Breadth and Depth…Creating a People that Love the Word

Here is Ben Myers, Aussie Prof and preacher, on a problem with one of my favorite things, the lectionary.

First, he has a great hold on the difference between preaching and teaching. Preaching is about proclaiming. Teaching is about exploring. You can teach from the pulpit, but it better be a secondary feature. Second, he is absolutely correct that the lectionary presupposes a certain familiarity with the church year and its rhythms as well as the broad sweep of biblical history. Often times you are presented with the question do I spend 3 of my 12 minutes explaining (i.e. teaching) this church year, or would that be better used proclaiming the text? Third, he strikes too close when he mentions that preachers often pick themes based on connections that truthfully only highly trained people see. For me the connection between texts has to be hit over the head blatant to use more than one of the readings for sermon basis. The connections are the stuff for bible study with two-way communication.

Here are the “buts”. A minor first – in the reformed tradition the canon of the bible is set and as Prof. Myers says, “confessed to be divinely given”. As a Lutheran, our confessions never set the canon. We accept as inspired the books the church always has, but the order isn’t set in stone. That is why Luther could grouse about James and others about Revelation. The second but would be bigger. I don’t see it as part of my calling to teach a people so that the lectionary is profitable. Man wasn’t created for the lectionary, but the lectionary for man. If you are catechizing (fancy would for teaching) a people with little baseline knowledge, one of the first questions is where do you start? Do you need to know the OT to be a Christian? I think that is analogous to: do you need to be a Jew before you are a Christian? Acts 15 answered that with a no. A rough confirmation class taught me a few things there too. For me, the proclamation story is the story of Jesus found in the gospels. The goal isn’t to make the lectionary profitable although that might be a secondary outcome. The goal is to form a people who love the Word.

Last thought, to me with the Revised Common Lectionary (which we use a form with minor alterations just because we are who we are) you have the ability to do much of what Prof. Myers wants without leaving the cycle. You just do it from the Epistle lessons. For example during this past year we read continuously through 1 Peter and Romans. I preached on 1 Peter for 5 weeks and Romans for two groups of 4. Both of those works rest heavily on the OT as well. As Christians, we read the OT through the NT. We recognize and make use of the OT to support the gospel, but many of the things in the OT are signs and symbols that the fulfillment of has come. We proclaim the fulfillment. We can teach the larger story in less precious places than the Sunday pulpit. But that requires a people who love the Word.