A space for telling stories about the church and the people who gather here.
If Between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there are 66 books in the Bible. The books vary in length, but all-in-all, the Bible is big – and it is big for a reason. The Bible traces the beginning of God’s creation, to the formation and experience of Israel, to the birth and resurrection of Jesus, to the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the advent of the early church. To tell us God’s story, scripture uses a multitude of genres: historical accounts, theological explanations, legal writings, hymns, poetry, teachings of wisdom, letters, dream-like prophetic visions, and more. As people of Christian faith, we believe that the Bible is divinely inspired.
Given how great and diverse the Bible happens to be, I occasionally receive the question: How do we select our scripture for each Sunday?
Our weekly worship service at DMMC typically centers around one scripture passage, also known as a pericope, which is a set of verses that amount to one coherent unit of scripture. The music, children’s conversation, sermon, and other possible components of the service are inspired by the featured scripture. In worship, we dwell on the scripture passage with faith that it will allow us to experience God’s grace anew and strengthen us for the work of the church.
To select the scripture for each Sunday, we turn to the Revised Common Lectionary. For each Sunday of the year, the lectionary prescribes four scripture passages: a passage from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a passage from a gospel, and a passage from a New Testament epistle. Often, but not always, we tend to select the gospel or epistle passage for our worship service at DMMC.
Each week, the lectionary is used by many Christian denominations throughout the world. Even denominations who don’t share much commonality on issues of theological interpretation still use the lectionary as they prepare for worship.
Using the synoptic gospels as the foundation, the lectionary runs in three-year cycles. Year A will feature gospel readings from Matthew. Year B, our current cycle for 2020-21, will feature gospel readings from Mark. Year C will feature gospel readings from Luke. Passages from John’s gospel are sprinkled into each year. Additionally, the lectionary is structured to walk the church through the entire Christian year beginning on the first Sunday of Advent and followed by Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and the season after Pentecost, otherwise known as “ordinary time.”
By following the lectionary consistently, you will hear the gospels from beginning to end. If read in worship, you will also hear a great deal of the Old Testament, the Psalms, and epistles, too, but a little less so because of their extraordinary length. Taken together, the lectionary allows us to cover a wide breadth of scripture as we journey through the church calendar.
Now and then, especially during the summer and fall of ordinary time, it is good to jump into a worship series focused on a specific theme or topic. During that time, departing from the lectionary selections is appropriate. Yet on most Sundays, we find ourselves, like many of our companions throughout the global church, turning to the lectionary to find the scripture that will be our guide as we worship God together.