I keep a file for every Sunday in the Church Year. My sermons and bulletins go there, as do my catena of quotes taken from various sources about the text for that day. Sometimes I put pertinent emails from the heady days of email groups (everything seems to have migrated to Facebook these days). At any rate, my brother-in-office Robert Schaibley once posted these words in an email group about the season of Pre-Lent, aka Gesimatide, aka “those Gesimas”.
I’ve stopped trying to evangelize for the historic One-Year Lectionary, because I figure those who evangelize end up defending, and that’s the one-down position, which I do not like to take. “Itching ears” is discussed by St. Paul, and I’ll just let his testimony stand.
But, I will try to clear up a misconception, perhaps even a “misunderestimating” (as my favorite U.S. President, after Lincoln and right next to Reagan, puts it) of Pre-Lent. Pre-Lent is exactly “a time of preparation for a time of preparation.” Exactly! But certainly not redundantly — and those who mock this double preparation either haven’t given their charge serious thought, or they have a unlutheran bias against preparation/penitence/penance over against Luther’s observation in the first of his 95 Theses — “The entire Christian life is a life of penance!”
So, in what does this preparation consist? It consists in a three-week regime of the reason for, and assurance concerning, the preparitory (sic) season of Lent: this regime is a short-course on what makes contrition and repentance a compelling time for Christians: Grace Alone! (Septuagesima), the Word Alone! (Sexagesima), and Christ Alone! (Quinquagesima).
But of course, only Lutherans appreciate this, by virtue of the difference between our theology and that of the other options. Rome and Constantinople will get you to the cross, but they then keep moving ahead of you, leading you on to beatification or deification. Protestantism gets you to the cross, but as a grusome (sic) event to be noted, given thanks for, and then moved beyond, toward the upward call of sanctification and the glory of God. Lutherans camp out at the cross, for the entirety of this poor, sinful life, to view Jesus as Savior and, yes, as king — but with a kingship that shapes us for the cross in this present life. But, heck, there’s a new wind blowing in this present generation, even among Lutherans, and it needs no lifetime of kneeling beneath the cross of Jesus. So, it certainly doesn’t need an extra three weeks of penitence — ask your Protestant neighbor!
So I don’t defend Pre-Lent. I preach the texts and let the season defend itself. If you are a pastor, and you preach the Three-Year series, good on ya (as they say in Australia). As for me and my house, I’ll stay with the One-Year texts for the very reason Brother Schaibley gives. Oh, and if my One-Year brethren get all high and mighty about the One-Year series being the only right series, then I’ll migrate to the Eisenach series just to spite ’em.