Of Calendars and Lectionaries

David AyresBaustelle BerlinLeave a Comment

We are already nearly half way through the Epiphany season, which is five weeks long this year. The number of Sundays after the Epiphany depends on the date of Easter. When Easter is early, Epiphany is shorter. Epiphany can be anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks in length. Following Epiphany is the season of pre-Lent (three weeks) and then Lent (40 days plus Sundays), leading up to the Easter season. This year Easter Sunday is April 16.

There is no biblical mandate for following a church calendar, but there are many advantages. One advantage is the annual rehearsal (in the Gospel readings) of the life of Christ, from His conception and birth to his death, resurrection and ascension. Without the calendar, it would be easy to lose focus of the fact the Christian Faith is based on the events of Christ’s life. In fact, without the calendar, some of the events of Christ’s life might almost never be considered by the church at all. How often, for example, would the circumcision or the baptism of Christ come into our view if the calendar was not there as a guide each year?

When we follow the calendar, the scripture readings, music/hymns, prayers and sermons typically focus on or support the theme of the season. When this is repeated year after year, it provides a dynamic of forward progress for the Church. As God’s people, we are going somewhere together. We are revisiting the important elements of our Faith each year and worshiping, more or less on the same page, with our fellow Christians around the world, who are also following the calendar.

For those of you who have been using the weekly lectionary (Scripture reading schedule) in your private devotions, I have attached the readings for the next four weeks, this time including the collects (appointed prayers) for each week.

There are many different lectionaries available for both private and church use, meant to be tools to help with daily Bible reading. There is no right or wrong one. The one we are using is taken from the 2003 edition of the Book of Common Prayer printed by the Reformed Episcopal Church in the USA. It is itself an adapted version of lectionaries found in other prayer books (Australian Prayer Book 1978, 1945 edition of American Prayer Book 1928). It is recommended for use when the church meets daily for morning and evening prayer–a practice that not too many churches in our day have continued. (Maybe again, some day!) If it is helpful to you, wonderful!

Note: because of its comprehensiveness–in trying to cover as much of the Bible as possible in a year–the daily lectionary does not typically follow the church calendar year. The readings we use on Sundays following the calendar year may or may not be the same as those you find in the daily lectionary.

I hope this discussion of calendars and lectionaries has not put you completely to sleep! It is in response to several questions I have heard over the past few weeks.

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