Tag Archive

By In Interviews, Podcast, Theology

Episode 20: A Conversation about Advent

In this Episode of the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast, Pastor Uri Brito and Mr. Sean Johnson discuss the next season of the Church Calendar: Advent. The season of Advent, which comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming” or “visit,” begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians.

Pastor Uri explains how this section of the church calendar helps give us a picture of the Gospel in a Biblical promise and fulfillment paradigm. “Advent and Christmas work together… and when we skip Advent we’re missing that first portion of the Gospel. “He also recommends the book: The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Joan Chittister.

Mr. Sean Johnson continues to emphasize the importance of observing Advent with, “Anything that you want to enjoy seems to deserve the service of expectation… Anything that you can await is going to be enjoyed more.” Both believe that Advent adds to the importance and significance of our greater Christmas feast. Brito reminds us that: “If we have a major event like Christmas on December 25 and we simply arrive at Christmas without haven’t spent the season prior to that in preparation for Christmas, I think over the years—it trivializes the event. It becomes something you do, not something you expect.”

Advent 2017 will begin on Sunday, December 3 and ends on Sunday, December 24. The liturgical color for Advent is purple, Kuyperian Contributor Steve Macias also wrote on its significance here.


Read more

By In Family and Children

The Case for the Community Calendar

At the heart of the Church Calendar is the weekly gathering of God’s people around the Lord’s Table. This is the Lord’s Day. Every other celebration throughout the Church Year is nothing more than a commentary of what goes in the church each week.

Since our earliest days after the resurrection of Jesus, the church has been celebrating the Lord’s Day on Sunday. Our fathers understood that this day was anticipated in the Hebrew Scriptures with all of the references to the “eighth day.” Circumcision occurred on the eighth day (Lev 12.3). Cleansing of lepers went through an eight-day process, and he was fully cleansed on the eighth day (Lev 14.10, 23). Other uncleannesses went through a seven-day cleansing process so that the unclean person was finally clean on the eighth day (cf. Lev 15.14; Num 6.10). The Temple of Solomon and the visionary Temple of Ezekiel both have seven-day cleansings with the eighth day being the day that final cleansing is realized (1Kg 8.65; Ez 43.27).

Time, being a part of creation, was corrupted by the sin of Adam. The entire first week of creation had to be cleansed. A new creation came out of the old. This happened on the eighth day, the day that Jesus rose from the dead. Consequently, the apostles set the example for us to gather the church on the first day of the week; or the eighth day (cf. Ac 20.7; 1Cor 16.2).

While it is good to follow this pattern, it doesn’t seem that this is absolutely necessary. There is freedom in the new covenant church to set apart times to gather around the Lord’s Table on other days if necessary because of persecution or some other extenuating circumstance. God has given the church “stars”–pastors (cf. Rev 1.20)–to govern the times and seasons for the church as wisdom dictates what is best for the church in that situation. When the pastors of these churches set the time to gather around the Lord’s Table, then it is incumbent upon the members of the congregation to be there unless providentially hindered. To refuse to obey those who have rule over you (Heb 13.17) is a sin.

But what about the rest of the activities of the church? The rest of the activities of the church that don’t involve the Lord’s Table are not “absolutely necessary.” That is, you shouldn’t be under the threat of excommunication for not going to a Vespers’ service or a special Feast.

If these activities aren’t absolutely necessary, then why do churches have them? God has given us a blueprint for what he wants the church to be. This blueprint is all throughout Scripture but culminates in one glorious vision in Revelation 21–22. The pastor is called to be a Temple builder (cf. 1Cor 3). We look at the blueprints and then begin to figure how best to build our local congregations to match the design of God. The Lord’s Day service is non-negotiable. It is foundational. But the Lord’s Service is only one aspect of our lives together. To build a loving, vibrant culture, we must have shared life, which means shared time. These times need to contribute to what we are called to be as the church.

God’s Temple is a house of prayer for all nations, so we have special prayer services outside of the Lord’s Service to keep us engaged with one another and fulfill our mission for the world. God’s Temple is a place of celebration, so we have special feast days together–everything from fellowship meals on certain Sundays of the month to big blow out feasts for Easter and All Saints.

No, you won’t be excommunicated if you don’t come to these other activities. But why wouldn’t you want to come? Why do other voluntary commitments to ball teams and other cultural events take precedence over commitments to the church? Why are these other activities more important to you and your family? Why do you love these other things more than you love Christ’s church?

I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on you. Those other activities are probably all fine in their proper places. My responsibility in contributing to the building of this Temple of God is, in part, to lead those under my care to examine their lives in terms of what God is wanting us, his church, to be. We are not to be looking at our participation in the church as merely an “activity,” a burdensome commitment among many other demands on us. We are not to think of Sunday worship as “punching our time card.” Our life as the church is a way of life. That life involves prioritizing the church and her life over other activities in life; that is, saying “No” to invitations to do other things because you have a prior commitment to give your life to the church.

If we are not doing this, then what are we doing? If we aren’t living life together and building a culture, then we are just another volunteer organization with a pep talk and a snack on Sundays.

Read more

By In Politics

Calendar And Community

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. (more…)

Read more

By In Podcast

Episode 3: “Why Celebrate the Church Calendar?”

