The Pastor's Word
Dear Friends in Christ,
You may have heard me speak of my lectionary group, the lectionary, and the lectionary calendar. Recently, I was approached by a church member asking me to explain what these terms mean.
The primary rhythm of keeping time is that of the week. Our Christian understanding of time is rooted in God’s creative action as described in Genesis and is also connected with the Jewish practice of Sabbath-keeping described in Exodus. Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week, which both transforms and fulfills time itself. On Sunday, the day of new creation, we gather to worship God, to hear the good news, and to come to the Table that Christ prepares. Calvin believed that Holy Communion should be part of the worship service each and every week.
The Lectionary calendar, with its festivals and seasons of the Christian year, orders the life of the church around the life of Christ and the events of sal- vation history. Some of the festivals and seasons, including Pentecost, Holy Week, and Epiphany, can be traced to the earliest centuries of Christian practice; others, including Trinity Sunday and Christ the King developed later in the church’s history. Events that appear in the civic calendar (like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day) can also be acknowledged in worship, but they are never to obscure the proclamation of the gospel. The lectionary calendar is different from the Gregorian calendar (our civic calendar) in that the Christian year begins on the first Sunday of Advent.
The Directory for Worship explains that the Church observes the following days and seasons: Advent, a season to recollect the hope of the coming of Christ, and to look forward to the Lord’s coming again; Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Christ; Epiphany, a day for commemorating God’s self-manifestation to all people; Lent, a season of spiritual discipline and preparation, beginning with Ash Wednesday, anticipating the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ; Holy Week, a time of remembrance and proclamation of the atoning suffering and death of Jesus Christ; Easter, the day of the Lord’s resurrection and the season of rejoicing which commemorates his ministry until his Ascension, and continues through the Day of Pentecost, the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.
The lectionary calendar lists four scriptures for each Sunday for the calen- dar year from the Revised Common Lectionary (1992). This calendar was prepared by the Consultation on Common Texts and published in the Book of Common Worship (1993). The Revised Common Lectionary is divided into a three -year cycle: A, B, and C.
We are now in Year B, but on the first Sunday of Advent we begin Year C. I usually use the Psalm (or part of it) for the Call to Worship in the Sunday bulletin. I try to include two of the other scripture lessons in my sermon. Each week for many years I have met with a lectionary group. This year eight of us gather Tuesday mornings to discuss the lectionary texts. I’m excited about this year because for the first time it contains four ministers from the Shenandoah Presbytery. Frequently what happens is that I will go into the group thinking that I am preaching on one text with a particular theme, but I emerge two hours later with new insight and a different direction. Some of my best stories, which I share with you, with permission, come from this group. If you have additional questions about the lectionary, the lectionary calendar, or the lectionary group, we can talk further.