Thursday, October 13, 2016
To Preach the Lectionary or Not. . .
While not oblivious to the flaws of the 3 year lectionary (RCL or not) and while not at all sure that the historic (one year) lectionary is better, I find myself thoroughly wedded to the idea of a lectionary. I suspect that most Lutherans and nearly all Lutheran pastors are, as well. While some find the lectionary a prison, I find it continually new and fresh, applicable and appropriate to all that goes on in the world around us as well as providing a rich and diverse witness of Scripture to the people of God and the preacher as he faces his preaching task.
Yes, the problems with the lectionary that led to the 3 year series were largely unique to Rome and its system of so many commemorations of saints that the people missed out on the central message of Scripture. Musteric wonders if even the 3 year lectionary does not conceal as much as it reveals of Jesus Christ. Now to be sure, there are subtle and even larger differences between the LSB lectionary and the RCL he is writing about but I understand his point. Just as the hearing of sermons can become routine and predictable so can the writing of those sermons. But what he calls a spiritual lethargy as preachers and worship leaders due to the lectionary, I do not find credible. I do not deny the spiritual laziness and complacency of preacher and the dullness of the ears of folks in the pew. These have always been a challenge in every age of Christianity. But the blame does not fall on the lectionary -- not in whole or in part. It falls on the people (in the pulpit and in the pew).
I would suggest that planning is the big problem. I am amazed at how many Lutheran pastors I know who still burn the midnight oil on Saturday night trying to find inspiration, searching for illumination, and working to craft a sermon for their people in a few hours. [It is Thursday; do you know what you are preaching on Sunday?] No lectionary hinders or supports this failing. It belongs to the pastor and to people who do not think preaching is worthy of the time spent to plan, prepare, pray, and produce faithful, credible, doctrinal, and applicable sermons. In fact, it is precisely the gift of a lectionary which enables the pastor to see sermons within the context of a larger time frame and not simply one Sunday at a time. The lectionary is a crutch only to those who are looking for a crutch. Anything would do in that regard. The lectionary is far more a benefit than a hindrance to good Lutheran preaching (whether a 3 year lectionary or the one year version).
Finally, I would remind God's people so apt to see the pastor's role in so many other areas that preaching and prayer remain two of the primary things a pastor does for the benefit of his people. Do not begrudge the time he spends honing his craft and preparing for Sunday morning. Do not presume that any sermon can be scratched out in a few minutes unless that is all you are prepared to hear -- the scraps of loose thoughts without plan or development. Yes, it is easier for me to write a sermon today after making my way through the 3 year lectionary a dozen times and preaching the one year series for 5-10 years. But the writing of a sermon remains a primary and central task of my ministry for which planning, preparation, and prayer alone produce a credible fruit. I think my people deserve no less than my best efforts in this regard and, if I have helped them see the role and value of the sermon at all, they know a good effort when they hear it. The lectionary is far more positive a tool for pastor and for people than negative one. It is a means of meeting the kairos of God within the chronos of our daily lives. Every preacher knows this. Every good preacher capitalizes on it.