Rightly Dividing the Lectionaries

December 17th, 2012 Post by

What you’re about to read should rightly be considered “inside baseball”. Many of you who read this are lay persons who will quite possibly shake your head that there are such debates among the clergy. For those head-shakers, please consider that for those of us who are clergy, this is our craft. We have devoted our lives to the ministry of the church, and for this reason, it is right that we discuss and consider things in greater detail than those outside the craft might otherwise — much in the same way one in a civil profession would give attention to things that the rest of us know nothing or very little about. One man’s trivium is another man’s craft. In fact, if one gives no greater thought to his profession than those outside the profession, then there is little use for the rest of us that he occupy that profession. It should be no different for pastors.

Yet I don’t want to assume that it is only pastors who are interested in a discussion about the choice of lectionaries among Lutherans.

Lectionary

Should we use the One-Year or the Three-Year lectionary?
It turns out that this is one of those subjects that is deeper and more complex than it seems upon initial inspection.

The truth is, there are advantages and disadvantages to each, and as I’ll argue, there’s no clear winner here. But if we’re to identify what are the advantages and disadvantages of each, we need to distinguish the good reasons from the bad for choosing one over the other.

Is the Three-Year Lectionary the Pope’s lectionary?
I have routinely heard my One-Year friends scoff that the Three-Year Lectionary is the pope’s lectionary. This bit of fault-finding comes from the fact that the Three-Year Lectionary was the product of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s. Sounds bad, right? I mean what self-respecting (or self-loathing) Lutheran wants to read from the pope’s lectionary?

Calling the Three-Year Lectionary the pope’s lectionary suggests that there is a lectionary that isn’t the pope’s lectionary, but in the choice between the One-Year and the Three-Year there isn’t a non-papal option. It’s just a question of which papal lectionary you want.

The origin of the One-Year Lectionary is an interesting blend of readings compiled under several popes across eight centuries.

It begins with a set of readings for Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter derived from Comes Hieronymi, a document attributed to Jerome (as the title indicates). The readings for these seasons were put together most likely in the late fifth century. Three hundred years later, Charlemagne, one of the most pro-papacy monarchs the world has ever known, commissioned some adjustments to the lectionary which were drawn from Pope Gregory the Great’s sacramentary. The final major addition came in the thirteenth century with the adoption of Trinity Sunday and all that follows for the rest of the year. Finally put together under a powerful papacy, the One-Year Lectionary was solidified for the church for several hundred years.

And so the fingerprints of various popes are all over the One-Year Lectionary. Luther noticed this as well, although he doesn’t appear to be aware of its historical development. He writes,

After [the collect] the Epistle is read. Certainly the time has not yet come to attempt revision here, as nothing unevangelical is read, except that those parts from the Epistles of Paul in which faith is taught are read only rarely, while the exhortations to morality are most frequently read. The Epistles seem to have been chosen by a singularly unlearned and superstitious advocate of works. But for the service those sections in which faith in Christ is taught should have been given preference. The latter were certainly considered more often in the Gospels by whoever it was who chose these lessons. In the meantime, the sermon in the vernacular will have to supply what is lacking (LW 53:23).

Luther noticed that the One-Year Lectionary does not include enough of the great Pauline texts on God’s free salvation by grace through faith alone. For example, Romans 3 and Ephesians 2:1-10 are not in the Historic Lectionary (although the LCMS has since added these texts in its version of it). Yet, despite its deficiencies, Luther retained the lectionary, because it was already part of the life of the church, and there was no compelling reason to get rid of it. Instead, he called on pastors to use their preaching to make up for the deficiencies of the lectionary.

Notice also that Luther does not mention any Old Testament readings. Historically, the One-Year lectionary did not include Old Testament lessons on Sundays, but only at the Easter Vigil, the Vigil of Pentecost, the feast of Epiphany, during Holy Week, and on some weekdays.

Now maybe you can stomach certain popes more than others, but in the category of “lectionaries organized under papal influence”, there’s no difference between our two lectionary candidates.

