Adiaphora Part 3
There is a third matter considered "adiaphora" in our Lutheran Tradition that I wish to touch on, and that is the Church Calendar.
As you may recall in recent weeks I have discussed the historic liturgy and the common lectionary. To review, to use Lutheran Confessional language, these are matters of “adiaphora”, that is, they are neither commanded in Scripture, nor are they forbidden. But that does not mean they are unimportant!
We are not saved by worshiping according to the Lutheran order of Service or by following the Revised Common Lectionary. But especially in the Lutheran Tradition we have noted Biblical and historical precedence for these elements. We also have found their use to be most helpful in shaping us as disciples in the Christian Faith. We find the same with the employment of the Church Calendar.
The Church Calendar as we know it did not exactly fall down from heaven. Some of the dates that we commemorate and celebrate were chosen for other reasons than the certain knowledge of when the event occurred. We, for instance, don’t know the actual birth date of our Incarnate Lord Jesus.
So why is it so important to use something that is not commanded or given us in Scripture?
For starters, we certainly pattern our lives cyclically around a calendar. The largely secular calendar is followed by most everyone in our modern age, and for obvious beneficial reasons. For similar reasons our spiritual lives can be patterned around such things as the major events in Christ’s life and ministry, and the different spiritual stages of our lives in Christ.
Concerning Christ, we annually mark His Incarnate birth, His baptism, His Galilean and Judean itinerant ministry, His Death and Resurrection, His Ascension, and His Coming Return as Judge and King. Concerning stages of Faith, we travel repeatedly through preparation, anticipation, epiphanies, dying and rising, celebration, growth, and maturation.
Once again the Church calendar functions as a reliable and wise guide to form us in Him.
Since You Asked…
Why is incense used in some churches?
The use of incense is not unique to Christianity or Judaism and is used in many of the world’s religions to enhance special times and places by sight and smell. In Christian worship incense is effectively used at the beginning of the Service of the Word and in preparing for receiving Holy Communion. The burning of incense is associated with the prayers of worship rising before God (cf. Psa 141:2; Rev 8:4). Good worship should engage all the human senses. In this connection it should be pointed out that the olfactory sense is perhaps the most sensitive of the five senses; it continues to function even during sleep. (Indebted to Aidan Kavanah in his “Elements of Rite”.)