On this third episode, Andrew Isker interviews Uri Brito to discuss the question of why we should celebrate the Church Calendar.

Read more

By In Theology, Worship

10 Reasons to Celebrate the Church Calendar

Advent has begun in full force. The pro-calendar apologists have started to fight for their cause. The anti-calendar intoleristas are in full Puritan gear armed to fight for their white walls and the right to preach on Leviticus on Christmas morning.

I side with the pro-calendar party. We believe we can make America great again by incorporating a heavy dose of Jesus throughout the year. My claim is that many evangelical churches that share a slight Catholic-phobia towards the Church Calendar are already drinking much of the calendar. Most Baptist churches here in the South—who have always celebrated Christmas and Easter–are now adopting the Advent Wreath by prominently displaying it on Sunday morning. My modest proposal is to encourage these churches to take a few more steps.

I should say at the outset that I have no intention to take this to the “next level.” I am a happy ecumenical Protestant who has zero interest in jumping onto the Vatican bandwagon. I say this to stress that I am not advocating the officialization of the celebration of saints and their pets into the life of the Church. I think the Church does best and remains most faithful to the Holy Scriptures when she sticks to Jesus and his life and its effects in the world. Keep it simple students!

With that in mind, here are ten reasons I think evangelicals should celebrate the Church Calendar:

First, for those of us in the Reformed tradition, we should note that there is precedent for such observance. For instance, the Second Helvetic Confession of 1566 states (XXIV):

“Moreover, if the churches do religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s Nativity, Circumcision, Passion, Resurrection, and of his Ascension into heaven, and the sending of the    Holy Spirit upon his disciples, according to Christian liberty, we do very well approve of it.”

The continental Reformers differed with our Scottish brothers on these issues. Celebrating the Church Calendar can be unmistakably reformational.

Second, the Church Calendar helps us to see the world through the life of Messiah Jesus. We live in an era where political messiahs come and go. One way to de-emphasize the politics of man is to proclaim the politics of heaven. We do this most beautifully by following the Church Calendar and teaching our people and the nations about the only true Lord.

Third, the Church Calendar can serve to differentiate God’s time from the world’s time. Christians ought to give the question “What time is it?” a fundamentally different answer. It may be 9:22AM central time as I write these words, but the Christian knows that it’s 9:22AM in God’s world. God controls time, and he also orders time, and he has chosen Jesus (Hebrews 1) to speak. We redeem time most Christianly when Jesus is the center of it.

Fourth, some may ask: “Isn’t Jesus always proclaimed whether we celebrate Epiphany or not?” Of course He is. And I do not doubt the motives of many who do not follow the Church Calendar. My response, however, is that we can’t say everything about Jesus all the time, which is why we need to walk through his life and give emphasis to different portions of his life so that God’s people can know that Easter is not complete without an Ascension Sunday. Celebrating the Church Calendar helps us to understand the total Christ and his total life.

Fifth, celebrating the Church Calendar gives us parents beautiful ways to catechize our children with Jesus. Our children’s ABCs need to be Christocentric. They need to know that life only makes sense because Jesus has come for us. Numbers, letters, and playtime are taught best when Jesus rules supremely in the catechism of the home. Children love stories. Story-telling is fundamentally the role of the Calendar. The Calendar helps our kids to be formed by right chronological habits. It helps our children to know we are part of a larger story.

Sixth, celebrating the Church Calendar is useful for counseling. Calendar use is helpful to those who grieve. The Church Calendar most accurately reflects the eclectic nature of the Psalmist who laments, rejoices, and prays. Many who grieve may be a part of a community that is strict, abstract, and heavily theological. While good exegesis is good for the soul and while good systematic theology cheers the mind, a three-year series through I Corinthians can frustrate the broken-hearted. Walk the broken through the Calendar, and she will understand that Easter comes after Lent; that joy comes after sorrow. On the other hand, we can use the Calendar to teach the over-realized optimist that we need to set periods of time to focus on grieving and confessing our sins to the Lord of Calvary.

Seventh, celebrating the Church Calendar gives us an opportunity to add colors to the Church. The Christian faith is true and good, but it is also beautiful. This may seem like a minor point, but colors add to the brilliance of Church life. The Bible loves colors. It shows the favor of God (Gen. 37:3). The Church Calendar glorifies natural colors and gives them greater meaning.

Eighth, celebrating the Church Calendar gives us something to talk about. You can’t speak of the Advent Wreath without talking about hope, joy, love, and peace. The Church Calendar helps us to focus on those Christian virtues that form us as a community.

Ninth, celebrating the Church Calendar also encourages our children, friends, and unbelievers to ask questions about the faith. Why are there forty days in Lent? Why are there 12 days in Christmas? Why is purple the color of Lent? When questions arise, we draw people to the text where questions are answered and Jesus is revealed.

Finally, celebrating the Church Calendar gives us a big gospel. We are an expectant people. We no longer wait for a Messiah, but we expect the Messiah to come again and again into our lives to disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight. We need the Calendar because we lose sight of what’s important. We need the Calendar because the Gospel is too big and our Lord too mighty. The Calendar focuses our attention carefully, chronologically, and conscientiously through the work of Jesus and what that work means for us and the world.

Read more