Friday, December 02, 2011

A Proposed Four-Year Lectionary

As my last post indicated, each gospel has its own character, and the Revised Common Lectionary makes this fact less clear.
Well, I can’t just leave it like that—complain and not suggest a fix for said complaint.
So, here is my bare bones proposal for how to re-organize the lectionary:

Year 1: Matthew, The Law, Non-Pauline Letters
Matthew goes to certain lengths to connect Jesus with Moses and the Law, what better place to point this out than in the books of the Bible we read. Additionally, giving the non-Pauline letters some space to talk to the church on their own seems healthy.

Year 2: Mark, The Histories, Pauline Letters
Mark is a shorter Gospel, but that just means we can focus on smaller sections of Mark and larger sections of Paul and really get to know the history and story found in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Ester.

Year 3: Luke, The Prophets, The Book of Acts
Reconnecting Luke and Acts, since they are by the same author and two halves of his same story, makes good sense. Luke’s focus on some of the social and economic aspects of Jesus’ ministry and world he lives in echoes in the Prophetic books of Hebrew Scripture.

Year 4: John, Wisdom Literature, The Book of Revelation
Sigh with me for a second, feel the extra space? The gospel of John finally gets to breath! As I indicated in the previous post one of the ways to describe Jesus as Word of God is “Incarnate Divine Proverb.” Well, what better place to look at Wisdom Literature than side by side with a gospel that proclaims Wisdom’s incarnation. As for Revelation, both authors are known as John, and both describe Jesus in ways that differ greatly from the other Gospels. Additionally, wrestling with Revelation for a whole year might force main-line churches to admit that this strain of apocalyptic literature is our property too.



Daniel said...

I like it. Are you imagining a narrative sort of format (i.e. begin with Genesis 1 and Matthew 1 on Advent 1 of Year 1 and end with Deuteronomy 34 and Matthew 28 on Christ the King)? Or a more topical format? Or something in between? How would that work during the Luke/Acts year? (That's a lot from just one author during that particular year. If memory serves, the few times Acts appears in the current RCL it replaces the OT reading, not the epistle.)

One potential problem I see is that it might isolate the different sets from each other. Would we really want to permanently enshrine the idea that, for example, John's Gospel ought to be read alongside Proverbs and Ecclesiastes rather than the Prophets or the Pentateuch?

My own idea--which I imagine is entirely unworkable in reality--would be to set up a permanent, rotating, ecumenical, lectionary committee. They would essentially come up with a new lectionary every year. There would be practically infinite opportunity for interesting recombinations of OT, epistle, and gospel.

I have a hard time believing that any lectionary is so good as to bear repeating, to the exclusion of any other lectionary, until the judgment day. The sheer number of possible lectionaries has to be astronomical, and the number of "good" or "really good" combinations must be huge as well. So why repeat any lectionary even once?

Christopher said...

I like the idea of an ecumenical lectionary committee!
I figured it would be a mix, topical when it makes sense along with moving forward through the various books as it makes sense to.