I grew up in the Mennonite Church, a non-liturgical church. In fact, I didn’t even know what a liturgy was, what the lectionary was. In my church, the emphasis was that we do only what is commanded in the Bible. Later, as an ordained minister in the Mennonite Church, I became involved in local ministerial associations, thus, had contact with ministers of many denominations. Through these contacts, I participated in services that were more liturgical and began to look more closely at the lectionary and what it meant for those who followed it.
Later in my ministry, the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries, an agency of the Mennonite Church that provided educational and worship resources to congregations, began to offer worship aids for the Sundays in Advent and Lent. These aids were based on the Revised Common Lectionary. I began to use these resources and found them very meaningful for worship and preaching.
What I began to appreciate about the lectionary was that it provided a way to think Christianly about the days of our lives. This tied in well with the Mennonite emphasis on following Christ daily in life. As I think through Lent in my non-liturgical church, it provides an opportunity to reflect on exactly the meaning of following Christ daily in life. There are those of us who do give up “something” for Lent as a way of reminding ourselves of the discipleship we are called to as followers and worshipers of Jesus. It is so easy to take our life in/with Christ and his people for granted. The forty days of Lent models the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness when he grappled with what doing the will of God the Father would mean for him. Lent give us the same opportunity to wrestle with what following Jesus will mean for us in the days of our lives.
Hans Denck, an early Anabaptist leader made a comment that has become a common quote among Mennonites: “No one can know Christ truly unless you follow him daily in life.” Mennonites aver that no one can follow Christ unless you truly know him. Lent offers a unique time to reflect on what Denck is saying to us. One way that Denck’s quote helps me during Lent is that it reminds me of my commitment to Christ and to reflect on both my failings in that commitment and my faithfulness.
Denck reminds me and all of us that there is an intimate link between truly knowing Christ and following him. This link is so intricate that it is hard to say which comes first. We can say that coming to personal knowledge of Christ must precede following Him. I will concede that is true. However, if such personal knowledge doesn’t lead us to following Him daily in our lives than our knowledge is of little value in life. I’m not suggesting salvation by works, only that any true, vital relationship involves knowledge and commitment.
Reflection: As we come to Lent, we hear both the words of our Lord to take up my cross and follow him (Mark 8:34) and the words of Denck calling us to a living relationship with God that enables us to follow Christ faithfully in life.
*Written by The Reverend Dennis Kuhns, Mennonite Pastor, Harrisonburg, VA.