Understanding the Christian Calendar in the MCZ Tradition

Understanding the Christian Calendar in the MCZ Tradition

By Revd. Onias Chagudhuma (R&P Coordinator – 2023)


The Christian Calendar (also known as the Liturgical Calendar or Ecclesiastical Calendar) is an annual schedule that commemorates certain days and seasons related to the history of salvation (Cater: 2019). It is in line with this calendar that the lectionary is drawn. This [lectionary] is a preselected collection of scriptural readings (texts) from the Bible that can be used for worship or study. There are quite a number of types of lectionaries that are used in worship services by different Christian traditions. However, the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe uses the ‘Common Lectionary’ in conducting worship services and business. This is a type of lectionary that is used by ‘mainline churches’, eg, UMC, Anglican, Roman Catholic, etc.

The lectionary that we use as Methodists is a three year cycle. In this case, the three Gospels, i.e. the Synoptic Gospels, rotate their dominance on a yearly basis with the Gospel according to John featuring here and there. Apart from the ‘call to worship psalm’, three texts, i.e. one from the Old Testament, one from the Gospels and one from the Epistles, do constitute the lectionary. In this combination we are reminded of the important doctrine of Trinity. Through the combination we encounter God the Father as He is presented in the Old Testament discourses, God the Son as He is presented in the Gospel narratives and God the Spirit as He is presented in the activities of the church and the apostles in the Epistles. The combination also helps us see and have an appreciation of how God’s salvific theme for humanity developed and progressed through various stages right from the Old Testament to the New Testament.

The texts and themes on the lectionary are selected following or in line with the Christian Calendar, also referred to as the Liturgical Year as has been pointed out earlier. Preachers, both clergy and laity, are bound to preach their sermons following the provided texts and themes, except on special occasions such as fundraisings, etc. Furthermore, as the lectionary provides texts and themes which guide preachers as they prepare their sermons, what it means is that in as much as many other types of sermons are delivered in the church, the most dominant one is the ‘thematic’. ‘Thematic sermon’ is that type of sermon that develops from the theme and its divisions [also referred as sub themes] are derived from the theme (Broadus, 1944:55-56). That is why we always hear our preachers announcing the theme of the day to the congregants on the introduction part of their sermons. Even our congregants have become used to this such that they can even adjudicate as to whether the preacher’s sermon was in line with the theme of the day or not.

However, in as much as ‘mainline churches’ observe the Common Lectionary, there are slight differences on the number of events that characterize the Liturgical Year, with the Roman Catholic Church have more events than the rest of the ‘mainline churches’. The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe’s liturgical year has got nine (9) events as is shown on the pie chart above and details provided, and such headings do appear on the lectionary or preaching plan. Furthermore, there are colours that are symbolic and to be in use, either as we do our décor, on Communion tables, or on clergy regalia, for each season of the ‘Liturgical Calendar’ but that discussion has been deliberately omitted in this publication as it was clearly dealt with by Rev. Dr. Masvotore in the book, ‘Methodism in Zimbabwe: Past, Present and Future’; edited by Revs M. Mujinga and W. Dimingo, and published 2021 by the Connexional Bookshop, pp. 97 – 104.


Advent marks the beginning of the Christian Calendar or Liturgical Year. The word ‘Advent’ (from Latin ‘Adventus’) means ‘arrival’, ‘coming’ or ‘a time when something first comes or appears’. (Toon: 1984.15). This is a period when we anticipate the coming (birth) of Christ. In this anticipation we start to prepare. Advent begins normally four weeks before Christmas – the celebration of the birth of the Messiah and this is normally around 30 November or 1 December every year, and ending on the 24th of December.

Throughout the Advent period our focus is on preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Of course, many people talk of self-introspection and penitence during this time as they argue that the One who is coming should find us pure, which is not bad at all, however the main focus during the ‘advent’ period is on preparation as we expect the coming of the One in whom we have the conviction that his coming has got the full package of our salvation and wellbeing. This is the One whom we sing, “Dai asauya …” – Hymn 14:3 (Shona) – “Nxa ebengezanga …” – Hymn 45:3 (Ndebele). We do prepare in prayers and meditation. For those who would want to make their Christmas season colourful this is the time which Christmas trees can be set.

We will notice that the texts and themes on the lectionary as well as the compilation of topics of the Class Book will be focusing on this notion of preparation. For example, our 2023 Advent set of themes is as follows:

  • 3 December: “Our hope is in the redemption by Christ”. 
  • 10 December: “God brings deliverance”.
  • 17 December: “God’s message comes through His servants”.
  • etc.

