Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fun with the Lectionary: prequel

There is a story of a Rabbi who was teaching in a synagoge, and as he preached, he tied together different passages of scripture. As the words came out of his mouth, fire flashed aroud him and set the people's hearts ablaze. People asked him what had happened. He told them that in the beginning, the words were together on the mountain of God, wrought in flame before he gave them to Moses. When one puts the words from one section of scripture together with the words of another, they rejoice to be in one anther's presence, so much so that flame again as when God made them. This is how the rabbinc Midrash developed, and that is how they often teach in the synagoge today, bringing the words from different places together as they were in the beginning.

As some of you may know, I'm probably going to become Anglican when I move to Jerusalem. As in most liturgical chruches, the Church of England follows a regular schedule of scripture reading called a lectionary. When the Church of England was first established, the lectionary was super hardcore. There were four readings per day, and you would read through the whole Bible in a year. In addition, there were like 5 Psalms per day, so you would read through the whole book every month. The Anglican liturgy has developed over time, but in 1994, they, along with the majority of other English speaking liturgical churches, adopted the Revised Common Lectionary for Sunday service. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) was created by the Catholic Church, and was found to be an acceptable standard by some ecumenical council.

The lectionary itself runs on a three year schedule. Each year, they go through one of the first three Gospels (though they skip some bits), and use passages from John around several holidays. In addition, there is always a reading from another book of the New Testament (that goes roughly through a book, but skips as well). There is also a Psalm and an Old Testament passage every. These are generally chosen in a more topical way as they relate to the Gospel and New Testament readings.

Generally, there is a thread running through all of the readings. Though it is sometimes difficult to see the relation to the selection from the Epistle, there is usually some slight connetion even there.

A skilled preacher can make could make a sermon using all of the readings to interpret one another.

I think I'm going to base some studies for this blog off the weekly passages from the Revised Common Lectionary. Look for the first one late tonight or tomorrow.

And I haven't given up on Hebrew Matthew yet. It's coming...

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