Lectionary thoughts

Following on from today’s other blog entry, I was thinking about the lectionary. Today’s readings from Amos, 1Timothy and Luke were kind to me. There was a connection that could be made between them and, more importantly, one that could be used at today’s Harvest Thanksgiving service.

The thing I struggle with about the lectionary series is that you can hit those times when there is simply no obvious connection to be made and even a contrived one is a struggle. From speaking to a friend, I know that their view is that there doesn’t need to be a connection and it’s perfectly legitimate to have a reading with no further reference to it. The purpose of the lectionary is to expose the hearer/reader to parts of scripture that may otherwise be ignored. I don’t have an issue with that and can see the validity of the argument.

However, there are times when a reading just sits there, on its own, in splendid isolation. Should it have its own exegesis and application ‘slot’? Or should it be left to stand alone. I think the danger of the latter approach is that if it’s a difficult reading then there’s a risk of people ‘turning off’ and, rather than it being given the exposure it merits, it contributes to an overall sense of ‘I’ll stick to the bits I understand’. The risk of the former is that the service appears ‘bitty’ and disjointed or, if a contrived connection is made, there is the possibility of being open to the, perfectly valid, accusation of distorting scripture to make it mean whatever we want.

There is, of course, one over-riding influence which can come to bear and perhaps needs to be borne in mind more. When scripture is read in an open and honest way, its meaning comes not just from our own comprehension but through the intercession of the Holy Spirit as well. So, when that piece of scripture is sitting in splendid isolation, the reality is, it’s not sitting on its own and its capacity to ‘speak’ to someone is, in no way diminished.

It’s just frustrating when your eyes are opened by something you’ve heard or read and the preacher goes off down an entirely different avenue, ignoring your exciting revelation. Still, take a moment to enjoy the presence of the Spirit, leading, guiding, teaching.

4 responses to “Lectionary thoughts”

  1. One of the things I like about CH4 is the great range of psalms! I’ve started singing the psalm from the lectionary if it’s in the hymn book, especially if it’s one of the metrical tunes. That can help with readings that don’t fit together.

    Today I used a service I’ve used before and the Epistle and the Gospel were on a theme but the OT readng was something else. I missed it out. I don’t often miss it, but if it is more a distraction than contribution then I’m happy to miss the OT or the Epistle. (Is that bad?)

  2. I like the idea of singing the psalm if it’s available.
    I’m not suggesting that every lectionary reading absolutely needs to be included, but I do see the use of having them, disconnected though they may be.
    One argument for having them is that it means you don’t pick-and-choose the pieces of scripture you prefer in order to support an argument – a charge often levelled at a particular ‘category’ within the CofS. I don’t think this necessarily stands up to scrutiny. My home church has a tendency to pick 1 book and work through it starting at chapter 1, verse 1 and going to the very end, missing nothing out. In a sense, this fulfils a similar purpose – you can’t avoid the bits you don’t like. One could argue that it’s still picking and choosing – just at a higher level. But then, following the lectionary and choosing to read a reading but not teach about it is, arguably, no different. Just because you’ve read it, that’s not sufficient ‘moral high ground’ to say that following the lectionary means you don’t pick and choose.
    Not sure where I’m going with this so I’ll finish by saying that slavish devotion to one method or the other is probably the biggest danger. Integrity in teaching and recognising when/why you might be avoiding something is crucial.

  3. Interesting thinking here. There is an old tradition of beginning with a psalm, moving to a paraphrase, and then two or three hymns depending on the tradition of the church.
    Singing psalms for the sake of singing psalms can be a self perpetuating choice of favourites that we all do in preparing worship. We have our ‘canon’ of hymns that we know and are comfortable with.
    The Lectionary helps me to avoid hobby horse preaching, and there is some justification in the negative comment about those of a particular theology preaching their thoughts to a congregation. The discipline of the Lectionary avoids that. Preaching through a book begins with a selection, and that is the only weakness. Preaching through a book can throw up some surprising and difficult topics that, given the choice, we would avoid.
    Integrity is the key. Honesty before God’s Word and being open to the surprises can broaden personal theology.

  4. Because I preach in lots of places there is a real temptation to repeat something I’ve done before but I’m trying very hard to resist (although sometimes I give in due to time contraints). Preaching the lectionary has been a hugely challenging but thoroughly worthwhile excercise for me. It has enabled me to think about topics and parts of the Bible I would rarely look at otherwise, and also to see Jesus teaching developing themes from the Old Testament.

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