Monday, October 04, 2004

A Laywoman's Lectionary: What Is The Lectionary?

Simply put, it the Lectionary is a "collection of
readings from Scripture for each Sunday of the
year” such that the greater part of the Bible will
be read in three years. Year A concentrates on
the Gospel of Matthew, Year B focses on the
Gospel of Mark and Year C on Luke. The
Gospel of John is read mainly at Christmas,
Lent and Easter, as well as during Year B.
Readings from the rest of the New Testament,
the Old Testament and the Psalms
are included in the selections for each week.
The Revised Common Lectionary was
produced by the consultation on Common
Texts, an ecumenical body formed in the
mid-1960s for consultation on worship
renewal by North American churches.

Source: Longmeadow (Massachusetts) Congregational Church.

When I first returned to church, around the time that I hit thirty, I had no idea what the Common Lectionary was. Our senior pastor was a brilliant preacher, nationally recognized for his work in the pulpit, but he preferred to pick and choose among the texts (exactly what the Lectionary is designed to avoid). When he left after a sixteen-year tenure (I had been at that church for about five of those years), our new minister introduced us to the Lectionary concept and we began to hear the same passages, and preaching thereon, that were being heard on the same Sundays in other churches across the country

Stultifying? Perhaps that’s what the first minister I knew had thought. But the Lectionary provides a structure that is ultimately freeing. It moves a congregation through much of the Bible, both Hebrew and Greek, over a three year period. It prevents a preacher from focusing repeatedly on her favorite passages, or on those that most easily support his primary message through the years. It requires that we consider the Bible in its entirety, hearing texts with which we might not bother otherwise and focusing in fresh ways upon old standards

There are four selections each week: one from the Hebrew Bible, one from the Psalms, one from the Gospels, and one from the rest of the Greek Bible. Some preachers meld two or more into a sermon; others focus on one. Some are more comfortable with certain parts of the Bible rather than others. The same holds for individuals and small groups who work with the Lectionary.

I’m often part of a small group at my church that meets to read, contemplate and pray together, using one of the week’s Lectionary passages as a focus. Sometimes we challenge ourselves with a new and difficult text; sometimes we opt for an old standard. Always, we are surprised by how much there is to be found in a few short lines. We aren't experts by any means, but we are able to gain a lot by immersing ourselves in the Bible on something of a regular basis

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