Saturday, August 23, 2014

September Newsletter...Part A?

I think I will likely write another piece for the newsletter as my "official column".  But here is something I wanted folks to know about:

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Well maybe not completely...
Maybe not even radically...
Maybe some folks won't notice the difference?

So how about “now for something a little bit different”?

For me the starting point (most of the time) in planning our weekly worship experiences is “what are the Scripture passages?” Sometimes I will start with a specific question or theme and search out passages that match that. But most often I take a set of passages from a list of readings called a Lectionary [a lection is “a portion of sacred writing read in a divine service; lesson; pericope” ( so a list of lections is a lectionary]. This pushes me to look at passages I might otherwise avoid or ignore, and so broadens my preaching.

Most United Church folk have gotten used to a Lectionary even if they don't know it, such is the power of the worship planner (at least we are powerful in our own minds). For most of my adult life I have attended churches that used the Revised Common Lectionary in worship. The stated intent of the RCL is to read all of the “important” parts of Scripture over a 3 year period. And so, generally speaking, each week it suggests a reading from the Jewish Scriptures, a Psalm reading, a reading from the Letters, and a reading from the Gospel.

I have struggled with the RCL since I started teaching Sunday School as a teenager. Even then I could see that there were many weeks where the 4 passages did not remotely link with each other, even though the Sunday School Curriculum we used at the time [Whole People of God] went through amazing mental gymnastics to make them appear linked. Over time I have dealt with this issue by simply not reading all the passages on a Sunday – which would tend to defeat the stated purpose of hearing all the “important” [sometimes I wonder how you determine what the important parts are...] parts of Scripture over three years but I dislike reading a passage and then not doing anything else with it in the service.

The other big problem I have had with the RCL is that it tends to make it more difficult to keep a narrative flow. Yes each year the readings mainly come from one Gospel. And each summer the Jewish Scripture readings tend to come from a specific story arc (this summer has been the stories of the Patriarchs leading to the story of Exodus). But the stories get chopped in odd places and sometime we jump around in the Gospel and read passages out of order. As a person who both loves stories and also finds story to be a great teaching/learning/exploration tool this bothers me.

So now for the completely/somewhat/sorta kinda different thing...

There is another option. A Lutheran Seminary in the US has developed what they call the Narrative Lectionary. Each winter/spring it follows through one Gospel from beginning to end (though it still does not read every verse) and then uses other stories for the rest of the year. The hope is that we will get a better picture of the narrative flow of Scripture, as a different way of sparking our exploration. Starting with the beginning of September this year I will be using the Narrative Lectionary as the basis of my worship planning. Which means that from Advent until Easter we will be exploring Matthew's Gospel.

The big question is.....will anybody noticed a difference???????

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