It’s also worth noting that the Three-Year Lectionary used in the LCMS isn’t simply the Ordo Lectionum Missae created by Vatican II. There are major differences. Vatican II’s OLM was adopted widely by Protestant groups but not before making significant changes. The result was the Common Lectionary. From there, the Common Lectionary underwent further revision to become the aptly-titled Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). The LCMS still wasn’t satisfied and so, working from RCL, made even more changes before giving us our own Three-Year Lectionary. As LCMS.org states, “While a lectionary cannot include the entire Bible, it was the committee’s opinion that a Lutheran lectionary needed to include such theologically important texts, even if some of the RCL selections were not incorporated.” Here are some of those “theologically important texts”: Ephesians 5:22–33; Romans 13:1–7; 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; 11:27–32; Galatians 2:11–14; 6:1–6; Philippians 4:10–20; Hebrews 12:4–13; 1 John 4:1–6; and Luke 13:22–30.

The LCMS three-year is Vatican II’s lectionary, you say? Not by a long shot.

How much does a lectionary’s origins matter anyway?
But so what if a lectionary is put together under papal influence. Are you aware of the myriad of things that you have received from a church under the papacy? If the criteria for throwing something out of the church is papal influence, then we’ve got a lot of chucking to do, and once we’re finished, we’ll be left with less of a church than what the Evangelicals possess.

Luther saw this point as well when he discussed the Anabaptist spirit toward papal influence.

We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would east out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ….So it is of no consequence when these Anabaptists and enthusiasts say, “Whatever is of the pope is wrong,” or, “Whatever is in the papacy we must have and do differently,” thinking thereby to prove themselves the foremost enemy of Antichrist. Not realizing that they thus give him most help, they hurt Christendom most and deceive themselves. For they should help us to reject abuse and accretion, but they would not get much credit for this because they realize they were not first to do this (LW 40:233).

Martin Luther never got wrapped up in letting a practice’s source determine its worth, and we shouldn’t either. It’s a foolish pursuit that ends with us trying to chase down the origins of all that we do instead of asking about its current value. The question should not be “Where did it come from?”, but “Is it good?”. The lectionaries should be judged on their merits as lectionaries, not on the basis of their origins, and to accept or dismiss them on the basis of their origins is nothing other than the genetic fallacy. Ask yourself: “If I had no idea where the Three-Year Lectionary came from, would I still have the same concerns?” If the answer is no and you still object to it, then you’re guilty of the genetic fallacy. Lutherans have been smart enough to avoid the genetic fallacy when it comes to other matters such as Halloween, Christmas, and sausage, they should do the same when it comes to the lectionary.

Besides, if there is anything that isn’t the pope’s, it’s Scripture. The lectionary is Scripture, and no Scripture is the pope’s Scripture. I won’t yield one jot or tittle to the pope’s ownership. Unless we can detect a discernible agenda to string together various texts in such a way as to distort their context in support of an agenda contrary to Lutheran doctrine (and we can’t), we should treat both lectionaries as Scripture simpliciter, not the pope’s Scripture.

But the One-Year Lectionary is more historic, right?
Yes, the One-Year Lectionary is the more historic of the two, but not as much as one might think, and certainly not to the degree that many boast. In its current LCMS form, it’s been overhauled quite a bit. As noted above, almost all of the Old Testament readings in today’s One-Year were omitted in the Historic Lectionary, and while readings from  1 Timothy, 2 Peter, and Revelation have been included in the LCMS version, these were omitted historically. Numerous other texts have been removed and other put in their place. So, much of it is not so historic.

Factor in also, that the Three-Year lectionary retains much of the One-Year lectionary on most feast days, and the argument that the One-Year is the historic lectionary is weaker than it initially appears.

Does including more Scripture make the Three-Year Lectionary better?

The touted advantages of the Three-Year Lectionary aren’t so cut-and-dry either.

From the Three-Year crowd, I regularly hear that the Three-Year Lectionary is obviously better because it contains a wider variety of Scripture. Even in the modified LCMS form, the One-Year leaves out readings from 23 of the 66 books (Leviticus, Judges, Ruth, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Hosea, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah [listed as an alternate for Joel on Ash Wednesday. If Jonah is read, then Joel is not and so Joel would be added to the list of omitted books and vice versa], Nahum, Habakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude). Meanwhile, the Three-Year Lectionary omits only 1 Chronicles and Obadiah.

But does a wider variety of Scripture trump everything else? I don’t think so. Some of the advantages found in the One-Year Lectionary are lost by the wider scope of the Three-Year.

