by Sam Gutierrez
What kind of scriptural "diet" are you following? I’ve been a part of many churches over my adult life, and I’ve known well-intentioned pastors who have fed their congregations a steady diet of “pet” passages. In these instances, difficult pieces of Scripture tend to get ignored, and that’s not good for the health of a congregation. A more difficult, more rewarding challenge is to preach creatively within some boundaries. What provides preachers with those boundaries for a structured Scriptural diet? The Lectionary.
The Lectionary ensures that we get a steady diet of Scripture. It takes the power of selecting sermon passages out of the hands of pastors and places it in a resource that has proved itself in church life and worship.
The Revised Common Lectionary is a collection of scripture readings bound together by a common theme. It’s based on a three-year repeating rhythm with designations A, B, and C. Each Lectionary cycle starts at the beginning of a new liturgical year - the first Sunday in Advent. The four readings are meant to give churches a steady diet of scripture and normally consist of an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, an Epistle, and a Gospel reading. Moreover, the passages are arranged to correspond to each liturgical season (which we talked about last week).
What I also love about the Lectionary is that many churches around the world follow it, so when we reflect on the four scripture passages each week, we are joining with Christians across the globe who are hearing and reflecting on the same passages.
Twice a year, Stephen and I spend 2-3 days reflecting on the Lectionary passages for a given season and dream up the sermon series for those passages. Quite often we look at each other and say, “I’m not looking forward to preaching THAT passage…” and that is the genius of the Lectionary. It forces us to preach on passages that are difficult, messy, and complicated – passages we would rather ignore, but are essential for the health of a congregation.
The Revised Common Lectionary is not a perfect resource. It was put together by a diverse group of people who did their best to take samplings from Scripture, bringing together passages that touch on similar themes. Critics of the Lectionary point out that “important" verses or passages are excluded. Those criticisms have merit. But, as a resource that keeps churches regularly in contact with a steady diet of scripture, the Lectionary does a pretty good job.
When it comes to faith Formation, regular engagement with Scripture is KEY. It’s one of the main ways that the Spirit works to form and shape us into the image of Jesus. The Lectionary is a tool that Alger Park Church uses to aid the Spirit in the formation of Christ followers.