Sunday, January 14, 2018

Shortened Readings. . .

A thankful note to the Lutheran Service Book lectionary is the fact that shortened readings are done somewhat judiciously.  By a cursory examination, it appears that Series B has the fewest (12), then Series A (14), and Series C the most (24) with most in the Gospel or Epistle for the day.  I must admit that I am always hesitant to choose a shortened reading although I know that some routinely choose the shortened reading.

Across the three-year cycle of the Roman lectionary, there are a total of 49 occasions where at least one short form of a reading is optional. One blogger has suggested that this translates into between 20-28% of Masses on Sundays and Solemnities in any given liturgical year having shorter forms offered.

Most of these shortened readings, both for the Lutheran form of the 3 year lectionary and for Rome's, involve simply removing a few verses from before or after the main section of the reading.  In the Roman lectionary, however, there appear to be some edits in which internal verses are, in effect, edited out.

I fear that the sole reason for using the shortened version of the readings is to shorten the length of the service.  In even the most extreme cases, this is done for the sake of a couple of minutes.  But at what cost?  I understand the constraints of time.  We have two Divine Services every Sunday with a Sunday school and Bible study hour in between.  I well appreciate the need to keep to a schedule.  At the same time, I fear that choice of the readings is based solely on the desire to shorten the service and this option is chosen simply because the option is provided.  This is, in my view, the worst place to edit the liturgy.

If time is really a constraint, then there are a number of choices to shorten the Divine Service and to do it with sensitivity to the liturgical integrity of the rite.  Sing fewer hymns or choose hymns with fewer stanzas (I abhor shortening hymns as much as shortening the readings).  Preach a few minutes less.  Look at the possibilities for a more efficient (pardon the term) method of distribution.  If a choir sings, have them sing an integral part of the liturgy and not an added anthem.  Oh, and radical thought -- start on time.  In any of these choices, the liturgical integrity of the rite as well as the readings from the lectionary are treated with the respect they are due and not as things to be omitted for the cause of time.

I think this should not be a radical thought, although I fear it is.  We look at the Divine Service as if it were somewhat a burden or chore that we ought to dispense with as quickly as possible.  Truth be told, I seldom have a Divine Service on Sundays that is shorter than 70-80 minutes.  In part this is to remind those assembled that God's time is not ours, that we do not clock watch before the Lord nor do we judge God on the basis of brevity.  What is happening is too great a mystery and miracle to be counted with a stopwatch.  At the same time, there is no need to prolong the liturgy without purpose.  We have had services of several hours (an ordination and installation within the Divine Service) and we have weekday spoken liturgy that routinely lasts 45 minutes.  Time is a consideration but not a primary one.


Anonymous said...

One of the biggest time variables is the choice of hymns.
Make wise choices which fit the theme for the Day and
also help balance the length of the Divine Service.

Anonymous said...

Are you tired of routine, humdrum worship services? Do you have a hard time keeping your eyes open through the prelude? Does your pastor know he’s lousy at picking hymns? Now you can have rock concert excitement every time you step foot in the nave of your church. Just call Rock and Roll of Ages Praise Bands for Hire and you won’t miss a beat… literally. Our praise bands hire out for just a few shekels so you won’t put a crimp in your church’s budget. Has the monotony of those stuffy German hymn writers got you down? Don’t give it another thought. Pick up the phone and dial 1-800-RockandRollofAges and we’ll send a praise band to your church that is fit to play in Madison Square Garden. Just don’t forget to bring your ear plugs to dull the sound of the loud jamming. You’ll leave church invigorated and ready to witness to bikers and jailed inmates. Rock and Roll of Ages Praise Bands for Hire are here to help. Rock on.
Sung to the tune of Baba O'Rily written by Pete Townshend
Out here on the streets
I find CoWo treats
I get my fix of moralism
I'm part of the flight
From orthodox right
Can you spell antinomianism?
Don't cry
Don't pluck your eye
It's only worship wasteland
Sally, take my hand
We'll church-hop cross the land
Feel the fire
The burning in our bosoms
The exodus is here
Of stodgy doctrinaire
Let's get together
And sing assorted praise songs
Worship wasteland
It's only praise band wasteland
Worship wasteland
Worship wasteland
We're all wasted!

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine this. I follow a fixed, one year Lectionary, and I would never consider abridging any part of it. If this is acceptable, why not simply read the first three or four words, and then say, "and you known."

Continuing Anglican Priest