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What is the Lectionary?

The church has used a lectionary for many years.
A LECTIONARY is a list of appointed Scripture readings for the Sundays, festivals and occasions of the Church Year.
In fact, even the Jews of Jesus’ day used a lectionary or a prescribed list of readings for their worship in the synagogue. More than likely the scroll of the prophet Isaiah handed to Jesus in Luke 4 was the prescribed reading for that day. It may have been the reading all the Jews were hearing in synagogues all over Israel and throughout the dispersion on that particular day:
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.”
In our congregations we normally have three readings for the Sunday morning service: an Old Testament Reading, an Epistle or New Testament Reading and a Holy Gospel Reading. These readings follow a specific theme that is contained in the propers of the day.
PROPERS are the parts of the service that change according to the Sunday or festival of the Church Year.
Other propers, besides the Scripture readings, include the Introit, the Collect of the Day, the Gradual, the Alleluia Verse or Tract and the hymns. In The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, we have two different lectionaries in common usage. Your pastor or other person reading the lessons on Sunday morning may be reading them from either the three year series or the one year series. For many years, the church used the same set of readings every year. During the middle of the last century, a three year cycle of readings was introduced to the church. We call them years A, B and C. In this three year cycle, the church hears the same readings every three years. The current Church Year, which began last Advent (November 2011), is year B in that cycle.
You might be wondering why we have a lectionary at all. First of all, the lectionary is part of our heritage. We are part of a long history of God’s people who gather around the Word of God declared and preached. Second, the lectionary unites us as a people who have this common heritage. Third, for each congregation, the lectionary is an aid that carries the congregation through the life and works of Christ. Finally, it provides a basis for which the preached Word is delivered to the people and a foundation for the preacher as he prepares the sermon for God’s people.
Over the course of the weeks to come, look back here to see how our church’s lectionary relates to our lives as children of God living in the wilderness of life. The three year lectionary will serve as the basis of our meditation. Let me know if we should look at the one year lectionary from time to time by shooting me an email at steven.cholak@lcms.org.
published September 2012

Published September 27, 2012

About the author

Steven Cholak is a Lutheran Pastor (crux sola est nostra theologia); husband to Stephanie; living in Saint Louis, Missouri. He loves coffee, Apple Computers, his iPhone 4, and his iPad. He studied at Concordia Chicago and Concordia Theological Seminary. He loves to hike, sail, read, bike and shoot guns. He is the Special Ministries Project Coordinator for the LCMS Office of National Mission's Youth Ministry Department.
View more from Steven

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