The Revised Common Lectionary came about ultimately as the product of the Ecumenical Movement and the conviction that it is God’s will that the Church be united–one body–the body of Christ. Specifically, it was the product of The Consultation on Common Texts which was formed by Catholic and Protestant liturgical scholars in response to the reforms in the liturgy mandated by the Second Vatican Council, especially in the area of English texts for the liturgy and then in the dissemination of the 1969 Roman Lectionary (Ordo Lectionum Missae). In 1983, The Common Lectionary was published as the outcome of the CCT’s work on the lectionary. In 1992, The Revised Common Lectionary was published in light of several years of comment and use of The Common Lectionary.
Because The Revised Common Lectionary was embraced so broadly across denominations, it moved the Ecumenical Movement forward by enabling the movement to go beyond focus on doctrine to lived and shared worship experiences. That achievement, in addition to significant improvements the RCL made over other historical lectionaries, made the RCL momentous and important.
However, since the RCL has been used/lived with/experienced now for nearly 30 years, reassessment has been occurring for some time, especially in the form of alternative lectionaries.
An article by Steve Thorngate in the October 30, 2013 issue of The Christian Century discusses some of these alternatives to the RCL.
I used the RCL during my nearly 13 years as a full-time pastor, which meant that I went through its three year cycle four times. While I found the RCL very useful and suited to my preaching abilities, I also found limitations similar to those mentioned in Thorngate’s article, so the article sparked my interest. However, since the article was published just as I was leaving my pastorate, I did not get the chance to explore the alternatives it lists and discusses.
In his book, Ecclesial Reflection, Edward Farley argues that many of the problems with which theology was struggling were, in part, due to theologies dependence on a type of foundationalism Farley calls ‘The House of Authority.’ In light of his understanding of the Gospel, Farley critiques the House of Authority, demonstrates its necessary collapse, and offers suggestions for doing theology in a post-House of Authority ecclesia. In his book, Practicing Gospel (This is the book that inspired the name of this podcast. I named this podcast, in part, in Farley’s memory since he is one of my favorite theologians.), in his three chapters on preaching, Farley argues that the lectionary is a remnant of the House of Authority and is thus, unwittingly, continuing some of the problems created by the House of Authority. Consequently, Farley urges an alternative approach to preaching.
While Farley doesn’t advise an alternative lectionary, his argument rekindled my interest and curiosity about alternative lectionaries.
Each of my guests have created an alternative lectionary and are here to discuss why they each did so and what their respective lectionaries seek to do.
Dr. Rolf Jacobson is Professor of Old Testament and the Alvin N. Rogness Chair of Scripture, Theology, and Ministry at Luther Seminary. He is known for his humor and faithful biblical interpretation. With Craig Koester, he developed and supports the Narrative Lectionary. He enjoys collaborating with other teachers and pastors. His collaborative projects include The Book of Psalms (NICOT; with Beth Tanner and Nancy deClaissé-Walford), Invitation to the Psalms (with Karl Jacobson), Crazy Talk: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms (with five fellow Luther Seminary graduates), and Crazy Book: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Biblical Terms(with Hans Wiersma and Karl Jacobon). He is also the author of The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the Old Testament: Israel’s In-Your-Face, Holy God. His voice can be heard on two weekly preaching podcasts, “Sermon Brainwave” and “The Narrative Lectionary,” as well as singing the high lonesome with a Lutheran bluegrass band, “The Fleshpots of Egypt.” A survivor of childhood cancer, he is a double, above-the-knee amputee, who generally wears a bicycle and a smile. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his beloved wife Amy, their children Ingrid and Gunnar, and a cat who thinks he is a dog. He is a loyal friend, lifelong sufferer of Minnesota sports, and committed board-game geek.
Rev. Dr. Thomas Bandy is the author of over 20 professional and academic books and numerous articles related to theology of culture, contemporary spiritualities, church development, leadership, and organizational change. He is an international consultant for local and regional church bodies across cultures and traditions, and for faith-based non-profits. Today his focus is on demographic research and lifestyle diversity related to existential needs and spiritual expectations. His most recent book is Sideline Church: Bridging the Chasms between Churches and Culture (Abingdon Press). Tom’s lectionaries come from his book, Introducing the Uncommon Lectionary: Opening the Bible to Seekers and Disciples.
“Ben Christian” is the shared name of the creators of A Game for Good Christians—the only theological game not afraid of the Bible— and the writer of The Revised Uncommon Lectionary which is a companion to the game.
The music for this episode is from a clip of a song called ‘Father Let Your Kingdom Come’ which is found on The Porter’s Gate Worship Project Work Songs album and is used by permission by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project. You can learn more about the album and the Worship Project at theportersgate.com.