Lectionary: a designated set of readings (lections) for each Sunday in the year; formatted in a three year cycle based roughly on the Synoptic (similar) Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Readings from the Hebrew Scriptures (commonly referred to as the Old Testament by Christians) and the Greek Scriptures (commonly referred to as the New Testament by Christians) are selected to accompany the Gospel readings. And it all started long ago, early in the formation of the church. As people were recognized as saints, a feast day was established and date affixed in their honor. That worked pretty well for the first 365 saints, number 366 could only have a day every four years and number 367 was, well, out of luck so to speak!
Centuries later as the Protestant Movement (from which the Disciples of Christ would emerge) began to separate into its many varied traditions; use of the Lectionary was re-examined. Since many of the traditions didn’t observe “saints” as originally understood by the Roman Catholic Church, some stopped using it all together, while others used only the readings that appeared on the same Sundays throughout the three year cycle. Then in the early 1980’s, a Protestant “committee” was formed representing a number of the traditions was charged with redesigning the lectionary for common use. After years of conversations and negotiations, the Common Lectionary was published for use by any tradition or congregation. The Gospel readings remained pretty much intact, but the OT readings were designed to be read as narratives and the NT readings as letters. So, Year A is primarily Matthew plus the Patriarchs and Moses (Genesis-Exodus) with Romans; Year B Mark plus David and Solomon (I & II Samuel-I & II Kings) with Hebrews; Year C Luke plus the Later Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi) with Letters. Of course, these are just the core readings with sections from John and the other letters interspersed.
As you can imagine, Disciples of Christ congregations never came to unified understanding about its use. Some congregations and pastors believe the Lectionary keeps them from choosing only their favorite passages to preach from, some believe the Lectionary provides a balanced overview of the Bible, others use it is a tool which aids in selecting hymns and music for worship while some find it limiting and choose not to use it at all. In my years of ministry, I have served or belonged to congregations which did and didn’t use the Lectionary. JCC was using it exclusively when I arrived. Over the last 10-15 years, I have continued to use it most of the time, but am not afraid to “change things up” on occasion. Once in a while, the readings are spot on in considering the present day culture, but since I choose the readings weeks in advance, I never know until Sunday morning. By the way, we are currently in the Year B cycle until the first Sunday of Advent when we move into Year C (my favorite!)
Posted on Tue, October 23, 2018
by Doug Meister