R eading the Bible. It’s something that as Christians we know we should do, but it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Do you start at the beginning? Do you start with the Gospels? Should you follow a plan or choose your own pathway through the many stories and books of God’s Word?
One thing that has helped me to read the Bible with more ease and intention has been following the lectionary. The Revised Common Lectionary is used by many Christian denominations to guide congregations and individuals through the biblical story. The lectionary follows the church year (starting the first Sunday of Advent) and includes weekly passages from the Old Testament, Psalms, Epistles, and the Gospels, over the course of three year-long cycles. There are also daily readings available to guide your personal devotions throughout the week.
Many churches use the lectionary for their congregational readings, but why should you follow the lectionary readings for your personal Bible reading?
- The lectionary focuses your attention on church seasons and biblical connections. Because the lectionary passages match the church season, you’ll spend Pentecost pondering the gift of the Holy Spirit, Lent lamenting, and Easter rejoicing in the resurrection. You’ll also see how Old Testament stories are connected to the Gospels and the Epistles. This can bring new connections and insights to well-worn stories.
- The lectionary is used by Christians around the world. Reading the lectionary connects you to your sisters and brothers in Christ by focusing your attention on the same passages that are being studied by believers in many places. The Revised Common Lectionary, in particular, was developed with input from representatives from 19 denominations and is used ecumenically.
- The Revised Common Lectionary offers a plan for daily reading. This may not seem revolutionary, because there are lots of daily reading plans out there. The lectionary is unique in that the daily reading plans available are in tune with the church seasons and possibly also what your own congregation will be engaging on Sunday.
Reading along with the lectionary is a practice that has helped me to engage sections of the Bible that I was previously neglecting. Anyone else have a history of avoiding Numbers or the minor prophets? Many Christians have favorite books or sections of the Bible and have trouble with others. The lectionary pushes us outside of our comfort zones and encourages us to spend time focusing on God throughout a variety of biblical texts.* The Old Testament, Psalms, Gospels, and Epistles all speak to our lives, in every season, and reading the lectionary is one way to open our hearts and lives to new movements of the Spirit.
*While the Revised Common Lectionary will cover most Bible passages, there are some sections that are not included. The weekly readings were developed with Sunday congregational reading in mind. The daily readings include many additional passages.
Stephanie Soderstrom is coordinator for Short-term Mission for the Reformed Church in America. You can connect with her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.