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The New Christians

More good comments under the second lectionary post (and here’s the first). So here are my concluding thoughts (for now).

When I began working as a pastor at Colonial Church in 1997, David Fisher had just introduced the Revised Common Lectionary as the general guide for preaching. I loved it, and here’s why: As the minister to youth and young adults, I got to preach a couple times a year — often the Sunday after Christmas or Easter.  The potholes that preaching youth pastors must avoid are many. For one, with so few opportunities to preach, one is often tempted to jam three or four sermons into one. Another is that, in a series-based homiletical environment, one is often squeezed in between two series that the senior pastor has planned, leaving the erstwhile youth pastor with the entire canon from which to choose.

So, the RCL helped me immensely, for it gave me guidance on what to preach, and it placed my sermon in the flow of the liturgical year. In some sense, it meant that the preacher was less important, since s/he was not choosing the text but being chosen by the text.


That being said, I cannot help but agree with the commenters on the other posts that, for all of its merits, the RCL does work under the ecclesiological/theological/psychological assumption that some of the unsavory bits of the biblical narrative are not suitable for public worship. Maybe, as in the first chapter of Job, the mention of “the satan” will raise more questions than the preacher cares to answer; similar with the death of Judas, which prompted the first post on this. Or, in psalmic verses about bashing babies heads or killing enemies, it seems downright offensive.

But these very verses were sung by ancient Israel, and in worship.  And many of the church fathers preached on Job 1 and on Judas.

Thus my contention that, with all of its beauty, the RCL is somewhat captive to modern sensibilities.  I’m not arguing with Andrea or Taylor that some parts of the scripture need to be left out; I’m saying that what is left out tells us something, and what it tells us is that we have a tendency to want to “clean up” the Bible for public worship.

I think we should fight that tendency because it damages faith. I’ve met too many people who have left Christianity because they weren’t told the whole story of God when they were young, and when they confronted the ugly parts of the story later, they had no way to fit that in to their framework of who God it. Methinks that the young people in Nadia’s church won’t have that problem.

The committee that decides these things meets again in 2010. I hope they’ll consider putting some of the ornery passages in the RCL and thus challenge preachers and congregations to wrestle with them, even in worship!

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