Flexing the Lection..ary

Yes, it’s a book about preaching and you might have this wild idea it is only for preachers. And yes, a preacher would benefit from it. However, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary has great information for anyone interested in understanding the lectionary and what benefit a church has in using it. Last week I told you I was finishing it, and I am. I want you to read it next. That’s why I selected it for this month’s edition of Reading With the Pastor (in our church newsletter).

The lectionary has never been a problem for me. Some people, I think, feel like it takes either God’s inspiration or the Holy Spirit out of the equation when determining which texts will be used on any given Sunday. I disagree. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I trust the Holy Spirit was working when representatives from various Christian denominations got through the process of establishing the three year cycle. Some of you have crazy church council war stories; you know how difficult it can be for us to agree on anything. And you want me to think the Holy Spirit took a vacation while this was being developed? I also trust the Holy Spirit in my own preparation each week for a Sunday’s sermon.

There are a few other reasons why you can pretty much guarantee my Sunday’s sermon text.

1) It’s there. Why should I do all the dirty work? Some other group has worked, prayed and split their brains trying to figure out which texts should be brought together. With my schedule sometimes I can’t tell what I’ve read and for what (class, sermon, study, etc) I’ve read it for. It helps to have the selections available, and something about reinventing a wheel…
2) Using the lectionary almost forces me to cover what I might otherwise overlook. I know I’m probably the other preacher who has that tendency. Yes, there are texts that are not included in the RCL, but you weren’t going to preach on those anyways. We can find ways to study those. As a side note I think we should spice up the lectionary by adding more readings from the Song of Solomon.
3) There is a real reason the texts are arranged the way they are. It’s not that I have to preach on a certain theme each Sunday; I’m not limited by one particular concept. In other words, I am not told by the powers-that-be what to preach. Are you kidding? I’ll preach what I want to, and you better believe no one can make me stop at verse 23b—I read the entire verse! I’m committed. Seriously, though, I am able to help retell the Christian story in an intentional way.

There is a lot of good material in the book. I’ll share one concept that comes back to my mind when I see the cover now.

The lectionary of the church year reads the Bible from a certain perspective. It is a different perspective than would come from reading it, or any of the books in it, lectio continua. It is a different perspective than reading it looking for an answer to a question such as “What must I do to be saved?” It is a perspective based on the assumption that living the church year, reading the Christian story, and liturgically inhabiting it year after year will enable one to understand reality more and more in terms of God’s will and God’s love.

What I think they are saying is that I don’t have to try to get the Bible to agree with what I want to tell you. Instead, if I commit to the lectionary I am allowing God’s voice to tell and remind us how to live more like God.

What are some of your experiences with or without the lectionary? How much thought have you given it before? Does it matter? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Stay blessed…john

1 Responses :

Although I always just pretty much accept whatever the topic and scripture "happen" to be, you have provided a very plausible and sound reason for the Lectionary! Thanks. Having come from a Southern Baptist background, I never gave it much thought... because... I believe that their preachers are not guided in the same manner. Could be wrong because it has been a long time. But thanks for the lesson! Jacqualea