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...

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