Just looking at these themes we see the notion of ‘coming’ being at the centre stage. In this case, the lectionary helps us to be within the Christian context.

Advent period coincides with the festive season and in most cases the mood of the festive season end up threatening to overshadow it. However, in the midst of that misinterpretations of the same event by the secular world the meaning and inspirations that we draw from the same period are totally different from that of the external world. In as much as the secular world interprets that as a moment of blooming their businesses, to us who are being saved it is a moment of focusing on our redemption which comes through Chipo chakakomba (Hymn 136 [Shona]; Sipho esikhulu (Hymn 56) [Ndebele].

Furthermore, Methodist worship is characterized by combination of preaching of the ‘Word’ and music. As God speaks to us through the preaching of the Word, we respond and express our faith in song. In other words, just as the ancient Israelites had the culture of responding to what God would have done to them, as individuals or entire nation, in psalms so it is with us. Our Hymn Book is a collection of psalms (songs) of what God has done to us, is doing and will do. We do not just sing for the sake of singing or as routine, or to decorate our ‘order of service’. Our music is full of theology. In this case, besides the selection of texts and themes that are in line with the ‘Advent’ period the hymns that dominate our worship services during the ‘Advent’ period are also in line with this special event. This is the time where we see hymns such as 27 (Shona), 14 (Shona), 45 (Ndebele), 46 (Ndebele), etc. featuring regularly as they help us prepare our hearts for the coming of this ‘King of holiness’ who is to come. In the same vein, in a bid to help us to be within the context, our hymns (Hymn Book) is also partitioned under the headings that help us understand songs which suit each and every particular season in which we will be in, hence select hymns accordingly. Hymns for each particular season and events are grouped together in chronological order of the events that characterize the life and mission of Jesus Christ as well as our response to that mission on various occasions.

Some of the hymns that dominate our worship services during the ‘Advent’ period:

Hymn 27 Shona Imi makonhi emwoyo, Zarukai , mukwidzike! Uyu Mambo woutsvene Anoda kuti apinde. …  
Hymn 45 Ndebele Hosana ngaphezulu! Ngivuma ngezwi lami, KuNdodana kaDavide Ozayo ngenxa yami, Hosana! Ungisize Ebunzimeni bami; Uyeza, akabizwa, OnguMsindisi wami. …  
Hymn 14 Shona Hozana wokudenga Ndo’imba nezwi rangu, Kumwana waDhavhidhi Wouya kwandiri; Hozana, ndiyamure Pakurema kwangu Wouya asadanwa Muponesi wangu. …  


The One we have been preparing for his coming for the past 4 weeks has finally arrived. This is the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, and is done on the 25th of December. ‘Christmas’ comes from the Greek, ‘Christos’ which means ‘anointed one’ and the Latin ‘Mass’ which is also translated ‘Missa’, meaning ‘to be sent’. What it means here is that it is Christ’s Mass. It is a Christ’s festival of being sent out to the world by the Father. However, in his coming, he did not just fall down like a stone. He was born.

There is a lot of debate from different traditions on the issue of the actual date of Christmas. Scriptures do not reveal the actual date of Christ’s birth and the earliest Christians had no fixed time for observing it as well. However, by the late fourth century Christmas was generally celebrated in the churches, although on differing dates in different locales. Eventually 25 December became the official recognized date for Christmas (Oliver, 1984:220). The fact that it is not spelt out in the scriptures and that it was being commemorated on different dates by the early Christians has been taken by other Christian traditions as the reason for dismissing the validity of this important event and date.

However, as Methodists, we do observe and commemorate Christmas on 25 December each year and our church buildings will be open for worship services on this date. Our position is that our celebration is not the date. In as much as we have 25 December as the fixed date, we do not celebrate the date but the event. Christ was born, and nobody disputes that. We celebrate the incarnation of God, (Ishe waburuka kudenga wakava munhu kuvanhu … [Hymn 54:2 Shona] / Inkosi yehla ezulwini yaba ngumunhu ebantwini … [Hymn 64:2 – Ndebele]). We celebrate the reality of John 1:14 [“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us …”]. God Himself came into the world, became human and made His dwelling amongst humans so as to be the Redeemer of humanity. We commemorate because we know that God sent His Son to become man on earth in order that one day he would become the payment for the sins of the whole world; past, present and future. On this day what was prophesied by Isaiah on 7:14 was fulfilled [“… The virgin will be with a child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”]. The Messiah that was prophesied for generations has come. There is every reason to celebrate.

