Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lectionary for Febuary 14th, 2010: Transfiguration, Year B

Ex 34:29-35(1),* Ps 99 (1/2),** 2 Cor 3:12-4:2 (1),* Lk 9:28-36, (37-43) (1)*

* (x) indicates the text in question occurs ‘x’ number of times in the 3 year lectionary cycle
** (x/y) indicates the text in question occurs 'x' number '' '' '' with 'y' number of optional occurrences additionally

General Comments:
  • Much like the role it plays in Mark, the Transfiguration of Jesus marks a turn in our liturgical calendar as we enter the Paschal cycle of Lent and Easter.
  • However, this was not always so. In the general Medieval calendar, Epiphany 6 was the day set aside to celebrate the Transfiguration, rather than the Transfiguration being reserved for the last Sunday in Epiphany.
  • Interestingly, the Roman Catholic calendar diverges from this according to my lectionary lists of their Medieval, Vatican II, and present. They set aside August 6th seems to be the formal day set aside for the commemoration of Jesus' Transfiguration. For them, it would seem that the Transfiguration does not function as it does for
  • Matthew 17 seemes to have been the consensus account of Jesus' transfiguration in the one year lectioanries. Other synoptic stories have only been used since the use of the 3 Year Lectionary. The readings associated with the Transfiguration are as follows (In no particular order or pairing)
  • OT Readings: Exodus 34:29-35 Dan 3:47-51, 52-56 Dan 7:9-10, 13-14
  • NT: Readings: 1 Thess 4:1-8 1 Thess 5:14-23 2 Peter 1:16-21
Ex 34

  • This is the accound of Moses' appearance being made radiant because of the time he spent before the Lord.
  • Very little lectionary material draws from this part of Exodus, especially if one never draws from Year A's semi-continuous readings. It falls quickly on the heels of the idolatry of the golden calf, God's declaration that He would not go with the Israel into the land, and the making of the second set of the stone tablets. It is also surrounded by rules and regulations.
  • It would be good to give people a sense of context here, since this is a story not often dealt with.

Ps 99

  • One optional occasion for this psalm is Transfiguration A, making this potentially the psalm assigned to the Transfiguration two years out of three. It is a psalm which exalts God's majesty, and speaks of Moses, Aaron, and Samuel's speaking with God.

2 Cor 3

  • While there is a run of Corinthian readings this time of year (primarily from the first letter, but some from the second), this one is not a part of it in the sense of being a series. It is preceeded by 1 Cor 15 texts in general (having to do with the resurrection), but itself has such an emphasis upon transformation that it could only have been selected to inform the Transfiguration of Christ.
  • 2 Cor 4 is used in Year B on Transfiguration as well (Text prior to 'Jars of Clay'), making this section of Paul's argument in 2nd Corinthians a strong part of our articulation of the Transfiguration. Incidentally, 2 Pt 1:16-21 is the other text used for the 2nd Reading on Transfiguration in Year A.

Luke 9

  • Luke's account of Peter's confession of Christ is not told in the lectionary, but it forms an important part of the Transfiguration. These two events are tied to one another, and should be treated as such. One matter as an aside Luke's account of Jesus' subsequent prediction of His death does not include Peter's rebuke of and by Jesus.
  • Verses 37 to 43 are listed as an optional addition to the reading of the Transfiguration by the RCL. They include an account of the exorcism of a boy, a declaration of Jesus' impending death, etc.

Role of the Transfiguration in past lectionaries:

Medieval Lectionary (General):

  • Epiphany 6, Matthew 17:1-9, 2 Pet 1:16-21

Roman Catholic Medieval - pre-Vatican II Lectionary:

  • Second Sunday in Lent: Matthew 17:1-9 1 Thess 4:1-8
  • Ember Saturday in Lent: Matt 17:1-9 2 Macc 1:23-26, 27; Wis 36:1-10; Dan 3:47-51, 52-56; 1 Thess 5:14-23

Service Book and Hymnal (Lutheran, one Year):

  • August 6th, but also Epiphany 6. Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matt 17

Roman Catholic Lectionary from 1992 to Present:

  • Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6), Dan 7:9-10, 13-14, Ps 97:1-2, 5-6, 9+12 ++
    2 Peter 1:16-19, Year A: Matt 17:1-9, Year B: Mark 9:2-10, Year C: Luke 9:28b-36

Lectionary for Febuary 7th, 2010: Epiphany 5 Year C

Isa 6:1-8, (9-13) (2)*, Ps 138 (3/1)**, 1 Cor 15:1-11 (2)*, Lk 5:1-11 (1)*

* (x) indicates the text in question occurs ‘x’ number of times in the 3 year lectionary cycle
** (x/y) indicates the text in question occurs 'x' number '' '' '' with 'y' number of optional occurrences additionally


  • Isaiah 6 is read on this Sunday as well as on Transfiguration B. Since that wasn't so long ago, it might be interesting to see how this text influenced you last year if you used it. If you didn't use it, maybe it should be pulled out this time.
  • This text communicated something of the fearful mystery of who God is.
  • This text seems to have been selected because Isaiah and Peter had very similar expereinces of the presence of God in very different contexts.
  • Isaiah is one of the most preached books of the OT. We're going to be seeing it a lot during Lent. Maybe now is a good time to look ahead and brush off a commentary on the book as preparation.


  • It is a royal song of praise to God
  • Psalm 138 is roughly more common than most. It will be read again in three months during Proper 12. It is read on Proper 16 of Year A and is an option on Proper 5 of Year B. Particularly noteworthy is that the most common Psalms tend to be repeated on the same festival every year (Psalm 72 on Epiphany). That is not the case with this psalm.
1 Corinthains 15
  • This marks the last of the 1st Corinthian series. However, it ends wonderfully. This text on the Resurrection is great on so many levels. Sunday of the series

Luke 5

  • The miraculous catch of fish is a fun story - especially since it's coming up during ice fishing season.
  • For the historically curious: The Medieval lectionaries read this text together with 1 Peter 3:8-15 (Doing good, suffering, ready answers of faith) on Trinity 5. The old Lutheran lectionary (SBH) added the OT text Lamentations 3:22-33 (God's mercies are new every morning). The connection between these texts and Luke seem tenuous at best. The old Book of Common Prayer used 1 Kings 19:19-21 instead of Lamentations (drawing a line between Elisha's call and Peter's), and added Psalm 84:8-end (Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere).

By the time that the Ordinary Time journey through Luke resumes on the other side of Trinity Sunday, it will have skipped all of Luke 5:12-7:17. In that time, a leper and paralytic are healed, Levi is called, Fasting comes up, Jesus is Lord of the Sabath, the Twelve are chosen, cities are blessed and cursed, enemies are to be loved, judging is thrown out, trees are identified by their fruit, builders are shown to be wise or foolish, a centurion shows faith, and a son is raised from the dead for his widowed mother.

Pay attention to stuff like that. You'll start seeing the lectionary in a whole new way.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lectionary for January 31st, 2010: Epiphany 4 Year C

Jer 1:4-10 (1/1)**, Ps 71:1-6 (1/1)**, 1 Cor 13:1-13 (1)*, Lk 4:21-30 (1)*

* (x) indicates the text in question occurs ‘x’ number of times in the 3 year lectionary cycle

** (x/y) indicates the text in question occurs 'x' number '' '' '' with 'y' number of optional occurrences additionally

The reading from Luke continues where it left off mid story from last week. Epiphany 5 (next week) will pick up with Lk 5:1-11.

  • The lectionary completely omits Luke 4:31-44 (the intervening material), which follows Mk 1: 21-39 (Epiphany 4 and 5, Year B). This has the effect of highlighting Luke's unique accounts for preachers at the expense of telling all of Luke's story.

This week, the 1st Corinthians series brings us to the most popular Biblical text for weddings.

  • Those who regard this text as overused at weddings might have good reason to avoid preaching it today. However, having it come up outside a wedding offers unique opportunities too.

  • Preaching this text in series offers an opportunity to speak directly about the gifts of the Spirit, which were explored in 1 Cor 12 on Epiphany 2 and 3. If this route is chosen, keep in mind that 1 Cor 14 (which synthesizes 1 Cor 12 and 13) is omitted from the lectionary, and may be brought into a sermon to good effect.

