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Criticise Revised Common Lectionary?

Lectionary readings

To critics of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) and its twin, the RC 3-year Sunday cycle of Mass readings (RC3Yr), I regularly quote Churchill: “The RCL is the worst form of systematically reading the Bible as church, except for all the others.” I challenge people to show me a better form.

Now someone has taken up this challenge.

Someone sent me a blog post, Why I Left the Revised Common Lectionary Behind, in which Rev. Chris Duckwortht argues against RCL and in favour of a new lectionary, recently constructed, “the Narrative Lectionary, a project out of Luther Seminary that offers a 9-month, single-reading lectionary starting with Genesis and moving through to the Epistles and Revelation.”

The top reason for leaving the RCL is that “the RCL presents Old Testament texts only in relation to the Gospel text”. FALSE. About half the year a community can decide to read through the Firsts Testament semi-continuously, just as the RCL reads through the New Testament. Recently, communities spent seven weeks reading through 2 Samuel. Compare that to the Narrative Lectionary: 2 Samuel appears for only one Sunday. Let’s look at the Narrative Lectionary use of the First Testament: the Pentateuch gets five Sundays – 3 reading from Genesis, one from Exodus, one from Deuteronomy. That’s it! The Garden of Eden second creation story, Isaac’s birth, Jacob wrestling, Moses’ call, and the 10 commandments. That doesn’t even cover the stories you would expect in a cardboard children’s bible!!! In RCL, Genesis alone gets something like 26 readings – 14 weeks in a row in Year A. Followed by 7 weeks of Exodus. Need I go on…

The second reason for leaving the RCL is that “The RCL is too focused on the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John”. Yes, in the RCL we read three readings and a psalm, and one of those readings is from one of the Gospels. This criticism is a bit like criticising synagogues for always having a reading from the Torah on the Sabbath!

Reason 3: “The RCL skips the Old Testament during the most important season of the church year [the Easter Season], replacing it with readings from the Acts of the Apostles.” Excuse me?!!! Seriously?! And the Narrative Lectionary is a solution to this – how exactly?! The Narrative Lectionary, during the Easter Season, takes its reading from the Acts of the Apostles, except for two Sundays when it reads from 1 Corinthians! It does not have a single reading from the Old Testament – not even a psalm – not even optionally!

OK, for communities that find this a serious issue, don’t abandon RCL as suggested, for a lectionary that doesn’t even meet the criticism! There are “Paschaltide readings from the Old Testament” for RCL. No reason to abandon the whole RCL for this.

Reason 4: “The year is all off” – they want to “follow a program year calendar that closely tracks the school year.” Well you can’t show your Northern-Hemisphere bias much more than that! The Southern Hemisphere school year fits fine into the calendar year (unlike the crazy Northern Hemisphere practice of stopping and starting the school year half way through the calendar year!) I haven’t seen much of a movement from these people to change the Northern Hemisphere calendar year to fit the school year! And, Eurocentric people, it is time to wake up to your post-Constantinian-Christendom reality: Christianity is moving to be a Southern-Hemisphere faith. Even the Pope, now, is from the Southern Hemisphere. Get used to it! We, in the Southern Hemisphere, have been trying to adapt the liturgical year to our different seasons for centuries – don’t, Northern Hemispherians, now tell us that the Church Year has never suited your hemisphere in the first place!

Reason 5: “The unity achieved by the RCL is overstated.” In fact, the unity provided by RCL/RC3Yr is nothing short of miraculous, a movement of the Holy Spirit. In a short span of years animosity between denominations going back centuries has given way to clergy and laity meeting together prayerfully over the Scriptures to discuss the same reading that they will hear in their different communities. For this RCL/RC3Yr lectionary, commentaries, hymn, song, prayer, and art resources are available in a plethora of quality books and online resources. Of course, the unity is lessened when someone leaves the RCL. And those who vow and sign that they will follow this lectionary (as Anglican clergy here do) have, in articles such as the one I’m fisking, approached uncritically, yet another spurious reason to continue their approach.