Second, there is also debate from other Christian traditions as to whether observing Christmas by Christians is the right thing to do. The debate is arising from the fact that there is nowhere in the scriptures (especially the Gospels) where we see Jesus directly instructing his followers to observe and commemorate his birth. As a result, there are some Christian traditions, for example, the Jehovah’s Witness who actually say that it is evil to observe Christmas as Jesus is understood not in the sense we do (Robertson, 1966:49-53). Other several traditions have got their own arguments which they use to deny the validity of observing Christmas by Christians.

Despite the denial by the said traditions, as Methodists and other mainline churches, we do observe and commemorate Christmas. Of course there is nowhere in the scriptures where we are instructed or commanded to commemorate Christmas (the birth of Jesus) but that does not mean we should not. There are quite a number of events and days we observe and commemorate as Christians, the events and days which are not directly instructed or commanded to us. We do so because our conscience and convictions tell us to do so. For us to be able to understand this we ought to take a glimpse into our social lives. We observe and commemorate our parents’ birth days, sometimes to the extent of organizing surprise birthday parties for them, but there is no direct instruction from them that we should commemorate their birth days. We just do so because our conscience tell us that such events are important to us as it was on such date and event that somebody who played a critical role in our lives came into the world. Had it not of that day and event, there would not have been any of us to talk about or to be known in the land of the living. In that we are convinced and convicted that we should observe such dates and events. The same applies to our observance and commemoration of Christmas as Christians. Had it not that Christ was born, there was not going to be any of our salvation to talk about. We are what we are and who we are because Christ was born. In this case, there is every reason to observe, celebrate and commemorate his birth.

In reception of the special gift that God has given us on Christmas day we respond and express our faith in song. Hymns that are in line with this event are sung in our worship services on Christmas day. This is the day where we see hymns such as 28 (Shona), 31 (Shona), 46 (Ndebele), etc. dominating our worship services.

Some of the hymns that dominate our worship service on Christmas day:

Hymn 33 (Shona) Mumusha waShe Dhavhidhi Muimba yezvipfuwo; Makaratidzwa mucheche Muchidyiro chemombe; Maria ndiye mai, Jesu ndiye mucheche. …  
Hymn 50 (Ndebele)   Kulomuzi kaDavida, Khon’ esitebeleni, Kwakubekw’ ingane lapho Emkhombeni wenkomo: NguMariya unina, NguJesu leyo ngane. …    


Epiphany falls on the 6th of January, which is twelve days after Christmas. The etymology of ‘epiphany’ is the Greek ‘epiphainein’ and Latin ‘epiphania’, meaning ‘reveal’ (Online Etymology Dictionary: 2023). In the same line of thought, in our common understanding, ‘epiphany’ means ‘manifestation’, or ‘appearance’. In the context of our Christian faith ‘Epiphany’ marks the beginning of the period of the first recognition of the new born Jesus by the world. It is a season when Jesus is presented to the world as the Son of God. According to Matthew the evangelist, this is the period which we encounter the visiting of the Magi [wise men from the East] (Matthew 2:1ff). Joining those who travelled from their far country to see and worship the new born king this is the day when hymn 43 (Shona) [Tinouya Madzimambo …] dominates our worship services. Of course we usually see other congregants singing it on Christmas day as they try to forcibly make it suit that occasion, but the event in which it suits very well without any force or question is the ‘Epiphany’.

On the same note, depending on which day is the first Sunday of the year, it is during ‘Epiphany’ that we have our ‘Covenant Service’, a service which is very critical in the history of our faith as Methodists whereby we enter into covenant with God or renew the old covenants that we feel might have been broken during the past year. The spirit behind this is the conviction that we have seen him and now we commit ourselves to him through a covenant. The idea of covenant was basic to John Wesley’s understanding of Christian discipleship. He saw the relationship with God in covenant as being like a marriage between human beings on the one side and God in Christ on the other side. He recognized that people needed not just to accept but also to grow in relationship with God. In the Methodist Church, the tradition goes back to December 1747 when John Wesley encouraged people called Methodists to renew their covenant with God, and himself officially conducting his first ‘Covenant Service’ on 11 November 1755 (Nziyo DzeMethodist Neminamato, 2015:67). The tradition has been maintained up to this day and is bearing fruits.

