Why I don’t Preach the Lectionary (but I think it is cool that you do)

Throughout Jewish and Christian history there have been various sets of readings for both daily use and Sabbath use. These are sometimes referred to as lectionaries. In 1994 a major ecumenical lectionary was released after years of study and experimentation called the Revised Common Lectionary. This 3 year cycle of texts for Sundays includes a Psalm, an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading. This lectionary is used by many mainline denominations including a number of Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist bodies.

Billy Sunday

It has become quite popular to preach from these texts. Commentaries have been developed as well as liturgical resources to accompany those texts and themes. There are many die-hard fans of preaching this way. In fact, many pastors go so far as to say that all pastors should follow the lectionary. It is helpful because it takes the guess work out of picking sermons, forces pastors to preach a variety, and there are so many resources available for lectionary preaching. IF there is no system in place, pastors often end up preaching out of their own passions and not their weaknesses so they end up passing their weaknesses on to their congregations.

I am not a lectionary preacher. I appreciate the idea. I use a lot of those lectionary resources and even do some of my liturgy based on those themes. Still, I don’t preach the lectionary except on a few important dates. Here is why I don’t preach the lectionary:

  1. I find it constricting. I know that some people have trouble coming up with sermon ideas. I never seem to have that trouble.
  2. The lectionary skips things and is not complete itself. The lectionary does not have every text or even every book of the Bible in it. It also often jumps over troublesome verses.
  3. I don’t follow strictly to the church year. I track with Lent and Advent, but some of the other days (like Pentecost, Ascension, or Epiphany) I only emphasize every couple of years.
  4. The lectionary does not always work. Preaching the lectionary does not guarantee that it forces the pastor to preach a variety or in their weak areas. I have found that pastors have the ability to find what they want to say even if they are preaching the lectionary. They can also favor certain areas of scripture and pick the text that week that fits them best.
  5. There are other ways to fix the problems that the lectionary is trying to solve. I have found that I can find variety and preach my weak areas by listen to the Holy Spirit and by preaching through books of the Bible. I actually like to push myself to preach wherever I am being pushed and whatever I am comfortable with

I think that the lectionary is a good idea. If you are not a lectionary preacher I would encourage every pastor to look at it and try it. And if you are a lectionary preacher, I appreciate your discipline, but don’t have to try to make me a lectionary preacher. Even though it may be helpful, it is not a biblical commandment and it is not for everybody.



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