Day: October 31, 2007

Preaching from the lectionary

I am a Baptist.  Each Sunday I preach from the texts of the revised common lectionary.  What’s wrong with this picture?

These are not contradictory statements, believe it or not.  Although I come from a free church, and not a liturgical tradition, I choose my preaching text each Sunday from the revised common lectionary.  Here’s why:

  1. Millions of churches around the world read the same passages each Sunday.  I like being a part of the global church as it gathers for worship in thousands of different expressions, united by common scripture. 
  2. The revised common lectionary covers the entire Bible in a three year cycle.  So, you want to preach through the Bible — use the lectionary as your guide.  Somebody else figured it out for you.  Saves you a lot of time, plus a lot of thought, prayer, and study was invested in choosing these texts. 
  3. The RCL follows the church year or liturgical year.   I like the flow of the church year — advent, Christmastide, epiphany, lent, easter, pentecost, then ordinary time.  Two years ago, I announced that we would celebrate the “birthday of the church” on Pentecost Sunday.  Many had never heard the two connected.  On Pentecost Sunday, we all wore something red (the liturgical color of Pentecost) and celebrated together.  Our church loved it and we repeated it last year.  We were already using an advent wreath, we have community lenten services, so this was a natural addition for us.  To explore more about liturgical elements in an evangelical church, read Robert Webber’s Ancient Future Time and the other books in his  Ancient Future series.   Webber is a former Wheaton College professor-turned-Anglican who has brought liturgical worship to evangelicalism.  I don’t think it is an accident that emerging churches are using the symbols, practices, and format of ancient worship, and it’s more than candles and coffee. 
  4. I preach from texts I would never preach from if I did not follow the lectionary.  Sometimes that poses a challenge.  Sometimes I think the texts are not that great (oh, don’t tell me you don’t like some passages better than others).  But I dig into them and have been blessed by that discipline.
  5. Preaching becomes about God’s Word rather than my ideas.  I, too, have done the sermon series, God’s Way to Health, Wealth, and Happiness or 15 Ways to Deal with Your Teenager Who Wants to Get a Nose Ring.  Rick Warren calls this “preaching for life change” and I can’t argue with Rick’s success.  But, it’s not for me.  I want the text to speak to me, rather than me speak to the text.  I can’t tell you how many times the lectionary texts have hit right on a subject our church is dealing with.  Several times I have had to say to my congregation, “I didn’t choose this text, it’s in the lectionary.”  God’s timing is amazing, plus it gets me off the hook!
  6. The readings tell a coherent story.  We are trying to do more reading the Bible in our church.   The readings each Sunday — from the Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels, Epistles — work together and weave a tapestry of witness and story that is majestic.
  7. You can choose all or some of the texts each week.  The RCL tends to run in blocks — you’ll read from the same gospel for several weeks, for instance.  I lean toward preaching from the gospel reading, but this month I’m preaching from Isaiah.  I have also preached from the readings from the Psalms.  There is more to choose from than you can ever cover.
  8. It creates a missional practice in worship that I like.  We are following an ancient arrangement of texts like millions of other churches.  We aren’t picking and choosing our favorite verses, passages, themes, or issues and then finding scripture to reinforce our own preconceived ideas.  We are trying to let scripture form us, rather than us form scripture.  If missional is about the missio dei, shouldn’t we let the text speak to us?

So, there you are.  A Baptist preaching from the lectionary each week.  One more thing — I also wear a robe, but that’s another post for another time

This post originally appeared at Amicus Dei, my blog about becoming a friend of God in a community of faith.