From Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing
When you meet for worship each Sunday, does your Congregation follow the readings provided by the Revised Common Lectionary? This is a resource that offers guidance, over an extended period of time, about how to read and reflect on passages in our scriptures. There is a richness in the lectionary that I appreciate. It has a clear structure, an observable order, a logic to its pattern, a rationale to the progress that it offers us, year by year, through the seasons of the (church) year.
There are also some frustrations with the lectionary: what stories are not included, what stories appear more than once (even if in different versions), where the passage starts (omitting verses that give “context”), where the passage ends (omitting significant follow-one verses), how the passage is edited (such as parts omitted), and so on.
But this is only to be expected: it is a human creation, subject to the idiosyncrasies and prejudices of its compilers, bound in many ways to the traditions of the church, limited by the number of Sundays that are to be found over three years. So when I use the Revised Common Lectionary, and follow it week after week, I take it as it is, with its own biases as well as the benefits it offers.
Alongside this structure and order, the lectionary invites choice. It stimulates in me a consideration of the options available to me, and offers ways of using it that generates creativity in whatever I do as preacher, liturgies, or instructor. Every week, there are four readings listed in the lectionary: Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel. That itself suggests some choice. It means that “this time around” in the three year cycle, we can choose to follow the Old Testament (such as the rich offerings we have at the moment, from the Wisdom Literature); or to focus on a specific letter for some weeks; or to trace through the development of the story about Jesus in the Gospel that is in view.
Recently I was offered the opportunity to serve as Editor of the publication, With Love to the World, which is a Uniting-Church based resource that provides short commentaries on each of the four readings for each week—as well as another three on related readings—so that you can have your own personal resource for reading and reflecting on the lectionary texts, week after week. A 64-page booklet is published four times each year, with the commentaries, as well as questions for discussions and suggestions for hymns to be used in worship. I am enjoying the task of editing—and feedback from the almost 10,000 subscribers indicates that many readers appreciate the stimulus and challenge that comes from this home-grown resource.
You can order copies (just $24.00 per year) from Trevor Naylor, the With Love to the World Office manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 02 9747 1369 ((am to 1pm weekdays). There is also a With Love to the World App for iphones and androids, available from the Play Store or the App Store, also for $24.00 per year.
However, the lectionary is far more than just four readings. It is a three-year creation, following a similar pattern in each of the three years, whilst still being designed to allow for a different focus each year. If you are interested in reading more about the structure and the rationale of the lectionary, I’ve written a blog that canvasses these matters in more detail; you can read it at https://johntsquires.com/2020/11/11/the-lectionary-ordering-the-liberty-of-the-preacher/