Let us remember Screwtape’s rejoicing:

In order to spare the laity all “difficulties” he has deserted both the lectionary and the appointed psalms and now, without noticing it, revolves endlessly round the little treadmill of his fifteen favourite psalms and twenty favourite lessons. We are thus safe from the danger that any truth not already familiar to him and to his flock should over reach them through Scripture.

Yes, there are problems with RCL. But these aren’t them. And Rev. Chris Duckworth’s “solution” is no solution at all. The RCL is the worst form of systematically reading the Bible as church, except for all the others.

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38 Responses to Criticise Revised Common Lectionary?

  1. Bosco+,

    Thanks for sharing, especially the link to the OT/psalm selections that ELLC has considered. The link seems to indicate that the consideration period ended in 2010. Have they become official alternatives?

    I’ve long opposed the RCL/Roman scheme. Unlike many, I don’t object to the thematic linking of the OT and Gospel of the day… in fact, I really don’t like the lack of connection with the Epistle, which then usually just ‘hangs’ there with little or no comment. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has offered a revised lectionary in which the Epistles (and some of the OT readings) have been tweaked to fit thematically. I understand it is currently under refinement for their WELS Hymnal Project.

    I have been using their supplemental version for this entire liturgical year, having given up on my own attempt to better the system. No point in expending the energy advocating for a program that nobody was looking for except me. 😉

    That said, I will definitely read through these proposed alternative readings as I prepare for next year. Given my use of the New Living Translation in liturgy, I prepare a hardcopy lectionary every year ahead of time. I may have to include these as options next year.

    Rob+

  2. Well said Bosco. As a fan of Luther Seminary’s work I have looked closely at the Narrative Lectionary, and while I can see why it would be attractive to some I’m not impressed for precisely the reasons you’ve noted.
    And no Song of Songs!!

    • Thanks, Brian. As a Song-of-Songs enthusiast, I’m with you, brother! That could be a shared criticism of RCL – not enough from the Song of Songs. Blessings.

  3. “The second reason for leaving the RCL is that “The RCL is too focused on the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John”. –

    As you intimate here, Bosco, this is surely no good reason for rejecting the RCL scheme of Readings. After all, the Gospel is ‘Good News’ from the source – Christ – whose sayings and doings are critical to any assessment of Scriptural understanding.

    One other reason for using the RCL is that it has been accepted by most Western Christians as helpful to the Faithful Laity, whose understanding of the Scriptures is usually best gained at the Eucharist – wherein we meet the Christ they proclaim.

  4. Sorry…I disagree. I think the RCL was developed for Christendom and that is dead. When the people do not understand Scripture at its basics we must go back to the beginning to tell the whole story. The Narrative lectionary attempts to do just that. Isn’t perfect…no. But neither is the RCL. For years I struggled with why we jump around scripture, why certain verses are mysteriously omitted because they don’t fit with our theology or they’re too uncomfortable. Trying to be perfect, the RCL assumes a certain level of biblical literacy that I just isn’t there. For now I will stick with the narrative lectionary until another comes about that proclaims God’s story better.

    • Thanks, Bill. We could possibly discuss what “going back to the beginning” involves. More usefully, could you actually respond to the points I make, where I show the Narrative Lectionary actually “jumps around scripture, why [whole tracts of the story] are mysteriously omitted”?! I explicitly declare that the RCL isn’t perfect. I acknowledge that I have an understanding of Sunday worship of the whole people of God as something that nourishes us for a lifetime, not something one grows out of. If you are suggesting that the Narrative Lectionary is a helpful introduction to the Bible, for beginners, use it in a catechetical group. Blessings.

  5. I affirm your post, Bosco, which could lead at least to a re-naming: the Revised Churchillian Lectionary!

    The intriguing observation we can make about the RCL is that given it offers on ordinary Sundays alternative readings, continuous or related, re the OT and Psalm, it is scarcely a ‘one size must be used by all’ lectionary.

