Readings Epiphany 4

I had the next post for reading Matthew in slow motion prepared to be published today, but then observant Rev. Ellen Bernstein (Vicar of St Stephen’s, Tamahere) noticed that the readings for this Sunday (image above) in the NZ Anglican Lectionary booklet for 2017 are not from any lectionary that we have agreed, as a church, to use (see tweet here).

I repeat, as I have previously, if you are not interested in NZ, or liturgical worship life here, go out and lie on a beach. Otherwise – do read on, if you like.

Also, if you don’t want to read through the details, I’ll put the conclusions at the start:

  • Rather than appreciating the joy and discipline of common prayer (where people of different communities, denominations, languages, cultures, and countries are sharing the same reading of the Scriptures – which they can discuss and share resources and hear, together, what the Spirit is saying to the Church), liturgy is presented as if it is merely collections of different resources from which one might choose disparate options, and if you don’t like what is offered – choose something else.
  • Liturgy is experienced as an esoteric, gnat-straining, rule-obsessed, irrelevance, so complex that even our senior leadership cannot navigate their way.
  • And even when the agreements are clear, we (who vow and sign up voluntarily to adhere to them) break our agreements all the way to senior leadership in our Church.
  • Our Church’s Lectionary booklet is not a reliable source of what we have agreed together as a Church (and vowed and signed up to adhere to), in fact it breaks those agreements again, and again, and again.

Our Anglican Church of Or allows for the celebration, this coming Sunday, of either The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Candlemas) or what is (in the lectionary booklet) called “The Fourth Sunday of the Epiphany”.*

As well as allowing for two different celebrations on Sunday, our Church has authorised three different lectionaries: A Two Year Series [found starting at A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (ANZPB/HKMA) page 550]; A Three Year Series (found starting ANZPB/HKMA page 691); and, thirdly, the Revised Common Lectionary. Two different celebrations times three sets of readings = about six different sets of options for Sunday!**

Previously, (as pointed out by the Vicar of St Mark’s Anglican Church Te Aroha, Rev. Jason Grainger, the Lectionary booklet provided Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings for this Sunday. I have gone back through our lectionary booklets to last millennium – they all use the correct RCL readings, and, before that, they use the agreed 2Yr and 3Yr Cycles.

Jason researched what is in this year’s Lectionary booklet, and he discovered these are the Common Worship readings of mummy CofE. I have confirmed he is correct. Even though the Lectionary booklet calls them “RCL”, and even though the Common Worship (CofE) readings have no status in our Church, and even though we have an overabundance of our own agreed options for this Sunday, someone has gone to the database from which our Lectionary booklet is produced, removed the agreed readings that we have been using for decades, and typed in a completely different, unauthorised set of readings.

We’re still only in January, and, so far, people have noticed the the NZ Lectionary booklet:

  • Indicates, falsely, that The Naming of Jesus may be transferred – it is a Principal Feast that may not be transferred
  • Presents unauthorised readings for The Naming of Jesus when we have sets of our own that we have agreed to
  • Calls 1 January both the “2nd Sunday of Christmas” and “the First Sunday of Christmas”
  • Uses the readings of the First Sunday of Christmas for the “2nd Sunday of Christmas” (for these last four bullet points see here)


  • Even though our agreements specifically declare that “The Baptism of Christ is only transferred when 6 January is a Sunday”, this year (no, 6 January is NOT a Sunday!), our Lectionary booklet provides two extra pages of options transferring The Baptism of Christ!
  • Our agreement that Epiphany may transferred to the 2nd Sunday of Christmas was not shown in the Lectionary booklet (for these last two bullet points see here).

The culture that is being fostered is

  • that we have no “Common Prayer” – there are always more options
  • that it is perfectly fine when we do have agreements that we have vowed and signed up to, that we totally ignore those agreements
  • that the rules we have are so unbelievably complicated that those senior leaders in our church cannot make sense of them to produce an official publication such as our Church’s Lectionary booklet

The actual RCL readings that we have agreed to for this coming Sunday (not the ones in the Lectionary booklet as in the image above) are:

You can find resources, as usual, at Textweek.


* what the majority of Christians, and many NZ Anglican Churches actually, refer to as the “Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time”. NB even in the Anglican Church of Or, suddenly Sunday week becomes the “Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time” in our Lectionary booklet – without any indication as to what happened to the other four! 5 February, in NZ Anglicanism, is actually the “First Sunday in Ordinary Time” – but that’s another story.


** The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany:
Two Year Series (NZ Prayer Book page 566)
Three Year Series (NZ Prayer Book page 708)
Revised Common Lectionary

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple:
Two Year Series (NZ Prayer Book page 645)
Three Year Series (NZ Prayer Book page 645)
Revised Common Lectionary [In spite of the Lectionary Booklet indicating that the readings for The Presentation are sourced from RCL, as far as I know they are not. I do not think that RCL provides for The Presentation. These are simply from the Three Year Series = the RC readings.]


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