Furthermore, it is during ‘Epiphany’ that we encounter Jesus being dedicated in the Temple – Simeon story (Luke 2:41ff). It is during this season that we also see Him being baptized by John the Baptist, identifying himself with those he had come to save (Matthew 3:13ff); he is tempted by the devil after baptism (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). It is also during this period that we see the commencement of mission, works, teachings, etc. As the Son of God, he came for a mission. His mission cannot be separated from his identity. All the works and teachings that he carried out were pointing to this notion of his identity. As the Son of God he had authority from the Father. In all these events and narratives the whole issue is about the identity of Jesus. The central question which every incident is responding to is, “Who is this Jesus?” The answer is, “He is the Son of God”. This was confirmed at his baptism and even the devil knew about this as we see in the temptation narratives, and the same continued to be revealed as he carried out his mission. These were and are the manifestation of who Jesus is.

We try as much as possible to follow the proceedings as they unfold during ‘Epiphany’. In this case we will notice that our ‘lectionary’ (preaching plan) has got headings like ‘Epiphany 1’, ‘Epiphany 2’ … up to ‘Epiphany 6’. We are spending six weeks or forty days looking at Jesus’ manifestation of his identity to the world as the Son of God through his teachings and works. This does not mean that Jesus spent only 40 days working. This is just the timeframe set aside for us to focus on that theme.

‘Epiphany’ takes us through up to the transfiguration [the last day in epiphany]. This is the day when Jesus’ outward appearance was transformed before the three disciples (Peter, James and John) on top of the mountain (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). We have to understand this event this way and its links to Jesus’ identity and mission. On his baptism as he commenced his mission (Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-23) a voice was heard from Heaven saying that Jesus was God’s beloved Son, and from that time onwards Jesus carried out his mission as the Father’s beloved Son. All what he did and taught testified to this truth. Now, at transfiguration, the voice is heard again saying the same message in almost identical manner. He is the Son of God and God is pleased in that Jesus is about to fulfil what he had come to do, i.e. dying on the cross for the salvation of the world. In other words, what is happening is all about who Jesus is and our response to him. After we have seen, heard, etc. we listen and obey him.


Transfiguration ushers us into ‘Lent’. This is 6 weeks before Easter, or, as commonly understood, 40 days before Easter. Lent is marked by Ash Wednesday. For Christians, the tradition of putting or wearing ashes on the foreheads dates back to around the 6th century (www.catholicstraightanswers.com). However, it has got its roots to the Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. In the Old Testament, ashes denotes mortality, mourning and penance. Examples to this tradition are; Esther 4:1ff. i.e. the story of Mordecai after hearing a decree of death; the story of Job at the end of his confession putting sackcloth and ashes (Job 42:6);  after the preaching of Jonah the king of Nineveh covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes (Jonah 3:5-6).

In all these events we see the notion of self-denial, mourning and repentance. Ashes are symbolic of this. It is an acknowledgement that, “What lies ahead of me is beyond me and my capacity, only God can handle this. I am just dust and to dust I shall return.” We use ashes because ashes are a natural result of death and destruction (Shoemaker: 2021).

Initially the church (the ancient church) required that public sinners would put ashes on their foreheads for forty days before they are accepted back into the fellowship of the whole body of Christ at Easter. So, this penance practice was only for those who were regarded as sinners by the church, or those who would have been caught in sinful acts. However, as time went on, the church came to terms with John’s message that, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8), as well as Paul’s sentiments to the Romans that, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). In this case the church realized that the issue of penance is not for certain individuals but for everyone. This led to the extension of this practice to all members of the church including clergy and bishops, and it has become like that up to this day. Ashes used on this service and ritual are created by burning the Palm leaves of the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations.

The date of Ash Wednesday is determined by the date of Easter, because it has to be definitely 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays. Our Easter dates change every year because they fall on the same time as the Jewish Passover and such is determined by the movement of the moon. In this case, it falls on the Sunday after the vernal equinox. This is the time when the sun crosses the Equator going north. As a result of this, our Easter dates range from between 22 March and 25 April each year. So, if Easter comes late in April, automatically our ‘Ash Wednesday will be around early March, but if it comes around end of March or early April, as it was in 2023, then our Ash Wednesday will be in February.