    I have one question, however, re your assertion that licensed clergy and lay ministers in our ACANZP church sign up to the RCL: we sign up to the authorised lectionaries (agreed) but is the RCL the only authorised lectionary of our church?

    That is, is not the two year cycle embedded in our NZPBs still legal? And, what of the lectionary in the BCP itself?

    • Yes, Peter, you and I, with our mathematical backgrounds can try and work out how many different possible (preaching) years can be constructed out of options within RCL! And, of course you are correct. For overseas readers, ACANZP has a home-grown, thematic lectionary which, though little used, is a perfectly licit alternative to RCL. The Narrative Lectionary, Peter I am sure we agree, is not. Blessings.

    • Thanks, Chris. Your comment is appreciated more than you may realise. This site is a place where people can disagree whilst respecting each other. Blessings.

  6. I am forced to wonder whether the problem (at least from an Anglican perspective) is not the lectionary we use at the Eucharist, but the decline of the Daily Office.

    How do, historically, Anglicans meditate on the narrative of Scripture? Well, according to the tradition of the BCP, by reading the Psalms through each month, morning and evening in order, and by reading in a continuous manner the Old and the New Testaments, one path in the morning, another in the evening.

    • Thanks, Tom. You have been in the community around this site long enough to know of my passion about this. The Eucharist is the jewel in the crown – we have put all our focus on that jewel and discarded the crown in which it best sits, the Daily Office. I continue to wonder what my church thought it was doing when it removed the requirement to pray the Daily Office (this needed the passing by General Synod, diocesan synods, and General Synod again!). Blessings.

      • Indeed I have – though I comment little enough I am surprised to be recognised! I am glad it is a theme more widely held than just amongst those of us into the significance is drummed in – by attendance at it as well as in class – at my seminary. (College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, UK)

        There may be more honesty in the approach of you New Zealanders though – in the Church of England, we still have the canonical requirement for the clergy to pray the Office daily, and for incumbents to ensure it is said publicly daily in the parish church (the canon recommends ringing the bell) for which they are responsible.

        The number of churches in which it truly happens seems to be limited, and I suspect the same is true for the clergy

        The problem seems to be Communion wide though. I was at a conference at Canterbury Cathedral a few months back for newly ordained and seminarians from across the Anglican world, at which +Josiah Fearon spoke on the theme of accepting the discipline of the Church. His opener was (with eyes closed for privacy!) ‘put your hand up if you normally pray the Office daily’. The results he reported to us were less than half had hands raised. I believe all present either were under obligation, or will be once ordained… He might come from elsewhere in the Anglican spectrum to many readers of this blog, but I can report that +Josiah was appalled!

  7. Thank you for your reply. Heres my response…does the NL jump around…yes. If you look at one year you will be skipping stories to reach your goal. This year we go from Adam and Eve to Abraham’s promise to Jacob wrestling with the angel to Moses all in the span of a month. It jumps around in a year but over the course of 4 years you hit mire of the Old Testament stories than you would before. As far as your comment goes about catechisis…that’s where the NL is more in tune with post-Christendom world. Do you really think most people in the pews are going to attend that?? Really?? We need to teach the whole story to the whole people not just the dedicated few who’d goto a bible study. My biggest question for you is…wwhy do you care so much what other churches do? We write about what we care about and judging from your (and other) blogs, it seems that the RCL has just as passionate a following as the Bible.

    • Thanks, Bill.

      You cannot denigrate RCL for “jumping around“, accusing its compilers of “omitting because they don’t fit with our theology or they’re too uncomfortable”, and promote, as a solution, a lectionary that “goes from Adam and Eve to Abraham’s promise to Jacob wrestling with the angel to Moses all in the span of a month”! I would be interested if you can present a table to demonstrate “over the course of 4 years you hit more of the Old Testament stories than” one would in three years with RCL.

