Monday, August 24, 2009

The Timeliness of the Lectionary

I am often reminded of the timeliness of the Lectionary and of the wisdom of the Lectionary. Some view the appointed readings for each Sunday, feast day, and festival of the Church Year as a straight jacket. They like the freedom to pick and choose and be relevant to what is happening. I find that the Lectionary is extremely relevant -- not by my choosing but by God's purpose.
For example, in the past week the ELCA Church Wide Assembly has made dramatic choices to ignore the witness of Scripture and 2000 years of Christian understanding of marriage, family, and ordination. This radical disconnect with the past was done to embrace a new thing which they believed God was doing -- a new thing which required them to stop listening to Scripture and to place a principle of freedom, license, and liberation to stand above what Scripture says -- a gospel unrelated to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of our lost lives.
Guess what lessons were read in Lutheran congregations (ELCA and LCMS) yesterday, immediately following these actions:

Isaiah 29:11-19.

11And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.” 13And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,14therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” 15Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? 17Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? 18In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. 19The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

And Mark 7:1-13

1When the Pharisees gathered to [Jesus], with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3(For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

In both lessons God's people are chastised for not reading His Word, for not understanding that Word through the lens of Jesus Christ, and for substituting the the wisdom of men for the Word of God. Now if that is not timeliness I don't know what it...

Over the many years of my ministry, using the Lectionary, I can recount time after time when the lessons of the day, appointed by a calendar seemingly unrelated to the events of the moment, spoke with great eloquence upon the very situations of the moment that might leave us scrambling to find the right words from the Lord. God, in His wisdom, is greater than mine...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice post. I remember when I was a Vicar that the Epistle Reading for the Sunday after 9/11 was from Hebrews 13, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Indeed the Lectionary is timely.