elders) have been given a stewardship of the household of God. Part of that stewardship in Christ is to set the rhythm for the church so that the church may move to maturity.
The congregation has a responsibility as well. You are not to be asking, “What are the minimal requirements?” Because you are all grown up in Christ, you are to be asking, “What is the best for the church, for the kingdom, and for the world?” It is not always what is the most fun. Adjusting your calendar is a spiritual discipline, and discipline isn’t always fun. But it is the right thing to do. If we are going to be more than a Bible club that happens to have the Sacraments, if we are going to be the City of God with a full cultural life, then our calendars will not only reflect this, but they will shape us into that City.