The Preacher’s Decision

pulpit_3027cI have examined The Preacher’s Dilemma and The Preacher’s Direction. Now it stands to reason that it’s time to make a decision. I have made a decision for me, and that doesn’t mean that I think every preacher ought to make that same decision. Our common focus is to faithfully proclaim all of the Word of the Lord.

Now I’m going to mention the “L” word. I do not believe I ever heard it in Bible college – but I can’t swear to that. I wasn’t exactly a star student. To tell you the truth, in another point along my faith journey I would have rejected it as useless denominational  red tape. All sects have useless red tape, but the lectionary is not that.

A lectionary is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion (wikipedia). When you follow a “one year through the Bible” reading schedule, you are reading along with a lectionary. In our Sunday School we are following the International Sunday School Lessons as we study the Standard Lesson Quarterly. This is a lectionary, a study through the Bible in six years.   There are many lectionaries of various types. They were in existence even in ancient times before the church existed.

One lectionary used across a broad spectrum of faith families is the Revised Common Lectionary. Now if you are not familiar with the RCL, you might have a lot of questions. Click HERE for a list of frequently asked questions about the lectionary that I think will answer most of your questions.

On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.” ~Acts 13:14-15

Here are some of the reasons that I plan to begin preaching along with the RCL, starting this Sunday:

– This is a three-year preaching plan that takes my studies through the Scriptures. That is a swift enough pace to keep interest, but not too quick so as to be too light.

– I will be challenged to preach some texts I normally might be tempted to ‘save for another day’ (i.e. skip over).

– The church for which I preach deserves to hear from a wide spectrum of the Scriptures, not just me cherry-picking passages that I think might be of interest or use. Every honest preacher knows his hobby horses. Permission to dismount.

-Topical Preaching may soothe an itching ear (or allow a preacher to gin up a sermon he really likes), but it does not serve the hearer well. God’s Word is the source of real spiritual milk and meat for sustenance and growth.

– I will be joining with the faith community at large that surrounds me. Though not all churches use the RCL, many do. I will be preaching on texts being used in any number of churches throughout our city on that day. I’m sure my sermons will be flavored with the language and leanings of my heritage, but I wonder if there isn’t something powerful about the same basic message being proclaimed across a city?

– I will have at my disposal a large number of resources and information each week. With the advent of the internet, this is true no matter what text you select. However there are excellent resources for those preaching through the RCL.

– We will, at times, note the important days on the church calendar. Churches of Christ are notoriously anti-holiday. By identifying the historical observances of the events of the Bible we establish a rhythm of study and understanding of the flow of the Scriptures. Christendom is ancient and there is  body of historical insight that is of interest. Recognizing where we are on the calendar also has potential to connect us with those of the past. Many were inspirational, many were failures, above and beyond any connection with them, we can note how they attempted to follow the Christ.

– We will place our studies in the context of the life of Christ throughout the year. There is a Gospel reading for each week. Each year ends with Advent and Christmas, then begins the new year with Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and then the after-Pentecost season. Those are not all terms that we commonly use in the Churches of Christ, and I do not plan to begin using all of them. But they do at least follow the life of Christ and we will follow the text along.

– On every Monday morning I will know my text for the coming Sunday. All of my preaching friends understand the value of this.

– Since there are four texts for each week, I have a built-in Scripture reading for Sunday morning, and a potential text for my LifeGroup to study.

Here is what I do NOT plan to do:

– I do not plan to talk about the lectionary. I figure most of our members do not know what the lectionary is, nor does it matter in their everyday life. They want to study the Bible – and that is what we will be doing. (Of course all of them read this blog regularly, I tell myself, and they will now know what this lectionary talk is all about!)

– I do not plan to be enslaved to the lectionary. If we have needs that are not being addressed by the week’s text, we will put that aside and address the issues before us. If the lectionary calls my attention to a certain text, but I want to expand that text, I will feel free to do so. It is a tool to help, not a master before which I am trying to bow.

– I do not plan to abandon my Restoration Heritage. This is not an attempt to become something else religiously. It is simply a map through the Scriptures. I have no interest in adopting the practices of denominations that would feel odd to us, or even seem to be a compromise of our beliefs  I am in contact with a number of ministers in the Churches of Christ / Christian Church fellowships who are using the lectionary without becoming Methodists (No offense, my Methodist friends!).

– I do not plan to hide my use of the lectionary. I suppose that one is obvious, since I’m posting this publicly. One friend who used the lectionary did not disclose this to his church. The members of that church were amazed at how often the text of the day was the same one that their friends’ preachers had used. He wished he had been up front from the beginning and felt odd talking about it later.

– I do not plan to slavishly remain connected to the lectionary if, after a time, it seems unprofitable.

– I do not plan to list so many disclaimers that it begins to feel uncomfortable. Well, too late for that one!

In my next post I plan to share why I should not use the Lectionary, and the way I thought through those reasons.

Next post: The Preacher’s Debate

Thanks for reading!

John

 

Lectionary Resources for your Kindle

Psalms for Preaching and Worship: A Lectionary Commentary by Roger E. Van Harn

Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C Volume 1 by David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor

The Word is Very Near You: Feasts and Festivals. Reflections on the Lectionary Readings Years A, B and C by John Pridmore

Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today by Reginald H. Fuller

Twelve Months of Sundays Year B – Reflections on Bible Readings (Relections on Bible Readings) N. T. Wright

Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV, Vol. 2: Year B by Walter Brueggemann

Not Available for Kindle

Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: A Guide by Gail Oday and Charles Hackett

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