Saturday, September 19, 2009

Typical Lutheran Worship – 3, Where Do We Get the Assigned Bible Readings?

Saturday after Pentecost 15
September 19, 2009

The Lord be with you

In a typical Lutheran worship service the Scriptures plays a prominent roll. One way this is apparent is with the “Lectionary.” The Lectionary is a list of pre-determined Scripture lessons for each Sunday and Festival. As I was growing up our Lectionary had two readings from the Bible, one from the Gospels (called the Gospel lesson) and one from somewhere else in the New Testament (called the Epistle lesson). On a few special Sundays the Epistle lesson was replaced with a reading from the Old Testament. This was done in a one-year cycle so, for example, on the First Sunday in Advent the same lessons were read each year. Not a few long-time Lutherans knew what readings were appointed for many of the days in the Church Year. In the 70’s, with the introduction of the “new” hymnal Lutheran Worship, most churches went to the new (for us) three-year Lectionary, which also featured a reading from the Old Testament for each Sunday. Most of us continue to use a three-year Lectionary today. In the current form of the Lectionary the Old Testament and Gospel lesson usually relate, but the Epistle lesson might not. That is because the Epistle lesson is mainly a continuous reading from one of the books from the New Testament (obviously not one of the Gospels). By using this format every major doctrine in the Bible is presented from the appointed lessons every year.

Of course Lutherans are not the only ones that use a Lectionary, nor did we invent them. Some Lectionaries have been found that are very old, dating back to the first several centuries of the Christian Era. Because these Lectionaries had the Scripture lessons written out they become an important witness to the Biblical text. Lectionaries are used in many denominations, Presbyterian, Anglican, Roman Catholic (of course), and there is even one Baptist church here in Spartanburg that I know uses a Lectionary.

The most common Lectionary used outside of the LCMS is the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). The one we use at Lamb of God is the one associated with the LCMS and is a modification of the RCL.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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