  • Consider that a lifetime of attentively listening to the same passages read publicly each year results in a deep familiarity with the text and a great deal of memorization. This is sacrificed with the Three-Year Lectionary.
  • Fitting in so many different texts as the Three-Year does comes at the cost. The One-Year Lectionary readings for each service weave together a theme that is harder to discern in the Three-Year. The One-Year has the advantage of clarifying the structure of the church year much better. For example, Isaiah 50:4-9 (series A) is not nearly as appropriate for Palm Sunday as is the One-Year reading, Zechariah 9:9-12. There are some exceptions where the Three-Year reading fits better with the season, but these occur far less. On a similar note, the Old Testament lessons fit hand-in-glove with the Gospel lessons much more than their Three-Year counterparts.
  • Then there’s the advantage of sharing a lectionary with a great many churchmen of antiquity who can help you in your own reading and study of the lectionary. The Three-Year pastors and congregations lose some of this.
  • What’s more, many of our hymns were written to compliment the readings of the Historic Lectionary.

Is reading a wider variety of Scripture a good thing? On it’s own, yes, but one has to recognize that reading a wider variety of Scripture comes at a cost to other things, and when those things are added up, it isn’t clear that the Three-Year lectionary is better just by virtue of including more Scripture.

And yet, the Three-Year truly brings with it some important advantages.

  • By focusing on a particular Gospel for a year, congregations have a chance to get a sense of the character of each Gospel.
  • While a wider scope of Scripture may not trump all other considerations, it is nevertheless a point in the Three-Year Lectionary’s favor. I have found that it lends itself better to a redemptive-historical/ biblical theological approach — particularly in the Old Testament readings.
  • The Three-Year Lectionary has been approved and/or adopted by most church bodies that follow the church calendar. It has been adopted by the Episcopal Church, the ELCA, the ELCIC, the United Methodist Church, most Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and numerous others. It is also far and away the dominate lectionary used in the LCMS. Now One-Year users may not like this fact, but it nevertheless counts for something that a majority of the present-day church is using this lectionary.
  • The Three-Year Lectionary does not reflect the ‘canonical suspicion’ in the Historic Lectionary that kept out readings from numerous canonical books such 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. Seriously, there’s no good defense for  the Historic Lectionary omitting readings from the last four canonical books.

So which one is better then?
I don’t think that there’s an absolute answer on which lectionary is better, and this is just the conclusion I’ve been pushing you toward throughout the post. It depends on how you weight the advantages and disadvantages of one over the other.

Is it good to read a wider variety of Scripture over the course of three years? I think it is, but as I mentioned previously, doing so comes at the cost of giving up some of the niceties of the Historic Lectionary. Is it good to be rooted in the rich lectionary history of the One-Year? Of course, but what do I have to give up to do this?

There will continue to be a difference in preference, and the reason for that is simply that there is no independent set of criteria by which to assess the balance of advantages and disadvantages. We can’t change that. What we can change, however, is appeals to faulty reasons for our preference.

Lastly, let’s remember that a key purpose of a lectionary is to unite us, not to become yet another dueling matter in the long list of dueling matters.


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  1. Josh Hanson
    December 17th, 2012 at 08:27 | #1

    I’m relatively new to liturgical churches, but are LCMS churches using the Three-Year lectionary always on the same cycle at the same time, or do they choose which one they start with, ending up with several different possibilities of what you’ll hear depending on what church you attend?

  2. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 17th, 2012 at 08:36 | #2

    Lastly, let’s remember that a key purpose of a lectionary is to unite us, not to become yet another dueling matter in the long list of dueling matters.

    I, too, am one who argues both sides of the matter. I have used very similar themes as those which you present here. But your concluding sentence, for me, is really the deciding factor between the two.

    If the lectionary is to unite, then we ought to be using the Historic Lectionary. This is the Western Church’s lectionary. It is used by just about everybody. You can go back hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of years and find people using it. (You can check the Old Testament readings argument at the door, because there it was never taught that additional texts could not be read. But of those that were read, these appointed epistle and gospel readings were to be used. That we standardized Old Testament readings does not damage the historicity of the Historic Lectionary.) And it’s not just the texts, either. The introits, collects, graduals, verses, and tracts are all there, too.

    But the main lectionary being used by the LCMS today is what I affectionately call The Revised Common Lectionary Revised, though you certainly hinted at this. We took something that some else had created that had been changed by someone else yet (on multiple occasions) and we changed it. Who are we uniting with? Ourselves? That’s rather parochial, is it not? Divisive? Sectarian? Who else uses the Three-Year Lectionary from Lutheran Service Book? Nobody.