Lent is a period of self-examination or self-introspection, penitence, self-denial, fasting, prayer, etc. in preparation for Easter. This recalls the 40 days of Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-13). We also focus on our journey of temptations with Jesus, the journey which will definitely end in victory over the tempter. In the Lenten period even our texts and themes point to this event. For example, 26 February 2023 was the 1st Sunday in Lent, and the theme was, “Temptations are a reality, we overcome through God’s promise”. Even the topics of our Class Book will be in line with this reality. Furthermore, as has been discussed before, Lent prepares us for Easter.


Lent leads us into Holy Week, i.e. 7 days before Easter. Holy Week is marked by Palm Sunday – Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-38; John 12:12-19). This was Jesus’ last Sunday alive; the following Sunday he resurrects (Mujinga and Masvotore, 2014:21). The event is a reminder of the welcoming of Jesus into our hearts and our willingness to follow him. On this day we see Jesus fulfilling the prophecy of Zecharia 9:9 (“Rejoice greatly, Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”).

When it happened over 2000 years ago, the event was received with mixed feelings and interpretations by those who were in Jerusalem, just as it is with many Christians today. The disciples did not understand what was happening [the significance] at that time (John 12:16); the Pharisees were filled with jealous for the attention that Jesus had received (John 1217-19); the crowd that participated on the event did not understand what was happening as well. This is because they shouted ‘Hosanna’ that day but within the next few days they were seen shouting, ‘Crucify him’. What they thought Jesus had come to deliver them from (the Roman government) was actually not what he had come for. What they thought was their problem was actually not their problem in real sense of Jesus’ mission. Their problem was the grip of the power of sin and that was what Jesus had come to deal with and deliver them [us] from. So, the whole drama on this ‘Triumphal Entry’ point to this mission he had come to perform. This is what we understand as we commemorate this special event on Palm Sunday. In most cases circuits and societies organize marches of congregants waving palm leaves, etc. and in some cases organizing for a donkey [not a horse because a horse is a symbol of war, of which Jesus is not a king of war, and that is the reason why he chose a donkey] to be brought for the minister to ride on. The whole issue will be in trying to bring that event which took place over 2000 years ago closer to us.

From Palm Sunday we see that Jesus’ journey shifts towards the cross. All the events and teachings point to what is going to happen within the next few days. It is during this week that we see Jesus cleansing the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46), his authority being challenged (Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8)’ Judas agreeing to betray him (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6), etc. and such event taking us to the ‘Upper Room’ on ‘Maundy Thursday’ or ‘Holy Thursday’ [‘Maundy’ is a short form of the Latin ‘mandatum’, which means ‘command’ or ‘mandate’]. This is the day when a new commandment was given (John13:34). It was also on this day that Holy Communion as a sacrament was instituted (Matthew 2626-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20) and the disciples [us] commanded to do so in remembrance of him. It was on the Holy Thursday that Jesus was officially betrayed by Judas Iscariot and was arrested by the Jewish religious leaders (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12). [Pahusiku huya hwakapandukirwa / Ngalobosukhu mhlana enikelwa …]. We, as circuits and societies, usually try to follow proceedings and dramatize all what happened on the Thursday evening in the ‘Upper Room’ as we conduct feet washing as well as the service of the Last Supper on the first day of our Easter gatherings. The notion here is to try as much as possible to bring the event that took place over 2000 years ago closer to us. We are making it real to us.  

From Holy Thursday we go to Good Friday.

  • He is tried six times (the trials which started on Thursday night) i.e. three trial being religious under the Jewish religious leaders courts and the other three being civil under the Roman courts. The trials and verdicts are dealt with in detail by in the book, “Understanding Jesus’ Last Sayings on the Cross” pp. 18-21, by Revd. O. Chagudhuma, published 2021 by Beyond Today
  • He is crucified. We have for long been taught that Jesus was crucified on Good Friday at 3 o’clock  in the afternoon and this has seen us having a ‘Service of the Seven Words’ on that day at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. In as much as he was crucified on Good Friday, it is incorrect to say that he was crucified at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Reading through the Gospel according to Mark we find out that Jesus was crucified on the third hour (Mark 15:25) and that was 9 o’clock in the morning (Chagudhuma, 2021:73-74). This is because the Jewish counting of time of the day started at 6 o’clock in the morning. So, Jesus was crucified at 9 o’clock in the morning, and as from 9 o’clock a lot happened for three hours while he was hung on the cross.