      Your “post-Christendom world” assumes that people will go to church Sunday by Sunday by Sunday. The reality is, they do not. An average of once every three or four weeks would be very common. This is a fatal flaw in your model of turning Sunday worship into a catechetical programme across 200 consecutive Sundays.

      I’m rather surprised at your “biggest question”. Where do you think my caring should appropriately stop? At the congregation that meets this Sunday for worship – which will be different to those who meet next Sunday? At my own local community? At my city or diocese? Only for those who assent to my beliefs and are part of my denomination?

      Blessings

  8. I guess my problem with the pro-RCL folks’ argument is how strongly and passionately they demonize those who are trying something different. It’s almost like a new crusade or something. Looking at your own post I can see how passionate you are about the RCL. And I’m happy for you. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t for us in our context. I’m saying my perseption of the RCL is that it assumes a certain biblical literacy that isn’t in the congregation. The NL takes us back thru the whole stoty. It forces preachers to find the gospel in the Old Testament. It tells stories that arent even mentioned in the RCL. Take a look at workingpreacher.org and check it out for yourself. Read why it was developed. True it’s not perfect but it’s a start. Something gotta change and this is a step in the right direction. Thanks for the discussion. I enjoy the debate.

    • When you say, “Take a look at workingpreacher.org and check it out for yourself”, Bill – note that this is the second link in my original post!

      I also cannot quite see how your ending, “I enjoy the debate” squares with saying that I “strongly and passionately demonize those who are trying something different” and your comparing my post to “a new crusade”!

      It is also notable that you have not responded to any of my points, Bill. You merely keep repeating statements without any evidence, including the claim that we cannot work to use RCL in the context of poor biblical literacy – and somehow the Narrative Lectionary is immune to those same issues.

      Blessings.

  9. Excellent on all points, Bosco. Thanks for this.

    Of course, to say that the RCL is the “least worst” (i.e. “best”) option does invite the question, “Best for what purpose?” You anticipate that question in your post: the purpose is “systematically reading the Bible as church”.

    I have been in the past a great RCL enthusiast. This is partly because I used to take such things on faith from my betters, but even more because I had the advantage of some academic study under a fine commentator on the Roman lectionary on which the RCL is based (Fr. Normand Bonneau), who showed how the whole lectionary was carefully crafted to present, not a representative selection of scripture, but an unfolding experience of the Paschal Mystery itself. Any particular criticisms one might level at the RCL (not least the bits it leaves out within the pericopes that are chosen for inclusion) do not, I think, affect that central strength.

    But for all that, I find myself nourished these days much more by the old medieval Eucharistic lectionary that survived mostly unmolested in the classical Book of Common Prayer, which really does shine as a jewel in the midst of an intensive one-year cycle of daily Office readings. For the Office, I myself follow the old Church of England 1922 lectionary, partly for the convenience of its being printed out in extenso in the Daily Service Book (which is back in print from Canterbury Press), but mainly because of its inherent excellence as a way of reading the Old and New Testaments in continual dialogue. This was the first Anglican lectionary to go back to the finely conceived early Roman monastic sources (Ordines Romani XIIIA and XIV) that lie behind the mutilated breviary lectionaries of the later Middle Ages. The intricate dance of scriptural allusion between OT and NT every day, and between the weekday offices and the Sunday Eucharist, has been for me a mysterium tremendum et fascinans ever since I first immersed myself in it some six or seven years ago.

    It’s not a diet that would agree with all bellies. The system’s origins are, after all, monastic, and it demands an hour or two out of one’s day, every day. But I would hope that as the RCL continues to flourish in the average Sunday parish, there will be room in less conventional communities (especially seminaries) for this “right good old way” to be available, and to continue to inspire.

    I have in mind a passage in Aidan Nichols’s “Looking at the Liturgy”, which he wonders aloud whether the “Novus Ordo” of the Roman Mass might be most effective as an ecumenical pattern, leading one into the headier stuff of the traditional liturgy. The RCL (with the liturgical renewal generally) has been an extraordinary ecumenical phenomenon. But at least a minor chord of the ecumenical symphony ought to be appreciating and rediscovering the treasures within our own storehouses.

