Church Practices – Lectionary

Other Practices

The Practice
theStory uses the lectionary that is arranged in a three-year cycle so that we hear the entire biblical story “” creation and fall, the exodus, captivity and return, the promise and advent of the Messiah, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of the coming kingdom. These cycles are used all over the world, so that on the same day, Christians in Africa are reading the same texts as Christians in Latin America. The weekly cycle also happens within an annual rhythm of seasons “” Advent to prepare for Christ’s coming, Christmas to celebrate the Prince of Peace, Epiphany to remember the Light (a light outsiders often recognize before we do), Lent to confess our resistance to the Light, Holy Week to remember Christ’s suffering, Easter to celebrate resurrection’s power, the birthday of the church at Pentecost (a good time for pyrotechnics “” be careful), and Ordinary Time to bring us back to the beginning again. These are our seasons in the church.

This peculiar way of counting time teaches us to look at our days differently. No longer do we see dates simply as August 29 or October 4. Now they are John the Baptist’s day and St. Francis of Assisi’s day. No longer are our seasons simply fall and spring; they are also Advent and Lent. Our history is different from the history told by nations and empires; our heroes are not pioneers of colonialism and capitalism like Columbus and Rockefeller but pioneers of compassion like Mother Teresa and Oscar Romero. And our holy days are different from the holidays of pop culture and the dominatrix of power. The rhythms of the liturgy are not so much something that has been created as they are something that has been discovered over the centuries.

Select any day of the year and you can find its liturgical significance. In fact, one of the cool things about the Christian calendar is that every day is a holy day. Holidays are not just days you get off work but days you remember God’s redemptive work in the world.

We also recognize that the lectionary doesn’t always fit or work. It regularly ignores hard-to-swallow passages, it isn’t always in tune with the heartbeat of our local community and sometimes we just want to do something else. So while we are guided by the lectionary for our seasons, readings and preaching, we are not rigidly tied down to it. The readings each week will be attached to the weekly update via e-mail and also available on thestory.ca.

*Some of this description is excerpted from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne

The Theology Behind The Practice

“When the preacher uses the lectionary, the preacher makes clear that he or she preaches what he or she has been told to preach. That is important because it makes clear that the story forms us. This is the church’s way of reminding itself of how it subverts the world”
– Stanley Hauerwas & Will Willimon

“Spiritual reading is entered into best, perhaps, when the text is chosen for us–for instance, by the use of a lectionary. This way we begin by yielding control to someone or something outside of our agenda. This facilitates one of the primary purposes of spiritual reading–to allow the text to have control over us and become a place of encounter with God. Instead of the text being an object controlled by us, the text becomes the subject; we, in-turn, become the “object” addressed by God through the text.”
-M Robert Mulholland Jr.

“But if we in the church are going to take our citizenship in heaven seriously, we must reshape our minds by marking our calendars differently. We must remember the holidays of the biblical narrative rather than the festivals of the Caesars, and celebrate feast days to remember saints rather than war heroes and presidents. Our inception as the church was on Pentecost, not on July 4. Our fireworks should go off a few months earlier than Canada’s. And instead of commemorating people who sacrifice themselves in order to kill for their country, we find a deeper and more powerful observance on Good Friday, when we remember that Jesus willingly died for everyone in the world, even his enemies, instead of killing them to “change the world.” Or consider our holy season of Epiphany, when the church celebrates the civil disobedience of the magi, who, coming from outside of Caesar’s realm, honored a different kind of king and sneaked away from the violent Herod. One of our lesser-known holidays is the Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28), when the church remembers Herod’s genocide of children in his attempt to root out any would-be incumbents. On such a day, we take in the harsh truth that there was and still is a political cost to the incarnation of God’s peaceable love. Such a holy feast day of mourning provokes our own political memory and prompts us to communally and publicly remember the Iraqis (around one million) who have died since the US invasion in 2003. On such a day, we don’t consider those deaths to be the necessary sacrifice of “collateral damage”; we lament their deaths as acts of our contemporary Herods.”
– Shane Claiborne


1 thought on “Church Practices – Lectionary”

  1. David Montgomery

    Thanks, Nathan! It’s great to see that the use of the lectionary is spreading. It really is a wonderful discipline (we’re disciples after all). I’m sad to say that some Anglican clergy are rejecting the lectionary so that they can go back to teaching what they personally think is important, submitting their folks to the tyranny of the preacher’s pet topics.

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