I grew up in between the GARBC and the IFCA. Christians, like the military, love their acronyms and insider speak. Those both stand for General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and the Independent Fundamental Churches of America. Both are loose associations. Both pride themselves in their independence from a larger ecclesiastical accountability. And both would naturally lean toward a low church disconnected liturgy.
That previous paragraph could sound really negative, but it is just a reality of my past. I am now a pastor of an independent non-denominational church that leans toward baptistic and reformed doctrine. We are not a member of any church association. And we would never be construed as high church in any way.
I have never worn a clerical robe. I have never lit a candle in a worship service. We burn absolutely zero incense. And our meeting space has basketball and volleyball court lines on the floor.
To confess how utterly low church I was raised, I remember working at the Family Christian Stores in college in Grand Rapids, on what must’ve been a Wednesday. I know it must’ve been a Wednesday because someone came in to browse the books and from the kindness of my heart from behind the cash register, I let them know they had a smudge on their forehead . . . I’m not joking. I mean, I would want to know if I had a big dirt smudge on my forehead . . . They looked at me with utter shock and told me “It’s Ash Wednesday!” I immediately thought, “They must be a Calvin student!”
I had no frame of reference for the church calendar. No experience with Ash Wednesday, or Fat Tuesday, and especially no experience with Lent.
And so this year, I am experiencing something quite new, as I started the new year in a sermon series marching through the end of the gospel of Matthew section by section leading the church through the darkness of the Lenten season toward the glorious light of Easter. The steps are plodding. The narrative is slow and methodical. The darkness is heavy and real, as week after week we encounter, predictions of crucifixion, betrayals, denials, scatterings, regrets, miscarriages of justice, and many other realities of darkness and sin.
Easter will not come upon me as a surprise this year! It is shaping up to be more than merely a single Sunday out of this year. It has been building. It has been anticipated. We have traversed dark places on our road as a church to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
There is something refreshing and wise in the church calendar. And while I do not expect to do this every year, it has been helpful to understand why high church traditions have incorporated these rhythms and cadences in the yearly calendar. The light of Easter is set in the backdrop of very dark and dire events.
And this low church pastor is grateful for the help of Matthew in bringing ReCAST Church through the darkness in anticipation of the dawn! I am ready for Easter. I am excited for resurrection.