    • Thanks, Jesse.

      Yes, even this weekend, present at synod, I encountered church leaders who either pressed for the abandonment of RCL or had already done so, replacing it with … well… very difficult to tell – but certainly they believed that somehow “the whole Bible” would be read and preached through. They left me with an apprehension that they had no real idea either how big the Bible is, or what it contains…

      So, no – Sunday worship is not the church reading together through the whole Bible.

      I am fascinated by your other information. I will probably get hold of the resources you mention. I doubt that I will go over to the system in the limitations currently for me for my personal devotional life. I would be happy to hear of any office-like discipline being the daily norm in our province’s seminary, let alone with all those training for ordination…

      Blessings.

      • The details, Bosco, in case you want to follow them up:

        The 1922 lectionary can by found in many old printings of the Church of England’s BCP (especially of the rejected 1928 revision). But the texts of the lessons were printed in full (in the language of the Authorized Version, obviously) in the “Daily Service Book”, with either the 1662 or the 1928 BCP. (My copy is a 1662, with the royal family as in 1938.) They’re scarce but sometimes turn up on used book sites. Canterbury Press has reprinted the 1928 version: http://www.canterburypress.co.uk/books/9781853119118/book-of-common-prayer-as-proposed-in-1928

        Thanks to an act of Parliament, the 1922 lectionary is still authorized for use in the Church of England. (An earlier draft of it was authorized in Canada’s 1918 BCP.) But it underwent radical surgery in a 1955 draft revision. (This revision was again adopted in Canada’s 1959 BCP, which we still use here.)

        If you have access to the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, there is a fine article on the 1922-to-1955 revision by Geoffrey G. Willis, who looks at its Roman (and non-Roman) sources: “The Historical Background of the English Lectionary of 1955,” JEH 9 (1958), 73-86.

        Some of Willis’s critiques of 1955 were reflected in a final revision in 1961, authorization for which has only recently lapsed in England (where canon law actually lets you do whatever you want anyway). It restored the more traditional framework of 1922 (e.g. 1 Samuel after Trinity, as in the Breviarium Romanum). It is very hard to lay hands on a copy of the 1961 Table of Lessons. (It took me years to get mine!) But its substance can be found in the annual “Order for the Eucharist” compiled by Fr. John Hunwicke (published by the Additional Curates Society), where an Old Testament lesson is also provided for use with the 1662 BCP Eucharistic lectionary (usually thematically linked to the Epistle, and therefore rather tedious).

        I keep with 1922, mostly for the convenience of the Daily Service Book. But I also appreciate that in certain parts of the year it tells a connected “Life of Christ” by weaving together passages from all four Gospels. I notice things when they’re laid out chronologically that I don’t when I read them in their integrity. 1955 and 1961 thought this approach was unsound and went back to reading the Gospels separately.

        Overall, it is utterly astounding to me how often the 1922 lectionary’s sequential readings from the Old Testament and its sequential readings from the New Testament seem miraculously to line up in typologically or tropologically significant ways. Like arriving in Exodus at the plague that turned Egypt’s rivers into blood on the same day that you just happen to have arrived in John at the wedding at Cana (Mattins on Wednesday after Lent II).

        One slightly amusing quirk is that many references to sex are expurgated. This was not the result of 1920s libertinism: the same omissions occur in the revised lectionary of 1871 (which you’ll find in every copy of the 1662 BCP). The Victorian revisers judged episodes like the rape of Dinah to be unsuitable even for weekday celebrations of the Office. At Mattins on Tuesday after Sexagesima, 1922 has the angelic visitors come to Lot’s house in Sodom, stay the night, and leave very urgently in the morning — for no apparent reason!

