Day of Pentecost

The NZ Lectionary booklet has the instruction for the Day of Pentecost, “The reading from Acts must be used as either the 1st or 2nd reading”. This is a newish instruction in the NZ lectionary booklet – it was not present previous to 2012.

In the version of the The Revised Common Lectionary: The Consultation on Common Texts that I have, the readings are titled “First Reading”, “Second Reading”, and it is clear, then, when it says “If the passage from Numbers is chosen for the First Reading, the passage from Acts is used as the Second Reading.” The new instruction in the NZ lectionary booklet is clearly attempting to reflect this intention.

I can imagine, however, this instruction confusing Kiwi Anglicans – especially those who have only one or two readings at a service! Some call the psalm in the lectionary a “reading” and so regard what the lectionary provides as 4 reading options. For them, this lectionary booklet instruction (without, as you see in the image above, the titles) could be understood as having Acts replace the Psalm…

It is not unknown to be at a service in NZ Anglicanism to hear, “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Galatians…”! So I imagine there could very well be a reading from “the Holy Gospel according to Acts”…

My presumption is that in ordinary parish worship, Sunday Eucharist should have: first reading, psalm, second reading, Gospel. I can, of course, visualise, beyond ordinary parish worship, contexts where this fare might be reduced by,say, one reading. I know some just have a single reading – and I wonder how they respond to this lectionary booklet instruction – do they read solely from Acts? What would be the understanding of the lectionary booklet in an only-one-reading context [remembering the lectionary booklet is not binding or agreed to]?

It seems to me that the lectionary booklet itself works from the same “first reading, psalm, second reading, Gospel” presumption as I do. I suspect better wording might be, “The reading from Acts must be used.” Another option is to use the layout and titles and then instruction of the RCL as I describe. This takes more room – an issue for printing, but obviously not in digital versions.

The introduction of “must” language into our NZ Anglican liturgical life (alongside increasing use of “should”) is to be noted as a swing in the pendulum away from “anything goes”.

Today is the Forty-seventh day of Easter.

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