When I arrived at my local congregation in Pensacola we were using the Revised Common Lectionary. The RCL is a fine Lectionary and provides a wonderful tour of the Scriptures in a three year cycle. But as time went on I realized that the RCL was fond of omitting controversial texts in its cycles. Through the influence of man like Jeffrey Meyers and Jim Jordan I came to realize that there was an alternative Lectionary, namely, the Lutheran Missouri Synod Lectionary (LCMS) who not only dealt with the difficult passages, but also honored Reformation Sunday. We quickly switched to LCMS a few years ago and haven’t looked back.
N.T. Wright also noticed this trend in his own tradition when he wrote the following:
“Whenever you see, in an official lectionary, the command to omit two or three verses, you can normally be sure that they contain words of judgment. Unless, of course, they are about sex.”
Anyone who has been sitting under Lectionary preaching is often more aware of the flow of the Biblical text since the sermons/homilies cover more territory in a year (on a typical year I will give my parishioners an overview of at least 10-15 books of the Bible. This has been my experience. On the other hand, Sunday School lessons can cover a more long term expository-based look into the Scriptures. Our former Sunday School teacher, James Jordan, spent over 30 Sundays on the “Exodus” themes in the Bible. Naturally, preachers are not bound to the Lectionary Lessons (especially during the Pentecost/Trinity Season). Certain times of the year may demand a more personalized sermons to address particular needs or concerns in the congregation.
As for the Lectionary, when it is not hindered by theological fears, it can serve as a remarkable immersion and re-immersion into the Scriptures every three years. It is incumbent upon pastors as they invest on these texts to provide a clear and fresh perspective on these narratives. Repetition is good. And the constant working through the broadness of the Gospel story can be a fruitful liturgical work.
Pastors too benefit greatly from it. As I navigate through the high church year (Advent-Easter) it is always encouraging to detail and consider these marvelous gospel texts that shape our faith and even our own lives.
Christ is risen!
The good news to the poor Jesus came to preach (Luke 4) is the good news to the defenseless in the womb by implication. The poor is usually swallowed by those who take his life by force. The good news of Jesus is the news that those oppressed from without have an advocate within. The God who sees all things and who does all things well (Ps. 139) delivers His good news and men and women despise it (Luke 4:29).
The recent attempt to celebrate the 40 years of Roe V. Wade by sexualizing an ad is not just “creepy” as so many have observed, but also a strategic move. Secularists and pro-death advocates know that the only way to make a position attractive is by desensitizing us to the ugliness and horrors of its practice.
But God is not mocked (Ps. 2).
The devil wants Jesus to turn a stone into bread. He wants the final Adam to eat of the fruit before it is time. He wants to make power and authority sexy. But our blessed Lord knows that cross comes before crown. Authority is God’s to give (Ps. 72) not Satan’s to distribute. Similarly, the pro-death movement offers satanic bread to young women. “If only you bow down to the culture of death, then you will be free. If only you go through with this abortion you will live happily with no burden.” These are all lies, and as my fundamentalist brothers like to say, “they are straight from the pit of hell.”
The Edenic temptation did not fail in the garden, and it will continue to succeed unless young women, by the power of the Spirit enlivening the Church in her message and charity, change their attitudes and worldview about the nature and meaning of life.
At the heart of the Lucan reading in 4:16-30 is Jesus’ reading of Isaiah 58 & 61. Isaiah 58 concludes with a promise of Sabbath rest to the people. This is a fitting picture of Jesus’ promise for deliverance and liberation of the oppressed. Indeed the Church’s prayer is that life would find its Sabbath rest from the death grip of Roe v. Wade and the culture of death. The good news of the Gospel Jesus proclaimed that caused so much fury among the Nazareth crowd is the same message preached today. The Herods of old are alive and well. They still seek to imprison and kill little infants. But by God’s grace, the year of the Lord’s favor will stop the crying of Rachel, and console her and many others with life, and life more abundantly.