Thursday, June 28, 2018

Choosing Sunday Scripture readings

How do we choose which Scripture readings to do each week?
Robertson-Wesley United Church uses a schedule of Scripture readings called a lectionary.  There are a few types and in the last four years we have been using one called the Narrative Lectionary.
We have been using a newly developed scheduling of reading through the Bible, Sunday by Sunday, developed originally by Luther Seminary in Minneapolis. Next Autumn we will return to using the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) guide to which Scriptures to read each Sunday.

While traditions vary from denomination to denomination, most mainline Protestant churches and Roman Catholic churches follow the RCL. This is a scheduling of readings that takes 3 years of Sundays to complete.  It seeks to both unite the Christian Church worldwide (we focus on the same Scriptures as all the others following the lectionary) and to have each congregation cover as much of the Bible as possible.  It does so by choosing 4 readings for each Sunday, allowing the worship team at a given church to focus on one, two or perhaps the theme coming out of all four (some weeks they are related directly, other weeks not so much).  This allows for flexibility (four readings), unity (majority of churches follow it) and planning guidance because of its popularity.  However, it can thin out the readings as we read only a short portion of each in a given week and each of the four come from different parts of the Bible (Hebrew Scriptures, Psalms, Christian Scriptures and a reading from a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John)).

In the Narrative Lectionary, one reading and one Psalm is chosen for each week and the reading is much longer.  It schedules the journey through the Bible into 4 years and also gives each liturgical season one part of the Bible to dive into (instead of seeking commonality over four parts of the Scriptures).  In the Fall we looked at one story or more from the Hebrew Scriptures.  Advent through Easter we explored one Gospel account in particular, and the Spring would see us turn to the letters and other writing in the Christian Scriptures.  The summer months would be suggested readings only allowing a worship team to pick readings according to thematic work they are doing.  While resources in hymnals and other books were fewer, and we were not always on the same topic as our neighbours, we did find it exciting to delve deeper and more substantially into each story week by week.  We are glad for the experience in the Narrative Lectionary for the last four years.
(for more information see Working Preacher website)

As of the August, 2018 we will be returning to a three-year cycle of the RCL excited to return to all the resources created throughout its long history in music, poetry and art.  You can follow along by looking into a Voices United hymn book (pages 998-1012) or via a website such as the Vanderbilt Library  However, we will not read four readings every Sunday morning since we have learned the power of deeper diving and hope that choosing one or two per Sunday from the choices provided will allow us to use the gifts of both lectionaries.

Are you wondering why the Worship committee does not just choose week by week.  Firstly, it takes a long time to organize a lectionary, to ensure balance of the Biblical stories and connections with the other aspects of worship (Christmas, Easter etc.).  Secondly, we would be tempted to regularly use our favorite stories and miss out on the variety of our Biblical Scriptures.  

Rev. Leigh Sinclair