We are in the middle of the great, green, growing season in the church. That’s how Godly Play, a Sunday school curriculum I taught for some years, describes the season after Pentecost.
The church year begins at Advent, which usually begins right after Thanksgiving. Advent comes in with a rush, as we prepare for the Christ light to come into the world, and then moves into the magical celebration of Christmas. After Christmas, the church year offers a bit of a midwinter breather during Epiphany, but then, before you know it, Lent has arrived, and we are busy again with the buildup to Holy Week and Easter. After that, it’s only a few more weeks until the fiery excitement of Pentecost. It can feel like all the action of the church year is packed into the six months between December and May.
Then summer arrives, and the whole thing slows down. There are no major church holidays, no change of liturgical colors and seasons. Just the slow progression of one “green” Sunday after another. This year, we will count 25 Sundays after Pentecost before we come to a new church season later this fall. After the fast-paced first half of the church year, all those green Sundays in a row can feel a little strange, even a little monotonous. Christians even call this season “ordinary time” because it is so consistent.
Sometimes, I wish the green season were shorter, or maybe even sprinkled with some fun church holidays. But other times, I realize this season is its own gift. In the rhythm of our northern hemisphere, it is a time for resting and playing through the long summer days.
Spiritually, this can also be a great time for growing – as the color green implies. Christians often set goals for the season of Lent, trying out new spiritual disciplines or breaking bad habits. But I have found that most years, the six weeks of Lent fly by before I’ve made much progress toward my intended spiritual goal. But the great, green, growing season is four times longer than Lent! Plenty of time to try, fail, and try again. Plenty of time to grow.
During the season after Pentecost, the lection readings for Sunday mornings move through one Gospel per year; this year it’s Mark. That kind of focus gives us the chance to really linger in the stories about Jesus’ life and teaching, to hear the whole story rather than just bits and pieces, to dive more deeply into this particular Gospel writer’s perspective. This fall, the Sunday Gospel readings will walk us through the second half of Mark, during which Jesus offers repeated teachings about what it means to be a disciple. It’s the perfect time for us to think about our own journeys as disciples of Christ and ask how we might keep growing in our faith.
So as summer draws to a close and the fall rush of school and work picks up again, remember that you are still rooted in the great, green, growing season for another few months. What might this season have to teach you this year?