The Lectionary
Seasons of Devotion

What is the Lectionary? Lectionary comes from the Latin word lection, meaning a reading or lesson. Lectionary texts are taken from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Paul’s Letters. In many traditions, the Sunday sermon is drawn from the lectionary reading, especially from the Gospel reading. Today, many churches use the Revised Common Lectionary. It is a 3-year cycle of readings, the Sunday Lectionary (used in Sunday worship), and the 2-year Daily Lectionary, for personal use to assist a person in reading through the entire Bible. The Revised Common Lectionary replaced the older standard lectionary, which followed a yearly cycle.

How did the Lectionary come into being? It is possible that during the time of Ezra, ca. 459 BCE, when many Jews returned to Israel from the Babylonian captivity that the formal reading of the Law was instituted for instruction, (Read Nehemiah 8).

Luke 4: 16-17 presents a ritual for reading Scripture. "He (Jesus) entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him ..."

“Both Hebrew and Christian lectionaries developed over the centuries. Typically, a lectionary will go through the scriptures in a logical pattern, and also include selections which were chosen by the religious community for their appropriateness to particular occasions. The use of pre-assigned, scheduled readings from the scriptures can be traced back to the early church. Not all of the Christian Church used the same lectionary, and throughout history, many varying lectionaries have been used in different parts of the Christian world.” (Wikipedia)

Why would Christians follow a Lectionary? Through prayerful reading of Lectionary texts, we can get into the rhythm and flow of the cycles of the Christian story, to learn it, to relive it and to experience the strengthening of our faith in our everyday lives.

What are the Seasons of the Lectionary? From Advent to Advent

  • Advent, begins the seasons of devotion where we prepare for God's coming among us.

  • Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the gift of God with us.

  • Epiphany, we celebrate God revealing Jesus to all peoples.

  • Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday is a time of introspection in view of and connection with the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent also honors the last week of Jesus' life, by focusing on Palm Sunday, Maunday Thursday (the institution the Lord's Supper) and Good Friday.

  • Easter, celebrates Jesus' victory over death…That life is always more powerful than death.

  • Pentecost, we celebrate the coming of the promised Holy Spirit to empower every believer.

  • Ordinary Time is the time between Pentecost and Advent, following the life of Jesus.

Rev. Julia A. Bruton-Sheppard, © January 24, 2010 (revised)

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