By John McLean, Director of ACCM
The GCI Worship Calendar is designed to focus our worship and attention directly on Jesus – his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, and the giving of the promised Comforter.
Each one of us has our own personal story. Our stories are—naturally!—very important to us. Our birth, growth, adulthood. Our achievements, our challenges, difficulties. And in its own way each story is unique, to be cherished and valued.
Each of us knows in the depths of our being that if our brief span of life is all there is – if that’s it, “signifying nothing” as Shakespeare put it—our personal story can be frustratingly futile. Like the grass of the field, we wither and fade. And the dark side of only individual stories can be the default to loneliness, separation, even the fragmentation of society.
A major step in the right direction is when we see that our story exists only in the context of others—that “my story” makes more sense when we consider “our story.” We are relational beings: child, parent, husband, wife, sibling, friend, colleague. Our story helps make sense of and gives meaning to my story.
We know there is still something missing. And indeed, there can even be a dark side to “our story”: us-versus-them, the stigmatizing of the “other” who is outside our group, tribe, state, country.
Just as well there is the Big Story, the greatest of all stories—which makes sense of all our personal and collective stories. It is no less than “His Story” (history!)—the majestic, cosmic story of God, revealed in his Son, Jesus Christ. Christians call this the gospel, the good news. It’s the good news of a God who creates and wants to share his love and fellowship with us. It’s the incredibly good news of Jesus coming to earth, breaking into our physical dimensions of time and space, to be one of us, to redeem us, to invite us into this eternal relationship of love and grace.
In Jesus, we see the human face of God. In Jesus, we see the love of God made manifest. Through Jesus, we have faith and hope, and we are included in God’s love. That’s worth celebrating! And so the GCI Worship Calendar is designed to focus our worship and attention directly on Jesus—his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, and the giving of the promised Comforter.
This story is told in the four Gospels and the eternal consequences are examined there and throughout all of the New Testament. In the Old Testament, we see evidence of God’s saving work, of his faithfulness, and the preparation for Jesus’ coming, the spelling out of the need of mankind for a Savior. We see evidence that only by grace can salvation be accomplished.
In Jesus, we see the fulfillment of all that was promised. We see the reality of the divine come to live among us. The shadows are consumed by the reality of who Jesus is and all that he does. He gives meaning to all our stories and, by so doing, gives hope for all humanity for all time.
As much as they were dismayed by his crucifixion, the early disciples were even more stunned by the resurrection and ascension of their friend and teacher. They recognized that something unique had happened. Not just another event in the history of events, but THE event that changes and transforms all the other events. This event was so earth-shattering, it heralded a new creation, a new way of seeing the world, a new way of thinking, a new way or worshipping, celebrating and living.
Something new had been ushered into the world. It was so exciting, so mind-expanding, so joyful and amazing, that it needed to be celebrated. This was a deep well that could never be exhausted. It was the story—his story—that could never be surpassed. It was a story that had personal, community and indeed cosmic dimensions. Jesus was the new and now inevitable focus of worship.
And so the GCI Worship Calendar each year keeps us focused on the story of Jesus, our Savior. The foundation is his remarkable resurrection. All four Gospels make the point of telling us the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning and discovered it empty. And so the story founded on the reality of his resurrection: “He is risen.” It’s not just about a good moral teacher. It’s about God among us, changing the story completely.
The gospel story tells us about Jesus’ birth—a vulnerable baby—yet born to save the world; he is good news for all mankind. That’s worth celebrating! The GCI Worship Christian calendar walks us through major events and major moments of teaching in Jesus’ life and ministry. It takes us in preparation for his crucifixion, his redeeming death, and subsequent resurrection and ascension. And then on to his promise, and delivery, of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, and the creation of the church. All these elements, and more, focus on Jesus and give us hope. No wonder church is meant to be a beacon of hope in the world as we point people to Jesus.
Each year the calendar takes us to these realities at the center of our worship. We learn best by doing. Actually forming our worship around these compass points, all of which keep our focus on Jesus, orients our lives, our stories, to the greatest story ever, the gospel story. In our worship, time and eternity intersect—in Jesus. He is life, truth, love and belonging.
One writer recently lamented that the West is losing its identity because it has lost sight of any overarching narrative that makes sense of all the competing narratives that demand our attention. Even theologian Tom Wright has lamented the tendency to lose sight of the Big Story, and be kidnapped by competing secondary stories, of the Christian church.
We make sense of all our stories as we tell and retell the magnificent life-changing story of Jesus. Celebrating the GCI Worship Calendar is an important and joyful way for us to keep directly focused on Jesus—the center of the center.