All About the Lectionary

From the Pastor’s Desk

Do you ever wonder how pastors select the scripture passages for a given Sunday? Would you be surprised to learn that the readings you hear on Sunday are likely also being read at St. Boniface Catholic Church, Lutheran Church of the Living Christ, and thousands of other churches all over North America? Generally speaking (once or twice a year I may deviate) we follow the Revised Common Lectionary, which is a three year cycle of Bible readings set up by representatives of nineteen different denominations from throughout the United States and Canada. Denominations that follow the Revised Common Lectionary include the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, the Roman Catholic Church, and the United Church of Christ, to name just a few.

The purpose of the lectionary is to provide systematic readings that correspond to the church year and provide some commonality and ecumenism between the various denominations. We are currently in Year B of the lectionary cycle. A new lectionary cycle begins at the start of the church year (1st Sunday in Advent). Each week’s readings generally consist of a passage from the Hebrew Bible, the Psalms, the Gospels, and an Epistle. Year A gospel readings are usually from Matthew, Year B from Mark, and Year C from Luke. The gospel of John does not have its own year but is spread throughout each year, focusing heavily around the Holy Days, such as Easter. During the Easter Season passages from the Acts of the Apostles are usually substituted for the Hebrew Bible passages. In Ordinary Time, there are often two sets of readings from the Hebrew Bible. One of these offers a semi-continuous reading (patriarchs in year A, monarchy in Year B, and Prophets in Year C), the other is thematic to match the gospel text.

The advantages of using the Revised Common Lectionary include having readings that match up with the church year, multiple options to preach from each week, having a point of commonality with those in other denominations, etc. One of the drawbacks to using the Revised Common Lectionary is that quite a bit is left out. For example, 1 and 2 Chronicles and Numbers are rarely read in church, and many wonderful stories are left out of the Sunday readings. If you are intrigued about these passages you never hear read on Sunday, then watch for announcements regarding the Fall Bible Study opportunities. One of the gatherings will be focusing specifically on those passages that “didn’t make the cut” into the lectionary.

I hope this “fun fact” of the church helps you to better understand and appreciate the reading of our Sacred texts each Sunday. Be on the lookout for future “fun facts” articles in future editions of the Heartbeat. And if you have a question or topic you would like explained, stop by or email me and maybe your idea will be included in a future article.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Tara