Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thursday Read and Learn: Ditch the Lectionary?

This week Presbyblogger Beau Weston at The Gruntled Center wrote a post called "Ditch The Lectionary." A lively discussion ensued in the comments to that post with opinions from clergy and layfolk alike weighing in.

Justice Seeker and I both attend churches that are not using the lectionary, but rather the pastor is preaching through a book of the Bible. I know at least one other church in my presbytery that is also doing this.

So what's your opinion? Is it time to ditch the lectionary in favor of preaching thoroughly through a book or theme of the Bible as Weston suggests?


B-W said...

As the guy who posts lectionary ruminations on Wednesdays, I'm obviously biased. I wish more churches would use the lectionary than currently do, in fact.

That's not to say that the lectionary is a perfect tool. Despite guaranteeing a generally broad swath of the Bible to be read over a three-year period, if one only uses the lectionary, there are clearly many passages that will never be read at all!

Still, it is my opinion that churches that use the lectionary (and use all four readings, which is even less common) will find themselves working through a far more complete understanding of the biblical material than churches that don't. There's just too much temptation to stick to one's favorite passages if there isn't something to push beyond those boundaries. A church that doesn't use the lectionary may well get through a single book (or theme) more completely, but I fear that too many other important books or themes will be lost altogether.

(FYI, I'd be open to some combination of the ideas. Just because I think the lectionary should see greater general use doesn't mean that I don't think churches should reserve the right to use other texts from time to time)

B-W said...

(This is more in response to some stuff I read in the original post, but which would be meaningless without the context of my statement above, so I post it here)

When I say that I think churches should use all four readings, I do not mean to say that the pastor should try to force all of the readings into the sermon. Although the passages chosen for a given week often were placed together for a reason (something a lot of folks seem not to notice, and I can hardly blame them), such a practice often leads to trying to connect things that probably ought to be handled separately.

Pick a passage. Preach what God is asking you to preach. If one of the other readings pertain to that message, great! But don't force it!

DennisS said...

I look at the Lectionary as important, and don't for a second think it should be "ditched".

That said, I'll admit that I follow the texts suggested by the lectionary about half the time. The other half is preaching through a book of the Bible, or have a specific series of sermons.

For instance, when Ephesians came up, we went through it in more depth than suggested by the lectionary. This is done from time to time.

For Lent in 2008, we went through 2Peter 1:1-12 - which was read each week, with one of the attributes (7 "supports of faith") being focused upon: goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly love, and on Easter morning: agape love. We always read through verse 12 which says, "Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things...

Regardless whether we are following the lectionary suggestions or other texts, there is plenty of scripture brought into the sermon. The text is not merely a launching pad into a favorite topic.

The last couple months we've been following the lectionary, though for the month of October we will have a particular series which will not be from the lectionary.

Ditch the lectionary? No.

Follow it with unflinching loyalty? No, though I'll probably get tackled now by a lectionary linebacker.

Anonymous said...

I use the Lectionary as a guide but feel free to make changes. Often I will not read all the texts completely but intergrate them into our Call to Worship and/or Prayer of Illumination. Sometimes I plan a theme for a sermon series and then let the Lectionary readings shape how that series is preached. This is great for getting to look at old texts in new ways. I find I can preach through specific books using the lectionary if I'm open to changing where the texts for the week start and/or stop. The bottom line for me is that I see the Lectionary as a tool to be used but not something I'm restricted by if the Spirit of God leads to other texts.

Sarahlynn said...

I'm a fan of the lectionary and was initially concerned when I learned that our pastor is going off it this year. But I've become excited about the series he's introducing: Abundant Wholeness: