The Scripture that is read at our services is part of a three-year cycle of readings called a Lectionary, a set cycle of Scripture readings that have been used by the Church since the beginning.  We got the practice from Judaism, in fact. Our lectionary is called the Revised Common Lectionary. Beginning in the late 1970s, a committee made of people of various Protestant denominations got together to adapt the Roman Catholic Lectionary for use in other churches.  As with the work of many (most?) committees, it took a long time. The Revised Common Lectionary was finally released for public use in 1992. It was adopted by the Episcopal Church as our official lectionary (replacing the lectionary that was originally published in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer) in 2006.  The RCL Lectionary is a three-year cycle, and in addition for Ordinary Time, the RCL Lectionary provides two tracks (because a three-year cycle isn’t complicated enough!). Track 1 of the lectionary goes through a book of the Hebrew Scriptures (aka the Old Testament) in sequence, more or less. So, each Sunday in Track 1, the first lesson is a portion of Scripture that is more or less in sequence with the previous week’s portion.  Track 2 of the RCL Lectionary jumps around. This was the model of the older Book of Common Prayer Lectionary, as well as the model of the Roman Catholic Lectionary. The idea is that the First Lesson (taken from the Hebrew Bible) relates in some way to the Gospel reading appointed for the day. So for instance, this week’s Gospel reading is Luke 9:51-62. The circumstances of the Gospel story, and several of the things that Jesus says, echo a much older story found in 2 Kings chapter 2. Because of this connection, 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 were chosen to be the First Lesson in our Lectionary. For more details, come listen to my sermon (and/or read the two passages on your own)! There is a deep, but potentially dangerous, theological logic to this game of connecting older texts to texts from the Gospels. What makes the whole thing work is the fact that Christians believe that in Christ, God has fulfilled God’s plan to redeem and renew all of Creation. A big chunk of that plan is revealed in the Hebrew Bible. If Christ is the culmination, fulfillment, and final chapter of that plan, then He is the key to understanding the whole kit-and-kaboodle. So, we use Christ as a lens for reading and understanding all of Scripture.  There is a danger here, which I will discuss another time. But for now, pay attention to the way our lectionary and your preacher connect the Hebrew Bible with the Gospel readings.

In Christ,
James+

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