Psalm 71 caught my attention. It is one of the lesser used psalms in the lectionary, being used only once. However, most of the psalm is left out on those occasions it is used. Perhaps this was for the sake of brevity. Perhaps this was to focus on the percieved core of the psalm. Perhaps this was to avoid the one or two hard verses which come up in it. However, there is valuable material in the rest of this psalm. Consider using it.

The opening verses of Jeremiah are wonderful verses having to do with the calling of a child to preach the Word of the Lord. It is a pity they are only used once in the lectionary, but they are hardly alone in that. However, this is even an abreviated form of the calling passage, which continues through the end of the chapter. For those not interested in dealing with the dark foretaste of Jeremiah's sermon material, a simple extension of the passage to verse 12 will accomplish this.

Please pardon the formatting issues. This will be addressed as soon as my computer begins to behave again...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lectionary for January 24th, 2010: Epiphany 3 Year C

Neh 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 (1)*; Ps 19 (3/2)**; 1 Cor 12:12-31a (1)*; Lk 4:14-21 (1)*

* (x) indicates the text in question occurs ‘x’ number of times in the 3 year lectionary cycle
** (x/y) indicates the text in question occurs ‘x’ number ’’ ’’ ’’ with ‘y’ number of additional optional occurrences

Greetings all! You can continue to expect pieces which work through the lectionary texts for every major festival and thus serve the needs of preachers – the primary users of the lectionary. However, this is only one part of lectionary preaching. I have some ideas for special topics of interest in the lectionary that will begin making their way out after I get a critical mass of festival-specific pieces out – stay tuned.

Now… where were we… Right.

Does anyone out there want desperately to be known for preaching the same sermons every year? Didn't think so. Unfortunately, without work, this is practically guaranteed to happen in lectionary preaching. Certainly when faced with the same texts year after year, repetition is easy to fall into (Christmas 2, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday). However, even repeated themes year by year may also be enough to get congregations wondering “Where have I heard that line before……”

During my Epiphany 2 post, I showed how Epiphany 2 gives John’s perspective on Jesus’ baptism or the beginning of his ministry (depending on the year), while the synoptics always get to talk about Jesus’ baptism on Epiphany 1 and about the start of Jesus’ ministry on Epiphany 3. With such predictable themes showing up every year – be warned: Without trying to, you might end up quoting yourself.

After Epiphany 3, texts stop sounding alike year after year as the synoptic gospels head down their separate paths of telling the story of Jesus.

Now, time for something completely different! Believe it or not, we do have an OT text we can work with - and I think we should give it a try. Not only does the Nehemiah reading only occur once in the lectionary, it is also the only reference to Nehemiah. Since Ezra is completely skipped in the lectionary, that makes this the only chance we get to tell the stories of Nehemiah and Ezra (who figures prominently in the reading). The exile gave shape to the Hebrew canon and New Testament Judaism – seriously consider the possibilities of teaching about it now. If you choose not to, then please at least lead a bible study on these books to make up for their being ignored – the whole story of Scripture needs to be told.

For those interested in more trivia about the old fashioned lectionary (like on the 17th), here’s one quick tidbit: Beginning with Epiphany 3, most pre 1970 lectionary traditions I know of begins an exploration of Matthew 8 over several Sundays, accompanied by excerpts from Romans. The old Book of Common Prayer used these readings: 2 Kings 6.l4b-23, Psalm 102.15-22, Romans 12.16b-21, Matthew 8.1-13. Maybe give it a try to shake things up...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lectionary for Jan 17, 2010: Epiphany 2, Year C

Isa 62:1-5; Ps 36:5-10; 1 Cor 12:1-11; Jn 2:1-11

When using the lectionary, there is no such thing as ordinary time – at least in the sense of it being uninteresting. In every text selection, something is always happening. In part, it is my goal to convince you of this through future postings.