        This just goes to show how mistaken are those who criticize current lectionaries for omitting passages about the subordination of women or same-sexuality: such omissions are not intrinsically heterodox, but stand rather in a venerable tradition of prudery. (As Edward Norman says in his book Secularisation, contemporary secular culture is far more prudish about its taboos than the Victorians ever were about theirs!)

      • And another thing…

        The book by Normand Bonneau is “The Sunday Lectionary: Ritual Word, Paschal Shape” (Liturgical Press, 1998).

        And still another thing, since you mention the desideratum of seminaries (and those training in them) taking more care to pray the Office…

        The theological college where I teach is beginning to think about a radical reorganization of its community worship — away from “as many Eucharists as possible, so everyone gets to try all the jobs” to “a daily rhythm of Office prayer to cultivate authentic priestly spirituality”. I have proposed a fourfold Office, in two complementary tracks, so that part-time and commuting students (who are in the majority) can choose what will work for them. My proposal to the faculty has been the following:

        Orthros (8:00am): contemporary, expansive language, short, “People’s Office” approach, with fixed morning-appropriate psalms, little scripture reading, focus on light symbolism and praise.

        Mattins (9:15am): traditional, BCP, chanted to plainsong (or Anglican chant on major feasts), 1922/1955 lectionary, medieval Office hymns.

        Evensong (4:15pm): as at Mattins.

        Lucernarium/Compline (9:15pm): contemporary, expansive language, fixed night-appropriate psalmody, thanksgiving and intercession, perhaps preceded by a monastic “collation” (reading of a non-scriptural text) and Blessing of Light with Phos hilaron.

        The idea is that one could pray both the contemporary and traditional tracks together, without redundancy, or just pick one of the tracks (or indeed just one of the contemporary offices) and find it fulfilling in itself.

        I’d greatly appreciate advice on resources for the contemporary services, which need to be short and pack a punch. Our Canadian Book of Alternative Services was cutting edge for 1985, but other texts like Celebrating Common Prayer have moved well beyond it. I’ll be re-reading George Guiver’s “Company of Voices: Daily Prayer and the People of God” for underlying principles. I may need to call on the Sisters of St. John the Divine here in Toronto, who have their own rather avant-garde version of the Office.

        • I will be very interested to hear more about your experiment, Jesse. Our NZ Prayer Book Night Prayer is very popular – it is based on Jim Cotter Night Prayer material, and may have resources that fit with what you describe. Do you know the Carmelite “People’s Companion to the Breviary”? Is the Office of the Sisters of St John the Divine available? Blessings.

  10. I’m expanding a comment I made on twitter. But these are my thoughts.

    In this age, there is this overbearing need to be “literal” or “historical” with the text. This comes with a shift in the mindset I would relate to the scientific revolution. We as a culture prefer things in order. thus, history is not so much a study of themes but rather a chronological listing of facts, discovered and proven by archeology. As well, our bible mindset has focused on the historical literal aspect of the bible, and we are concerned with it being “chronological.” Think about all the reading plans or bibles that focus on chronology, whereas the bible is constructed around genres and themes.

    The early church and onward focused on the OT and mined it for Christ Types, anything that could relate to Jesus, did. Thus Joseph in jail and coming out to be second in command is a foreshadow of Christ in the tomb. Same with Jonah. Noah’s ark was a foreshadow of the Church, and the saving grace of baptism. Red Sea as well. All of these are the focuses of the OT traditionally. And the RCL keeps this focus by relating each OT to the NT with Jesus. Thus we continue to reveal the fulfillment of Christ.

    But recently, within the past half century, we have gone to wanting the archeological study bible, the one that puts things in order, exactly as the happened by fact. Which isn’t a bad way to study it, but it is rather foreign to the traditional use of the OT.

    I believe the criticism of RCL stems from this “higher order thinking.” Just my take. Personally, I love learning how to connect the OT to the NT. It shows me the unity of thought that permeates scripture.

    Also, as an aside, it saddens me when people focus so much on the literal rendering, that they actually lose all the meaning behind the passage. Creation and revelation are the biggest examples of this. The abuse of every scientific detail in Genesis 1 and 2 (whether young or old earth), loses sight of the true poetry and order of it all. Focusing on the literal world flood or local flood of Noah, ends up losing the meaning of the 2nd creation and 2nd Adam typology. It is possible to co-exist with both (if you are so inclined to lean that way), but unfortunately one usually gets sacrificed for the other.

    • Thanks so much, David.

      I wonder if I might extend your points a little? It seems to me that, from the arguments in the comments, the Narrative Lectionary works as a course where one is to attend all the sessions for it to make sense. The reality is that regular church attendance is not like that any more. Sure, there are Christians who are there every Sunday by Sunday – great! But many are there far less often. For them, I posit, RCL presents God in Christ in the read Word. Those who are there week by week will also, of course, benefit from the way that the RCL moves forward. RCL nourishes both.

      Blessings.

  11. As you know, Bosco, I attend a pentecostal denomination, where no lectionery is followed Sunday by Sunday, however I choose to use the Morning and Evening prayer readings for my personal devotions. I found my way to the NZ lectionery through this very website (actually it was the google search that led me to this website in the first place) because I was looking for something that fit better with the Church year than most Bible reading programs that start with Genesis in January and plod through to Revelation by the end of December.

    I’m thinking sbout some of the comments about an overall lack of Bible literacy in the pews, and the unwillingness of worshippers to engage in bible study. Perhaps some are underestimating the hunger within the congregation for the tools for better personal engagement with Scripture. I’ve had conversations with friends who have been regular Church attendees for years, but haven’t opened the Bible for themselves because they don’t think they can understand it. How can these people best be encouraged and provided with the skills to get started?

    • What a wonderful question, Claudia! There would barely be a day, Claudia, that I am not helping someone, individually or as a group, to deepen their engagement with the scriptures. Several I talk to are reading the Bible 10 pages a day and with great enthusiasm want to discuss what they are reading. I guess a good, accurate, contemporary translation, attractively presented, with some basic helps is an important start. I wonder if this might be the subject of its own blog post? What ideas do you have? And I’m delighted, of course, that you found your way here, and found stuff that helped you here. Blessings.

      • I’d be very interested in reading that post.

        When I first came to faith in my teens I was one of those 10+ pages a day readers. I remember that first summer sitting reading the Bible for hours at a time, whenever I could do so. I couldn’t get enough of it. Over the decades I’ve used a number of different strategies: chronological reading, devotional guides and so forth. What works best for me is something systematic that works through a book at a time. I get frustrated with reading plans or devotionals that jump around thematically. I also like being connected to the season: especially Lent, Easter and Advent.

        I’m in the process of learning how to dig deeper in my reading. I think over the years I’ve built up a “big picture” overview of the context of each part of the Bible although I’ve had no theological training as such.
        Last year (or was it 2013?) I stumbled on this: http://ceruleansanctum.com/2007/01/the-worlds-best-bible-reading-program.html. The concept of moving away from getting through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and lingering to dig deeper appealed to me. I spent about 3-4 months working through Matthew. Once I got to Mark, for some reason I found it harder to sustain.

        This year I’ve been finding this book to be an excellent resource: http://garynealhansen.com/your-free-copy-of-love-your-bible-finding-your-way-to-the-presence-of-god-with-a-12th-century-monk/ A small group of us have been working together on this.

        I’d like to know how I can better help others catch something of the life and energy I find in the scriptures. So many of my friends struggle with devotional reading, and they either find it a chore, or just don’t try. Any ideas you can come up with would be appreciated.

        Blessings

        • Yes, Claudia, I have had times of falling-in-love-with-the-Bible which have sustained me across lengthy periods. And then the ardour can fade, and it becomes a discipline. I think digging deeper (and into the original languages, and there are such great tools online for that now, even for people not agile in them) helps me to keep my passion for the Bible alive. As does preaching and teaching from the Bible. Thanks for your resources. Blessings.

