Book Review: Ancient Future Time (Sep-Dec 2005)

By Matt Dabbs

Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year

by Ken Haynes
September – October, 2005

Ancient Future Time
by Dr. Robert E. Webber

208 Pages (Paperback)
Baker Books 2004

How can we better allow God to do his work of spiritual formation through worship? Robert Webber’s latest work gives individuals and churches a rich resource for learning how we might be spiritually formed by the practice of the Christian year.

Webber’s work is the third installment in the Ancient Future Series. The series seeks to connect people with the biblical and classical tradition of the church while engaging the full spectrum of the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant manifestations. The series also seeks to nurture authentic communities of faith in the twenty-first century by reminding us that the road to the future runs through the past.

Webber begins Ancient Future Time by giving us a deeper appreciation for Christian-year spirituality. The work is not a history of the Christian year as much as a resource for those seeking to experience time in a more meaningful and God centered manner. Webber opens the book by reminding us that Christ is the source of spirituality, the church is the center of spirituality, and worship is the expression of spirituality. Webber then proceeds to teach us how the Christian year can spiritually form us by moving one deeper into the mystery of the incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and second coming of Jesus. Christian Year spirituality is a spiritual discipline, but a discipline we might not be as familiar with. It is a discipline in which we intentionally enter into Christ by living in the pattern of his saving deeds and in anticipation of his rule over all creation. The overarching purpose of Christian- year spirituality is to become so thoroughly identified with God’s saving events that we live in the pattern of dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ.

Webber walks us through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter and Ordinary time. In each chapter he takes the time to develop the meaning of each period and the relevant themes that can shape our spiritual journey.

As someone whose faith was nurtured in the context of the American Restoration Movement, I do not have a long history in practicing the Christian Year. However, I have been richly blessed that my church has chosen to follow the calendar for the past two years. I must confess that the rich blessing of the Christian Year was totally unexpected for me. In a world where tradition is typically thought of as stifling to spiritual growth, it is ironic that the tradition of the Calendar has been such a blessing in my spiritual journey. My sense is that a recovery of the calendar can be a rich spiritual discipline for all seekers, but especially those postmoderns who are seeking ways for Christ to be a lived relational experience through the year. If you are new to the Christian calendar, this is an excellent introduction. If you have practiced Christian-year spirituality for many years, I would recommend Robert Webber’s work as a way to hear the cycle and rhythms of the year with even more clarity.

Ken Haynes is an executive with IBM. He lives in Birmingham, AL, with his wife, Deborah and two children, Will and Meg. Ken is a graduate of Auburn University. He shares community with a family of believers known as Disciples’ Fellowship (http://www.disciplesfellowship.com) and participates in the Birmingham Emergent Cohort. He enjoys music of all kinds, moved by everything from Coltrane to Cohen, Sufjan to Stevie, Bach to Bono. E-mail him at [haynesk@us.ibm.com].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1583 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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