Lectionary FAQ

So what is this?

Several years ago our church started using the lectionary, partly to keep our different language congregations more unified. (I belong to the Church of the Nazarene, which for various historical reasons is neither liturgical nor anti-liturgical. Most Nazarene congregations don't use the lectionary, but some do.) I liked using the lectionary, but also wanted to periodically read the whole Bible. There are lots of read-the-Bible in a year plans, but it's too crazy to try to do that and follow the lectionary too. Plus I was looking for a way to slow down and meditate on scripture, which meant rereading the same passages enough times. So I printed out the entire three-year cycle, and figured out that most books of the Bible are gone through fairly systematically, so it seemed to me that I could just read the bits in between the lectionary readings and it would all work out...I made some strange charts only readable by me, which I am still using a couple of three-year cycles later. Then some of my family members wanted to use it too, so I made some other strange charts readable by anyone that I explain them to who can read my handwriting...but I got tired of making lots of copies of charts every year in November, plus my family lives in different cities, and a few people expressed interest who probably can't read my handwriting or understand my charts, so I thought of putting it on a web page.

What are the advantages of this plan?

If you use the lectionary in your church, you can live with the scriptures each week ahead of the service, which makes it more meaningful. If you don't use the lectionary in your services, you can still have your scripture readings correlate with the time of year you are in, so Christmas and Easter and so on seem natural and prepared for. You can read the whole Bible, but not so fast that you can't take time to think about it. You can read from different sections of the Bible and think about how they fit together. You can enjoy thinking about the many other Christians who are reading the same scriptures as you this week. If you are really busy in your life, you can just read. If you want to put more time in Bible study you can take long times to meditate on each scripture, or get a Bible study on one of the books you are going through, or keep a notebook.

Who picked out these scriptures?

Not me! The Revised Common Lectionary was put together by a committee representing all the liturgical churches in North America. I usually consult the Vanderbilt Divinity Library. This gives scriptures for Sundays and some other major holy days. I'm responsible for “spreading" the scriptures over the week and “expanding” the readings to cover the whole Bible. I worked really hard to not have more than three chapters a day—sometimes I even gave up on matching the extra readings as closely to the Sundays as I would like. There are a couple of places where you have to read four chapters. There used to be a few with five, but I edited them out.

Why are there scriptures on your list that don't appear in my lectionary?

The main reason for this is that the Revised Common Lectionary includes options. In particular there are two sets of Old Testament readings in “Ordinary Time” (or “Pentecost” if you call it that)—one set which covers the Old Testament history (usually called “semi-continuous”) and one set which correlates with the New Testament reading (usually called “typological”). For a “whole Bible” plan you obviously need the first set, but I like the second set too, because one of the advantages of using the lectionary is thinking about how different scriptures fit together. So I just use them all. There are also other options provided by the RCL that I have tried to present as clearly as possible.  Also see the next question...

Why are there scriptures in my lectionary that don't appear in your plan?

If you don't live in North America you might be using a different lectionary. If you are Catholic your lectionary will include the Apocrypha, parts of the Bible which other denominations don't accept as canonical. The Revised Common Lectionary does include options from the Apocrypha, but it would be a lot more work to put them in too, and since I don't use the Apocrypha I didn't. I intend to provide a “with Apocrypha” list for Sundays and Feast Days only, but don't intend to integrate them into the three year plan.

What's with the (PM see next Sunday)?

Most of the year there are four scriptures, so the idea is that you read them all on Monday, then focus on one each for Tuesday through Friday, with an additional reading to cover the whole Bible. I like to read some of the surrounding passage as well, since the scriptures in the lectionary are often shortened for public reading. Mostly I have just used the divisions in the New International Version of the Bible (the version I usually read). Then on Saturday you can read all four again in preparation for Sunday, or give yourself the day off, or use it to catch up if you got behind. If there are five scriptures or a holy day then Saturday gets its own scriptures. But starting at Pentecost, there are six scriptures usually. I really like reading them all together at the beginning, so I do it Sunday afternoon or evening, so each day can still have its own scriptures. Some of you using this never read the whole set anyway, so feel free to skip this if you want, or do it some other time. In fact, feel free to do whatever—like skip the readings in parentheses.

May I distribute copies? ...print this in my church bulletin? ...link to this site?

Yes, yes, yes. Nothing would please me more.