It was during those three hours that he uttered the first batch of three of the ‘Seven Words’ [Sayings] on the cross. After these three hours, at the sixth hour [which is 12 noon], there was darkness upon the whole land for another batch of three hours (Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:44-45) and during those three hours of darkness nothing was said, and nothing took place. It was after this batch of three (from the sixth to the ninth hour) that he uttered the last batch of four of the ‘Seven Words’ [Sayings] on the cross starting with “Eloi Eloi …” [Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34] (Chagudhuma, 2021:73-75). Going through these passages we can notice that crucifixion took place in the morning at 9 o’clock, and the ‘Seven Words’ [Sayings] were uttered in a period of more than six hours. However, it is not bad to have the service of the ‘Seven Words’ at 3 o’clock in the afternoon of Good Friday, but to say that we do so because that was the time he was crucified is incorrect. We may have it at that time because it will be the most convenient time for us, or else because that is when we will be sure that all the ‘sayings’ have been uttered.

  • Having endured the six hours with nails in his palms Jesus dies on Friday afternoon and our salvation was secured. He purchased us with his precious blood (1Peter 1:18-19). To us, as Methodists, this day is critical to our faith as well. We do not want to miss this event as the ‘Service of the Seven Words’ brings the reality of what happened over 2000 years ago at Golgotha close to us. This is the day when hymns such as 51 (Shona); 54 (Shona); 58 (Shona); 59 (Shona); 57 (Ndebele); 60 (Ndebele); 63 (Ndebele; 64 (Ndebele); 65 (Ndebele); 67 (Ndebele), etc. dominate the day. The message of such hymns is our response and expression of faith towards what is happening on the cross for our salvation.
  • He was buried that same Friday towards evening (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42). He spent the whole of Saturday in the tomb. This day is referred to as ‘Holy Saturday’, and other traditions calling it ‘Silent Saturday’ because Jesus is said to have been resting, i.e. no activities taking place. There are quite a number of theories regarding to where Jesus was on Holy Saturday. However, the closest answer as to where he was can be found from Luke 23:46. He was in the Father’s hands. In most cases it is (Saturday) the day for outreaching the communities around us (vhuserere) preaching the Gospel of hope, especially when we are gathered at one place for Easter Conference.

On Sunday, also referred to as ‘Resurrection Sunday’ (Cater: 2019), we celebrate resurrection. This is the holiest day on the ‘Christian Calendar’. He rose from the dead. That is what made us Christians. We celebrate victory over sin and its consequences (death). Death is conquered. That is why we find out that during that period our themes will be speaking about victory. Through Jesus and in Jesus we are victors (We are conquerors).

Having resurrected on the Easter Day, he appeared for 40 days to various groups of people (Acts 1:3). They saw him and ate with him. This is the evidence of resurrection. We celebrate resurrection not because he left machira in the grave as is being argued by other individuals and musicians. Machira Chete is not enough evidence of resurrection. We have to remember the events that took place on the day of his burial. The Bible tells us that they secured the tomb and put guards on the site fearing that his disciples might come and steal him, and lie that he has risen from the dead (Matthew 27:62-66). Even when they found that he was not there in the tomb they bribed the guards to lie that the disciples stole him while they were asleep (Matthew 28:11-15). Just following the narratives of these leaders and the reports of the gaurds, it is very possible that grave cloths (machira) can even remain in the tomb after he has been stolen as they claimed, therefore not a concrete evidence of resurrection. However, we know that he was not stolen, and for sure, he was not stolen. He rose from the dead. Concrete evidence of resurrection is that they saw him alive and ate with him, and we see him. This day is a day of celebration. Jesus is alive! Hallelujah!


As pointed out in the previous chapter, Jesus was seen by various groups of people for about 40 days after resurrection (Acts 1:3). It was during those 40 days that he made several promises to the disciples, including the promise of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit he had earlier promised that the Father would send in his name (Acts 1:4-5) [cf. John 14:15-27]. After those 40 days, he rose into Heaven [Akakwira akaenda kudenga uko kwaagere kurudyi rwaMwari Baba/ Wenyukela ezulwini ehlezi ngakwesokunene sikaNkulunkulu]. He had said this before (John 14:1-4). All the events are following a laid down programme, only that when he was telling his disciples about such events they could not comprehend what he meant. His ascension marks his transition from earth to heaven: “into heaven”, is found three times in Acts 1:10-11, and provides the apostles with a visual demonstration of the truth of Jesus’ exalted status (Walton: 2013). This ascension has got several implications and positive bearing on our faith as Methodists as is shown below, hence we have this season on our lectionary:

  1. Ascension presages his return to earth from heaven (John 14:28; Acts 1:11). We confess this even in ‘The Apostles Creed’ (“Achauya kakare kuzotonga vapenyu nevakafa” [Nziyo DzeMethodist Neminamato, 2015:54] – “woza avele khona ukwahlulela abahleziyo labafileyo” [Katekism, 2010:16]). In our conviction that truly he went up into heaven so that he will come back again we express this faith on Hymn 68 (Shona), the second stanza:

Iri’ zwi raMambo, izwi rorufaro’,

Farai, vaKristu farai!

