the lectionary…

a listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian worship.

MCPC uses the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).

What is the Lectionary?

Since the earliest biblical times, there have been appointed readings for special days and seasons. In Luke 4:16-17 we read: “When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.”

As times and seasons of the Christian life developed, agreed upon readings were offered at particular times of the life of the church, for major festivals and holy days. Martin Luther judged the medieval lectionary to be perfectly acceptable, only urging clergy to “preach on it with a much clearer focus on the good news of God’s mercy in Christ.”

Why should use the Lectionary?

The Unity of the Church – Use of the lectionary is one of the most ecumenical acts across Christendom. “A set of readings identical across the churches binds us together with all the other assemblies that are using the same readings…We relinquish personal preferences for the greater goal of common practice. We stand together, wherever we meet, hearing the same gospel each week.”

Encountering the Full Breadth of the Scriptures – Inevitably, preachers have favorite scriptures or passages with which they are more familiar and comfortable. The lectionary challenges preachers to wrestle with tough texts that might otherwise be avoided. The lectionary also revisits passages every three years, reminding us that “God [and the scriptures] are still speaking.”

Liturgical Planning – The lectionary offers a three-year cycle of readings, each of which includes Hebrew Scripture (the Old Testament), a Psalm in response, an Epistle reading, and the Gospel. A standard set of readings for each Sunday allows worship planners and musicians to look ahead and plan music, art, and instruction that complements the fixed readings. The readings also follow the Christian year and illuminate each special season in the life of the church. The lectionary serves to remind us of the seasons of church life — and how those differ from seasons, such as Christmas, on a calendar marking national holidays.

An especially good introduction to the Lectionary is found in Gail Ramshaw’s book A Three-Year Banquet: The Lectionary for the Assembly. The quotes above came from it; and it is a quick read (around 80 pages) packed with history, information, and guidance for the appreciation of what a gift the lectionary is to the church.

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