Before the Bible was the Bible it was read in worship. Lectio means ‘I read’ in Latin and so the lectionary was the set of readings for a specific day. Some of the earliest manuscripts in existence are not full books of the bible but readings for specific days.
The most used lectionary today is called the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). It was created in 1992 by the Consultation on Common Texts, an ecumenical group from a number of different denominations.
The RCL consists of a set of readings for each Sunday and Holy Day of the year, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent. It is a three-year cycle so every three years, we return back to the same text again. Yet three years is a long time of daily life. A lot can happen in the world in three years. Karl Barth said that preachers need to have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other because to preach is to make the Word of God alive for the people who hear you.
Not every church uses the lectionary but a lot of them do. Most every Episcopal, Catholic, Lutheran church uses it. Most nondenominational and Baptist churches do not. I usually preach sermons in a series and most preachers who preach this way do not use the lectionary. The pick and choose the text to fit the topic. Another form of preaching is called expository preaching. This involves following a single book of the bible over a course of many weeks or many years. Next week’s reading will always immediately follow this week’s reading. I like to use the lectionary to base a sermon series around. I don’t like choosing the text. I prefer to receive the text and present it in a new light. If it were just up to me, I would probably avoid certain sections. The RCL itself avoids readings that were prominent in older lectionaries (tough I like to put them back in). It gets down to whether we see the Bible as a tool or a gift. Is it a tool to be used how I see fit, or a gift that can transform me and you and the entire world?
The point of the bible is not to be a set of rules or a code of living. This exists within the Bible, but it is not the whole thing. I am going to be doing a series of blog posts on the Bible, eventually going through the entire Bible, yet I am starting with the lectionary because what the Bible is, first of all, is a series of readings with which to worship the Triune God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are revealed herein. The Bible is never changing yet always new and fresh. We do not stand above it. We receive it as grace. We don’t use it as a sword to guilt or manipulate others, we receive it and share and love it and worship our Lord with it, for here Christ is revealed for all ages.