Ishe wakaenda, asi achadzoka,

Apinze mudenga imi mose.

However, we do not wait for his return whilst doing nothing. The period of waiting is a period of serious business as we embark on ‘soul winning’ programmes. This is because of the fact that before his ascension he gave the disciples [us] the mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20) –The Great Commission. He has to find us having brought many souls to him.

  • His ascension informs us that he is reigning alongside the Father in Heaven. This give us an assurance that we will also reign with him in heaven (2Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:1-15).
  • His ascension gives us assurance of the coming of the Holy Spirit. He had to go so that the Holy Spirit would come (John 14:15-30).
  • He will welcome believers [us] in Heaven. He said this himself (John 14:3), and Stephen gave testimony to this as he was about to die (“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” [Acts 7:55-56]).
  • His ascension means the breaking of the barrier between heaven and earth (John 14:25-27).
  • His ascension enables believers [us] to approach the Father with confidence through him who has gone there. He has the Father’s ear and intercedes for us (John 14:6-7; Hebrews 7:25).

As a result of the above mentioned implications, and others not stated here, we have this season on our calendar, and the texts of the day are selected in line with this event.


10 days after Ascension we are at Pentecost, and this is after 49 days – 7 weeks- after Passover (Easter) and we celebrate on the 50th day (Pentȇkostȇ hȇmera – Greek [Online Etymology Dictionary]). We have to understand that quite a number of events that we commemorate as Christians were not originally designed by Jesus per se. Such events had been there in the history of Israel with a particular significance. However, Jesus used those same events to introduce a new dispensation thereby shifting his followers from the old to the new significance. Initially Pentecost was a ‘Thanksgiving for the first fruits of wheat harvest’ (Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-16). Later, the same event coincided with the giving of the law to Moses by God. In this case, it was when the disciples were gathered on this usual yearly ‘Festival of the Weeks’ (Hag Shavout – Hebrew [Encyclopedia Britannica: 2023]) that God did a surprise twist of the event, something which these Jewish pilgrims could not have expected. Of course, the 120 who were gathering in prayer in the ‘Upper Room’ knew what Jesus had said before he ascended to heaven that, “… in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5) but the visitors to Jerusalem knew nothing of this sort. Furthermore, although the 120 knew that the Holy Spirit would come they did not know the actual day and time as to when He would come. However, one thing they did was to obey and stick to what Jesus had instructed them that they should not depart from Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), and surely, they did not stay for nothing.

On this day the promise that was made on John 14:15-17 [the promise of the Holy Spirit] was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit was poured out as the first fruit of the new dispensation and succeeded the old one of the law on this day. It was on this day the church was born as the ‘first fruit’ Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1ff).

Yearly we commemorate this event as Methodist not only looking at the Holy Spirit who was outpoured upon the disciples over 2000 years ago, but in that God continues to outpour His Holy Spirit upon us and His church today. In as much as the early church of Acts 2 were assured of God’s presence in the symbols of tongues of fire that were seen we also need that assurance in our midst as a church and we have it.

Furthermore, in as much as the members of the early church spoke in different languages but understanding each other and being understood by the pilgrims who had come from far place, the same applies to us today. Despite the different languages we speak and different cultures we come from, we are one church and understand each other that way. We are a connexion. The spirit of connexionality binds us together as a church. The Holy Spirit helps us to be one. The early church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do great and mighty works, and we continue to pray for that manifestation of power in our church. All these makes the ‘Day of Pentecost’ an important day on the Christians calendar. This is the day and season when hymns such as 77 (Shona); 80 (Shona); 81 (Shona); 96 (Ndebele); 106 (Ndebele); etc. dominating our worship services. As we express our faith in such hymns we are connected to the reality of what happened in the ‘Upper Room’. We ask for the continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us and God’s church.