  12. Bosco,
    The evidence I offer is simply contextual. That is…the RCL does not work in my context. With the level of biblical literacy in my context, our church felt concentrating on the essential stories of scripture as the NL does was more beneficial than the lectionary that jumps around the story as the RCL does at times. That isn’t to say that the RCL doesn’t work in your context, but in mine we have discerned another path. I say this because you seem to be very objective in your critique. You want proof and answers to a very specific group of questions. I choose the subjective route here. And I will try not to criticize those who use the RCL. I wish those who used it would do the same to those who choose the NL.

    • Thanks, Bill. In this case, I’m not convinced by this post-modern response, “this is my truth, how dare you question it?”

      My post was written in response to specific criticisms of RCL. I responded point by point to the criticisms; in some cases the Narrative Lectionary did not even meet the criteria for which the RCL was abandoned and the Narrative Lectionary chosen!

      You said, “the RCL was developed for Christendom and that is dead.” This is a strong contention.

      As is the suggestion that there comes a level of biblical illiteracy where RCL does not work, ie: when those of us who are required to follow RCL are pastorally and evangelically justified in abandoning it (as many do).

      My contention continues to be that we need to help church leaders to use RCL appropriately in the context we find ourselves. Nor, for the vast majority of us, is the context homogenous. And RCL caters for that – it is a lectionary for a life-long encounter with God.

      The issue is not the RCL lectionary, the issue is how we use it, what we think it is doing, what we think we are doing when the Christian community gathers around God’s Word Sunday by Sunday.

      Blessings.

  13. Bosco, and all contributors,

    GREAT thread and a necessary conversation. I am in the RCL camp. I have been a licensed lay preacher since 2009. For six months, during an interim period which ends with the arrival of a new rector in October, I have been preaching every four weeks. I am intrigued by the comments about biblical literacy. In my parish we have a wide range of biblical literacy ranging from a small cadre of folks who have been praying the daily office for decades to a fair number of seekers who grew up in non-religious households. I am used to feedback ranging from wildly tangential comments at Sermon Discussion to the occasional email that unpack Greek verbs and their various English translations. (I hate those emails, as they always leave me feeling hopelessly inadequate!)

    As a preacher, my challenge and call is to find for myself the Good News in the texts and make that as accessible as I can. I appreciate the continuity that comes from reading the Gospel in course, but also the deep resonances in the First Testament readings. I try to remember that what appears obvious to me might be a new and potentially exciting idea for someone else.

    For those of us who have been attending worship regularly through our adult lives, there is plenty of variety, anchored in the consistency of the Gospel track. For those who attend only rarely, each Sunday is and must be a proclamation of the Good News of new life in Jesus.

    I think the liturgy must play to both sets of needs. The NL may be just fine. But I am compelled by the thought that throughout the world Christians of many denominations are reading, reflecting and praying the same Gospel texts. That is the huge plus that sways me to the RCL.

  14. Here, in St-Servais, for evensong and mattins, we use the BCP’s set of readings of 1871, and for the Mass the traditional Roman readings.

    In the traditional Roman rite, it is easy to guess what the OT reading was originally. Moreover, many parts of the Holy Writ are ascribed to the faithful in the introit, gradual, alleluia or tract, offertory, and communion verse.

    By taking out these scriptural texts “by the faithful”, and replacing them by songs, there was a first breach.

    In order to compose a better set of readings, one should build upon the basement which had already been built and used for centuries. Adding new readings for the days that had none, why not?

    The liturgical year is didactic. The three-year-readings don’t keep the same Sundays as fit. And there are Bible passages more important than others.

    • Thanks, Georges, for these important points. I have experienced something of what you describe – the community’s singing of those various verses, and a severe cutting back of songs. Can you elaborate on your suggestion that “it is easy to guess what the OT reading was originally”. I cannot guess that easily… Blessings.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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