“So teach us to number our days,” prayed the great prophet Moses in Psalm 90, “that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90: 12).1 The request lies at the center of his meditation on the impermanence of the creature compared with the everlasting power of God. Our days end “like a sigh” (Psalm 90:9), they are “soon gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90: 10). For modern people striving to separate themselves from any sign of death, it might seem morbid to ask God to show you how short your life will be. Worse, for many people — the young mother cooking yet another meal, those suffering chronic health conditions, the increasing number of people enduring mental and emotional anguish — the effort of “numbering” days might feel cruel. I get up and do the same set of tasks over and over — bathing, eating, working — only to do it all again tomorrow. I kick against these cyclically monotonous goads. I should be going somewhere, accomplishing something, or — that most elusive hope — flourishing. Is there a way out of the drudgery? The simple answer is yes — by considering the day of your inevitable death. But how can you do that? By following the church year in the company of other believers. In other words, by going to church. The heart of the church year is the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The work of celebrating His life — from the time you are born until the time you die — is the spiritual backdrop, the practical meditation on that difficult line from Moses’ psalm: “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past” (Psalm 90: 4). A spiritual community of people toiling through the church year is going to do a lot of worshiping and working together. They are going to want to be reverent, but also “at home” in the space they weekly gather. The whole church together is the Bride that Christ purchases for Himself on the cross. There is, therefore, enough room for the whole mystical body of his faithful people — toddlers, tweeners, snowbirds, able, infirm, functional, dysfunctional, confused. The rhythm of their lives is determined by the inclinations and habits of the worshiping community. That community won’t be people they pick for themselves among their favorite TikTok followers. Rather, they will be people God places as burdens on their weary minds, as part of their heavenly inheritance. When the local church gathers for prayer, worship, study, and meals, you’re going to want to try to figure out how to be there. It is almost impossible to accomplish this anchoring rhythm on your own without the help of an actual in-real-life group of people who are also trying to bend themselves to the strange pleasures of that other home. Fundamentally, when you walk into a room filled with other Christians, however sad or anxious you are, you gradually want to feel the deep gladness of God’s favor in the peculiar communion of those particular people. Only God has the power to confer that gift. He accomplishes it when you submit yourself to the work and worship of a distinct, local body. If the Scriptures are the bedrock of that body, the cornerstone, the sure foundation, whatever their special days, their feasts and fasts, the Christian’s obedient gladness in that community will lighten the way and make the long journey seem much, much less than a thousand years.
This Postmodern Realities episode is a conversation with JOURNAL author Anne Kennedy about her online-exclusive article, “Go to Church! How Living Through the Church Year Can Help You Get a Grip on Your Life, Your Faith, and Your Family“.
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