As the global ecological crisis becomes more of an existential threat, how are Christians called to connect our “worshipful life in Christ with our wonderful/worrisome life in creation”? Joseph Bush, Jr. takes up this question in “Worshiping in Season: Ecology and Christ through the Liturgical Year.”
We typically think about the Christian calendar as a way of understanding how people on Earth live as followers of Jesus. The premise of Bush’s well-written volume is that the church’s two central liturgical moments — the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle and the Lent-Easter-Pentecost cycle — need to be reexamined in light of how these movements relate “to the planet and not only the people on the planet.”
Drawing from an ecumenical well of commentaries, theologians and poets — including the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, Pope Francis’s papal encyclicals and Wendell Berry — Bush steps back to look at essential liturgical postures like repentance as a way for the church to enact God’s steadfast love for the whole world.
For example, Pentecost honors God’s Spirit, who sustains the church and fills all believers. According to Bush, God’s Spirit also “enlivens all of creation” and initiates the renewal of creation. The wind and water motifs that represent the Pentecost moment lead Bush to make connections between what God is doing in disciples, what God is doing in the earth and how Christians participate in God’s activity.
This is a timely resource for churches of all theological persuasions. Bush skillfully and prophetically calls out the ways in which humanity’s lack of care for the earth is having disastrous consequences, especially on the poor. But this book is not a gloomy recitation of our ecological ills. Instead, this is a refreshingly hopeful text that guides preachers on an environmentally conscious journey through the liturgical year.
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Before you go…
The church has often acted as if the Christian story had nothing to do with where Christians live — on the earth. Bush’s book, as well as this week’s curated resources, call us to expand our theological and liturgical point of view. Instead of addressing ecological concerns as a stand-alone topic, we can put the issue where it belongs: in the center of our worship life. You’re up to the challenge. I hope you’ll encourage your people to take this journey with you.
Stay in touch by emailing me and the Alban Weekly team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next week, keep leading!
Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity