Benefits of using the lectionary in worship

In A More Christlike Word, Brad Jersak presents a Christ-centered approach to biblical interpretation that he refers to as The Emmaus Way. This post summarizes what Brad says concerning how following the lectionary for all aspects of community (corporate) worship (including preaching) helps churches stay faithful to this method, keeping the focus on Jesus and his gospel. 

Why follow the lectionary?

Following the lectionary in community worship means conforming Scripture readings and sermons (along with other elements of worship) to the cycle of passages set forth in the lectionary. 

[Note: though there are multiple lectionaries, the one that Grace Communion International follows is The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).] 

As Brad notes, following the lectionary is a spiritual practice that helps sermons (and other elements of worship) take a more comprehensive view of Scripture. Each week the lectionary links multiple passages from various parts of the Bible in accordance with their common Christ-centered, gospel-shaped theme (what Brad refers to as their "Christotelic" theme). In doing this, the lectionary "functions to frame the Scriptures within the canon of faith" (p. 97)--the biblical, apostolic faith that is summarized in the early church Creeds (including the Nicene Creed). Brad continues by noting that this canon is none other than the message of the gospel, which the passages linked each week in the lectionary point to, unfolding "the drama of redemption that inexorably points to Christ crucified and risen." Brad also notes that the lectionary cycles, by design, "frame the Scriptures within the church calendar precisely in order to lead us to Christ and his gospel" (p. 97).

What's the danger in not following the lectionary?

Referencing a comment from theologian John Behr, Brad points out that 

reading the Bible apart from its gospel framework, preserved in the liturgical tradition [via the lectionary], may not even be reading it as Scripture. If I sit down with my Bible and flip it open to any page in the book, I've potentially removed that page from its specific role in its gospel content. One could study the Bible their whole lives and yet miss the essential reality of who all the Scriptures point to. (p. 97, alluding to John 5:39-40)

Some pastor-teachers, other preachers, and worship leaders/planners resist following the lectionary each week feeling it is too constraining. I get how they feel, I once felt that way too. But I now urge those who resist to think deeply about what Brad shares in urging us to follow the lectionary. The fruit of this spiritual discipline is to understand the Bible as God intends, and thus to preach it rightly. And so I commend use of the lectionary to you.

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