Why I use the lectionary in worship

The use of the lectionary is about the most opposite of the “one big idea” model for worship as there is. The latter is a model for worship planning that keeps the worship service and all that focuses around it on one central theme. No grab bag here. The soloist isn’t singing her favorite song and if any testimony is offered it is related to the “one big idea.” Even Sunday School and children’s programs relate to the one big idea. A lot of work, planning, and focus to keep the lose ideas out, like swatting at moths flying around the light. Don’t let them land, lest the one big idea get muddled or meddled with.

And then there is the lectionary, the four readings each Sunday that are incorporated into the service – a reading from the prophets (Old Testament), the apostles (New Testament), Psalms and the Gospel. The schedule of readings are in a 3 year cycle (Years A,B,C) that essentially cover all part of the Bible over that span of time. As you might imagine, it is almost impossible to keep these readings in any kind of meaningful relationship to the rest of the service. Go to http://divinity.library.vanderbilt.edu/lectionary/ for the schedule of readings used by Protestant churches. It is a take off on the RC schedule, but with, of course, readings from the Apocrypha taken out.

I think that is the point!!!! We don’t get to choose our themes, our favorite passages of Scripture, the more inspiring over the less inspiring, the more culturally near over the less culturally near. In other words, we don’t get to choose what part of God’s Word to ignore. The fact is that if a person is a regular participant in worship, he will have been exposed to every part of God’s Word in some way or other several times, and some more than several times.  I often ask myself when looking at TV preachers, something I rarely do, what texts are they not preaching on. What they are not preaching on tells you something about where they are coming from, both theologically and in terms of integrity of ministry. Is it the whole counsel of God or just what’s “hot”? Can they say the unpopular thing?  Will a text be read on hell, predestination, etc.?

The other thing I like about the lectionary is that it puts the Scripture right in the middle of the service, and by middle I don’t mean in the middle time-wise. I mean that all parts of the service are an exaltation of God’s Word: beginning, middle and end. It makes clear that the central feature of our communal life is the shaping Word of God. It leads us away from that feeling we have all had when we walked away from a rip-roaring good service that it was essentially a man-made thing, as good as it was. There was still too much about it that was a “chiseled altar”, an Old Testament prohibition about taking man-made tools and using them to fashion the altar. It was to remain roughhewn and unchiseled.

The lectionary forces the church to give honor to the whole Word of God.

This Sunday’s sermon on Revelation

My outline for the church:


The Revelation to John

which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place

Revelation 1:1-8

Part 1



What is it that is becoming true in our world?


The subjects of Revelation 1:1-8 answer this question:

An uncovering of Jesus Christ / What must soon take place / Who we are / The authority of its words



1. The Authority of its Words

The five fold transmission:  God, Jesus, Angel, John, __________


No book in the Bible quite so clear as to its own origin and its authority.


There are very few ethical commands in this book, but there are many __________demands



2. An Uncovering of Jesus

In many ways there is a sense in which he is now covered. He must be __________to us


The faithful witness


the __________from among the dead


the ruler of kings on earth.


3. What must __________take place

The present reality of our existence is that He is arriving.


No one knows for sure the time


Four views of the word “soon”



4. Who are we:

The church appears so weak, and so small, ready at times to be extinguished, so uncertain.


But we are a Kingdom

Because we have a king.



To God


To men

Evangelicals Catholics Together

Chuck Colson just had a terrific interview with Christianity Today about the ECT movement in which he has been central. With the recent death of Richard John Neuhaus, Colson’s equivalent on the Roman Catholic side of the dialogue, CT interviewed Colson about the origins, contribution and possible future of ECT.

Colson asserts that even the Pope agrees that Martin Luther got it right on justification by faith. Peter Kreeft, Roman Catholic philosophy professor at Boston College, former evangelical and author published by InterVarsity Press (with, of course, no note on the back cover that Kreeft is Roman Catholic) asserts the same. I can agree with this on the formal level, though I haven’t seen much of it at the pew level. But I think we are far beyond the days when evangelical Protestantism just assumed that RCs were a “works righteousness” movement and therefore not fully placing saving faith in Christ. The deep reverence for Christ I have witnessed among my RC brothers and sisters, their singular belief that Jesus is the one mediator through His shed blood, their supernaturalism and spiritual worldview, commitment to the Bible as divinely inspired, etc., give evangelical believers much more camaraderie than do the more liberal Methodist, Presbyterian or UCC churches on the corner that struggle with a consistent spiritual (as opposed to materialist and secular) worldview.

I think the evangelical movement is dealing with a lot of its goofiness as it has been tossed back and forth by every new fad that creates new churches and casts them away every decade. Younger evangelicals are finding the liturgy, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual disciplines, ordered prayers and monastic aspects of RC life intriguing and life-giving. It is sensing in ever new ways that worship and communal spirituality are not built alone on the rock of a good sermon and fast tune.

I remember when RC Sproul called Colson out over the ECT, supposedly like Paul called out Peter, referred to in Galatians, and wondered (perhaps out right accused) if Colson was being a carrier of another Gospel. The rally cry fell on deaf ears. I think evangelicals know innately that the consistent supernaturalism of the RCs puts them on our side of the line (or us on theirs). Of course, I know RC in its western and North American version, not the version of Latin America, etc., where there is a level of volatility between evangelicals and RCs that seems to call this whole thing into question. But that’s another discussion.

Below is the interview…. Continue reading