Why We Use The Lectionary

Posted: January 30, 2017 in Uncategorized


Why We Use the Lectionary

In general, a lectionary is a collection of readings from Holy Scripture. These readings are arranged according to the Church’s calendar and are intended to be read at the regular, weekly gathering of God’s people.

For the early Church, already in the fourth century, readings were gathered together for this purpose. Initially, the readings were arranged in a continuous fashion, with each Sunday’s texts picking up where the reading had concluded the previous week. For the festival half of the church year (Advent through Pentecost), readings were eventually assigned that reflected the theme of the day.

The use of a lectionary as a focus for worship ensures that our congregation, over time, will hear the various voices and lessons of Holy Scripture and not be captive to the favorite texts of this pastor.  Use of the Lectionary allows our congregation to learn from the whole of Holy Scripture, invites us to consider how multi-faceted and rich the message of Holy Scripture is, and prevents us from focusing only on the messages of Holy Scripture with which we are comfortable and so avoid the challenge that Holy Scripture brings.

This brings us to using the Revised Common Lectionary.

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is a three-year cycle of weekly lections (Holy Scripture lessons to be read in church). The RCL is built around the seasons of the Church Year, and includes four lections for each Sunday, as well as additional readings for major feast days. During most of the year, the lections are: a reading from the Hebrew Bible, a Psalm, a reading from the Epistles, and a Gospel reading. During the season of Easter, the Hebrew Bible lection is usually replaced with one from the Acts of the Apostles.

The seasons of the Church Year reflect the life of Christ. Consequently, the Gospel lections for each Sunday provide the focus for that day. The other lections for a given day generally have a thematic relationship to the Gospel reading for that day, although this is not always the case.

Ordinary Time refers to two periods of time in the Christian liturgical year. The first period begins on Epiphany Day and ends on the day before Ash Wednesday; the second period begins on the Monday after Pentecost, the conclusion of the Paschal (Easter) season, and continues until the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent.

For Ordinary Time, the (RCL) offers two sets of readings for the lessons from the Hebrew Bible. One set proceeds mostly continuously, giving the story of the Patriarchs and the Exodus in Year A, the Monarchial narratives in Year B, and readings from the Prophets in Year C. In the other set of readings for Ordinary Time, the readings from the Hebrew Bible are thematically related to the Gospel lections. We use the semi continuous readings or the thematic readings during Ordinary Time. They do not typically move back and forth between the two over the course of a single season.

The Gospel readings for each year come from one of the synoptic Gospels according to the following pattern:

Year A – Matthew

Year B – Mark

Year C – Luke

Readings from the Gospel of John can be found throughout year in the RCL.

Therefore, the Lectionary expands our scriptural literacy, encourages better preaching and worship planning, spurs us to wrestle with the human issues posed in the Holy Scriptures, guides our preparation for worship, provides the other churches in the community an important link for worshiping, praying, and working together, and calls us to remember and celebrate weekly the love of God as witnessed by us through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.




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