Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thoughts Upon the Lectionary

I've been experimenting with the lectionary since Christ the King Sunday, albeit with modifications. We have two formal Scripture readings at my church, not four, so I can't use all of the passages, nor do I think that it is a good idea to do so.

The first advantage apparent to me is that I don't have to think too much about what to preach on. I have a list of passages and choose from them for the sermon. I don't, however, always stick to the lectionary's restrictions. For last Sunday, my lay speaker read John 1:1-17, which I also wove into my sermon on Matthew 3:1-12. I used the lectionary Pslam 72 for our responsive reading, but it really didn't fit with my sermon.

I have been to Lutheran and Episcopalian services where the sermon was based on all four readings, and saw an immediate disadvantage: in a sermon thus constructed, the preacher must interpret the passages in reflection of each other, thereby skewing the exegesis.

I like the idea of my preaching being ordered in a thoughtful, not erratic manner. And I also like the idea of keeping close to the liturgical calendar. But I dislike the lectionary's omission of large sections of Scripture. For example, one of my better sermons is from Habakkuk 3, which is not covered during any part of the lectionary cycle.

I would be interested to see a lectionary that encompassed the entire Bible, even if it took a decade to complete a cycle.


UCM said...

One of the common misconceptions is that if Scripture is read, it must have commentary!

I remember growing up, we also had two readings. One from the OT and one from the NT. The preacher always tied the two scriptures together.

Although I am sure that some preachers try to tie ALL FOUR scriptures together, my guess is that rarely happens.

The four scripture readings are not meant to be all preached. The reading sometimes stands on it's own. The psalm, for example, is really viewed as the people's sung response to what they have just heard read from the OT. It is not meant to be preached. Although I do think we can preach from the psalms.

I think four readings is good. It causes people to hear scripture. But I don't think we should try to preach from all four in one sermon.

greg. said...

if you have four scripture readings, who reads them? does the same person read all 4? and is this person a lay person or trained liturgist?

one of my issues with reading so much scripture in worship is that when it isn't read well, the value of it seems diminished. any thoughts?

TN Rambler said...

At our church we read all 4 scriptures. I read the one that the sermon is based upon right before the sermon. I will also read one of the others. We have a layman who will lead the psalter reading (in response to the OT lesson) and another lay volunteer will read the 4th. Our lay volunteers are excellent readers.

It is a bit much to try and tie all of the readings together, especially during ordinary time when they aren't designed to go together in the first place.

Personally, I find a certain freedom in following the lectionary. I cannot tell you how many times in my short time in ministry that the lectionary readings have directly spoken to a need of my congregation.

Stresspenguin said...

I'm working on creating an anti-lectionary; a lectionary based on the omitted passages. Right now I've finished the Psalms and the Gospels.

I desperately need a real hobby.

Anyway, I usually leave Advent through Pentecost alone and then just do whatever I feel like in Ordinary time.

For worship, I do all four readings. IN my experience, the majority of congregation members are biblically illiterate, so if they don't study at home, aren't part of a small group, or don't come to Sunday School, they'll hear four scripture readings every time they come to church.

Then I pick one and preach on it, only incorporating the others if they work with where the sermon is going.

John said...

As a layspeaker, people would probably excuse me for not using the lectionary, especially since many of the churches I end up preaching at are little country churches that don't use it in the first place. But I find it's good discipline for me to preach on the passage that's set before me rather than always preaching about what I want to preach out. And I do have the flexibility to choose from among the four passages.

Rev. J said...

I enjoy the lectionary and have been preaching from it for my six years of ministry. Rambler is right, it is amazing how the theme of the passage I preach from the lectionary is what my congregation needed.

I like John's idea of a decade lectionary though. Three years don't seem long enough. Why not at least four, concentrating on one gospel that year.

I haven't varied from it yet though (because I was an associate for four years and just got to my new appointment), but I am planning on some sermon series that are not lectionary based.

Streepenguin - I would love to know what an anti-lectionary looks like.

e. barrett said...

Woodland Hills church in St. Paul simply goes through the Bible passage by passage. I forget how long they've been studying Luke.

I enjoy it because I get a much better sense of what is going on in those passages than a more "topical" sermon.

Of course topical sermons are good too. I'm sure there's room in the world for both.

Ken L. Hagler said...

I've always felt the Common Lectionary was my starting point. Each congregation and clergy are very different and there are needs which arise that fall outside the lectionary readings for a particular time (Stewardship campaigns are a case in point.)

I recently read through Thomas Bandy's, The Uncommon Lectionary. The "background story" is cheesy but it does offer some interesting thoughts on 're-thinking' the lectionary. It has been helpful in making plans for our first year of worship planning when we launch Crossroads UMC next fall.