- Written by Tom Miles Tom Miles
- Created: 28 January 2010 28 January 2010
This February, we will see yet again the abrupt transition from Epiphany to Lent, going with Jesus from the Mountain of the Transfiguration to the path to Jerusalem and the cross. It’s instructive to consider how and why we move so quickly from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to the end.
In the lectionary—the standardized collection of readings that we use for worship—we experience the three-year ministry of Jesus with each of the synoptic Evangelists in turn. In Year A, we travel through Matthew’s Gospel, and dwell in the teachings of Jesus, especially those from the Sermon on the Mount. Mark, who frequently uses the word “immediately,” rushes us through Year B with a sense of urgency. We are led in Year C by the doctor, Luke, who methodically recounts the life of Jesus.
The chronological flow of the Lectionary is diverted through the flood gates of the Ecclesiastical seasons. The church year is divided into a special calendar that runs from Advent through Christ the King Sunday. Advent ends with Christmas. The twelfth day of Christmas is Epiphany. The time after Epiphany ends with a celebration of the Transfiguration, which leads into Ash Wednesday and Lent. The forty days of Lent end with the Easter cycle: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Sunday of the Resurrection, the climax of the church year. The Easter Season lasts for fifty days, until Pentecost. The season after Pentecost begins with Trinity Sunday, stretches across the summer and fall through All Saints Day to Christ the King Sunday at the end of November.
February sits at the intersection of two seasons: Epiphany and Lent. We will return to Luke’s account of Jesus’ ministry this Summer, but the narrative flow following the early part of Jesus’ ministry is now interrupted that we may begin the stories of Lent.
And, in a way, it’s fitting. What better time to begin preparing ourselves for the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus than after seeing Him revealed to us as our Lord and King, fully God and fully human, in Epiphany? It gives us a keen awareness of who it is who goes to the cross on our behalf: God’s own Son, Almighty God Himself, Emmanuel!