In the same vein, Pentecost coincides with our Wesley Day. In as much as the church was born in the room when the disciples were gathering in one place, the same incident occurred in a room at Aldersgate Street in England to John Wesley who had attended the prayer meeting ‘very unwillingly’ on 24 May 1738 and Methodism was born. Reporting about this event John Wesley wrote:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart was strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation: An assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” (Ward & Heitzenrater, 1988:249-250).

This incident of 24 May 1738 at 8:45pm became a turning point on John Wesley’s Christian journey. Attending prayer meetings was a usual thing for John Wesley, but God used this meeting at Aldersgate Street to do the unusual, i.e. giving birth to Methodism. This is the unusual thing that we see happening to the disciples in Acts 2. Cherishing the power of God that has made us Methodists, the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe has set aside the week that has got 24 May in it as ‘Wesley Week’, and 24 May as ‘Wesley Day’; and as has been discussed before, this event (Wesley Day) coincides with Pentecost hence a double celebration on our part, i.e. celebrating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as well as the birth of Methodism.


Trinity Sunday is celebrated 7 days after Pentecost. The doctrine of Trinity affirms that God is three persons in one substance (Kilby, 2011:518). The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe Catechism book (Shona and Ndebele) question number 26 asks, “Zvinorevei kuti muTrinity Mutsvene?”; “Kuthiweni ngokuthi ubuTriniti obuNgcwele?” The answers that given there are:

“Tinodzidza muTesitamende Itsva kuti Mwari Baba, Mwari Mwanakomana, Mwari Mweya Mutsvene, vari vatatu ndiMwari Mumwe chete” – “Sifunda eTestamenteni Elitsha ukuthi uNkulunkulu uYise, uNkulunkulu iNdodana, loNkulunkulu uMoya oNgcwele, bebathathu, banguNkulunkulu munye.” (Ketekezima, 2014:10; Katekism, 2010:5).

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the three are One God. This is spelt out on the calendar at this stage and we have now witnessed it. It is a time whereby we have the confirmation that surely we have seen and experienced God the Father, and He came as the Son to be the Redeemer of the world and He successfully carried out that task. Having completed the task He came in the form of the Spirit on Pentecost Day. So at this moment, we have the full Godhead of God. Indeed, He is One God in three persons. We have a special service commemorating this truth every year and it is taken seriously.


After Trinity we have what we call the ‘Ordinary Time’. It is ordinary not in the sense that there is no activity. This is a period that is marked by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church (through us). We will notice that this is also the busiest period on the calendar. The following events do characterize this period: events of charity such as the Matthew Rusike Children’s Home Week  – first week of June (Acts 4:32ff); worship events such as the Music Week – first week of July; manifestation of the Spirit as we position ourselves for service during the Mission Month in July; building and strengthening the church administratively for effective delivery as we gather for our annual Conference in August; Organisational Conventions in August as we witness spiritual and numerical growth of our church as is seen in Acts 2:47; Harvest celebrations, etc.

The Cycle Continues

Having successfully carried out these events through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we come back to Advent again after about 22 weeks, and the cycle continues.

In conclusion, we have noticed that as Methodists we do not do or conduct our service haphazardly. We have got a system that helps us express our faith in the context of the actual events that characterized the life and mission of the one whom we believed in, i.e. Jesus Christ. In that expression of faith we observe Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week and Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity and Ordinary period as has been highlighted in this presentation.


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Cater, J. (2019). 9 Things You Should Know About the Christian Calendar. TGC [The Gospel Coalition].

Chagudhuma, O. (2021). Understanding Jesus’ Last Sayings on the Cross. Harare: Beyond Today Publishers.

Encyclopedia Britannica (2023). Shavout (Judaism). June 4, 2023 [Accessed on https://www.britannica.com>topic] (Retrieved on 25/06/2023).

Katekism (2010). Harare. Connexional Bookshop.

Ketekezima (2015). Harare. Connexional Bookshop.

Kilby, K. (2011). Trinity [in the Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology – edited by McFarland et al]. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (2015). Nziyo DzeMethodist Neminamato. Harare: Connexional Bookshop.

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Toon, P. (1984). Advent (in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology – edited by Elwell). Michigan: Baker Book House.

Walton, S. (2013). Ascension of Jesus [In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: Second Edition – edited by Green, J.B.). Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press.

Ward, W.R. & Heitzenrater, R.P. (Eds). (1988). The Works of John Wesley: Volume 18. Nashville: Abingdon.


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