So I’ve been thinking about something that bugged me a little while back. I realized while picking preaching texts another reason the revised common lectionary bothers me. Now, let me say up front that the Christian Year with days and seasons in a basic sort of form like we have in United Methodism is something I appreciate greatly. The Christian Year narrates time for the Church in a way that helps us grow in discipleship to Jesus in the way we live the year in worship theologically.
My issue came when I noticed that the reading for the Sunday after Christmas is the second half of Matthew 2 about the slaughter of the innocents and the flight of Jesus’ family to Egypt. On the Sunday following, the text is just prior to the previous Sunday’s, the first half of Matthew 2 about the adoration of the Magi. Take this example and, if you’re familiar enough with the lectionary, think about the other times through the year in which the texts seem oddly put together on a week-to-week basis. Not to mention the frequent omission of uncomfortable passages from the readings.
We are not lacking an overarching narrative. We have the canon of the Old and New Testaments. My contention is that we should be sticking with the canonical narrative structure of Scripture and not the lectionary narrative structure of Scripture. We are supplying an alternative narrative to the one that was canonized way back when by the early Church (first 300-400 years).
The fact that certain readings are well selected as appropriate for certain days and even seasons is a good thing. Again, I’m not knocking the Christian Year. And in that vein, I’m not knocking selecting passages suitable for those days. And I recognize the challenges of preaching without the lectionary as a week-to-week reference (what it takes is planning one’s texts in the big picture several months or a year at a time). But I still find this issue of substituting a functional narrative structure for the life of the community for the one that we have an important objection to raise–even if it simply means carefully watching one’s lectionary preaching to insure that one doesn’t fall into the traps implicit in my critique.