What is the Revised Common Lectionary?
For as long as I can remember, I have been a “lectionary preacher.” This means that I plan worship services and sermons based on a document known as the Revised Common Lectionary.
What is the Lectionary?
Simply put, the Lectionary is a three-year cycle of readings from the Bible. For every Sunday and every special day throughout the year (such as All Saints Day, Christ the King Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Eve, to name a few from the current season), the Lectionary offers readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, and Gospels.
If one were to read all four readings every week, in the course of three years, one would cover all of the major stories and themes from the entire Bible. Every verse is not covered; other cycles of readings will do that. But every story and theme is covered, and Biblical literacy, which is an essential part of the vitality of our faith, is greatly enhanced.
The Revised Common Lectionary is also written to emphasize themes and perspectives from the seasons of the Christian Year. But that is beyond the scope of this essay, and I will write more on that next month.
Folks always ask, “Since the Lectionary is presented in a three-year cycle, don’t you run out of material?” Actually, no. Our faith reminds us that the Scriptures are alive in ways that other literature is not. Even if the story is the same, we are never in the same place spiritually and emotionally. So, the texts are answering new questions and engaging new circumstances, and the sermon focus changes from time to time.
Other folks ask, “Don’t you feel constrained by the Lectionary?” Again, no. Instead, all of us are liberated both from the tyranny of my own agenda and from the repetition of my favorite texts and themes. The Lectionary leads me to preach from texts I would not otherwise tackle and to do so on days I might not otherwise choose. In so doing, I engage the Living Word of God, which is the Risen Christ, in unexpected and life-giving ways.
And since the Lectionary is tied to the date of Easter, which can move as much as a month from one year to the next, the same Lectionary texts don’t fall on the same calendar date every year. This offers new spiritual seeds and insights for preaching on holidays and special days in the life of our congregation that are fixed by the civil calendar or tradition.
The Lectionary readings for each Sunday are printed in The Message month by month, and updated weekly through the Calvary Connection and CUMC Facebook under the heading of “Preparing for Worship.” I invite you to join me in the weekly discovery of what the Spirit of God is saying to the People of God.
Rev. David Amrie