We are now entering the second week of so called ‘Ordinary Time’. What does it take to become ‘Ordinary?’ By not being associated with either Christmas or Easter – the two festivals most people manage to show up for. Incidentally, as much as I respect and use traditional liturgical terms, there has to be a more compelling title for ‘Ordinary Time!’ Let’s not give people another excuse to not show up – I’m open to suggestions!

Perhaps the most important thing to note about Ordinary time is that the synoptic gospel of the year is the source of every gospel reading – in our case, that would be Luke. Be that as it may, this is the one festival in Year C’s ordinary time where Luke is not cited for the gospel. Actually, Epiphany 2 pulls from John 1 or 2 every year. Rather than being arbitrary, this gives John a voice in between Sundays devoted respectively to the baptism of Jesus (Epiphany 1) and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Epiphany 3).

My normal perspective on preaching the lectionary is to preach on John whenever I get the chance unless I have a particularly good reason to go elsewhere. For example, the 1st Corinthians series beginning on Sunday deserves serious consideration. However, there is something special about the gospel reading for this Sunday in particular. Principally, this is the matter of its antiquity. For five hundred years (maybe much longer!) before the advent of a three year lectionary (in Vatican II), Western lectionary churches almost uniformly read John 2:1-11 on this festival every year. The Epiphany 2 focus on John seems to be a liturgical nod to the prior traditions surrounding the use of this text.

When there were only two readings in churches, it was read with Romans 12:6-16 (which presently only occurs in the Year A Romans series following Pentecost). The Lutheran Service Book and Hymnal has it read with Isaiah 61:1-6 (only used in Advent 3, Year B, and only in part). Lectionary rogues might consider breaking with the RCL 1st Corinthian series if they are not planning on utilizing it to draw on the very, very old tradition of holding John 2 and Romans 12 together. Perhaps Isaiah 61 could be used instead of Isaiah 62.

One parting thought: For at least five centuries (until the 1970s), this reading (together with Romans 12) was delivered on Epiphany 2 year after year, whether under Tridentine Catholocism or Lutheranism, among the Reformed or Anglicans. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to learn what it was about Jesus turning water into wine that these radically different parties found so indispensable?

Appendix: The components of the different OT Texts which most likely resulted in their being used with John 2:1-11 historically.

Isaiah 62:1-5 (RCL): 'As a young man marries a maiden, so will your Builder marry you, and as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.' Connected to the wedding in Cana.

Isaiah 61:1-6 (Medieval): 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon proclaim the year of the Lord's favor...' In Luke, this text is associated with the beginning of Jesus' ministry. It could be this was intended to be paired with the wedding in Cana in relationship to the beginning of Jesus' ministry.

1 Kings 4:1-17 (BCP): Elisha making much oil out of little for a widow. Elisha promised an old couple would have a child. Similar to Jesus supernatural provision at the wedding.

One Year Anniversary

After a year of time off of this blog, I am coming back to this little project.

In the last (long) while, I've been tinkering, working, and experimenting - perhaps soon I will even be publishing (stay tuned!). Expect more and better material coming around the corner.

Until then!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Silence and Epiphany

To those who follow this blog - my profound apologies for my silence of late. There are three reasons for this.

1. I'm still getting used to this blogging thing.

2. Coming from my angle of lectionary analysis, Epiphany is a pretty simple season. We progress from the synoptic Baptism to the synoptic Transfiguration, giving the Gospel of John time on Epiphany 2 to comment on the beginnings of Jesus' ministry. All the while, the epistle focuses on the letters to the Corinthians, priveleging 1st Cor over 2nd Cor. The relationship between the epistles and the Gospels are minor at best, though usually workable, as I tried to show in my last post.

3. Most of my work in matters pertaining to the lectionary of late have focused upon expanding and refining my database, particularly in the area of creating a comprehensive list of texts omitted from the lectionary altogether. Dry, dull, methodical, and tedious - like most of the fundamental work that goes into this project - it's reward comes in unexpected gems of information I would have never predicted, like this selected list of books that never appear in the 3 year lectionary: Ruth, Esther, Ezra, Obadiah, Jude, 2 John, and 3 John

I'll resume blogging soon, with a turn towards Lent, as planning for this preaching intensive season begins.