    To use the Historic Lectionary is to unite us with those who came before us. By doing so we walk in their footsteps.

    Are there strengths to the Three-Year Lectionary? Of course. I’ve enjoyed preaching from it. It has permitted me to learn the individual books of the Gospel far better than in exegetical classes at the seminary.

    But it is very brazen of us to cast out what had been handed down to us in favor of the latest fad.

  3. RomGabe
    December 17th, 2012 at 09:17 | #3

    Here in the little kingdom of Denmark, they are using a 2-year lectionary (Danish evangelical lutheran state church). It works pretty well, and I can follow IssuesEtc and WorldviewEverlasting discussions related to the similar or identical text in the 3-year LCMS lectionary.

    Every Sunday, there is a special Psalm for the day, and then followed by 3 readings: Old Testament (except Psalms), New Testament epistle. Last, but not least, there is the Gospel text (during which one it is mandatory/expected that the congregation stands to hear the Pastor reading it).

    Gabriel

  4. name
    December 17th, 2012 at 09:48 | #4

    • The One-Year Lectionary readings for each service weave together a theme that is harder to discern in the Three-Year. The One-Year has the advantage of clarifying the structure of the church year much better. … On a similar note, the Old Testament and Gospel lessons fit hand-in-glove much more than their Three-Year counterparts.
    … What’s more, many of our hymns were written to compliment the readings of the Historic Lectionary.

    This. And also, it is my understanding that the One-Year readings fit with the propers better.

    Those are some pretty strong reasons in my book. Although I do like the idea of covering more scripture.

  5. Pastor John Fraiser
    December 17th, 2012 at 09:52 | #5

    @Rev. Josh Osbun #2

    “Who are we uniting with? Ourselves? That’s rather parochial, is it not? Divisive? Sectarian? Who else uses the Three-Year Lectionary from Lutheran Service Book? Nobody.”

    Rev. Osbun, thank you for the discussion. Your point about fellowship in the lectionary cuts both ways. If our revisions to RCL make us sectarian, then so do our revisions to the Historic Lectionary. Are you aware of anyone else who uses the LCMS version of the Historic Lectionary?

    The fact is, the LCMS has revised both lectionaries from what went before. If you regard one as sectarian, you must likewise regard the other one as sectarian.

  6. Pastor John Fraiser
    December 17th, 2012 at 10:34 | #6

    @Josh Hanson #1

    Josh, good question. Every church I know of that uses the Three-Year lectionary is on the same series year by year.

  7. revaggie
    December 17th, 2012 at 10:35 | #7

    @Josh Hanson #1
    The three year cycle churches are generally on the same year in the cycle. If you are curious, you can pick up the calendar at http://www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=448

  8. Rev. James Gier
    December 17th, 2012 at 10:48 | #8

    We rotate. Three focused years on the One-Year Lectionary … and then broadened out in the Three-Year Lectionary. Then back to the One-Year. We are currently in the third year of the One-Year and plan to rotate back to the Three-Year with next year’s Series A.

    There are advantages gained from both, and experience in both can help cover any (perceived) weaknesses of the other.

  9. Rich Kauzlarich
    December 17th, 2012 at 10:54 | #9

    Thanks for this excellent discussion. I appreciated the care taken in describing the pros and cons. The comments have been excellent as well.

  10. Matthew Mills
    December 17th, 2012 at 11:22 | #10

    Could this issue be an opportunity to show the CoWo Schwärmer that we can practice what we preach?
    In our excoriation of Neo-Evangelical anthropocentric worship, we (rightly) invoke AP XV’s: “And in this very assembly we have shown sufficiently that for love’s sake we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others, even though they should have some disadvantage; but we have judged that such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences ought to be preferred to all other advantages.” We use this to show that we are not just individual congregations going our own way, but a part of the Bride of Christ, and that under the discipline of love; we prefer unity in praxis to anything we could gain by breaking it. That should mean we value unity in praxis above the greater number of texts used in the three year lectionary, and we value unity in praxis above the better thematic unity of the one year lectionary.
    Anyone who walks into one of our churches should be hearing the same lessons, and using the same hymnal, and to the extent possible, I think we should be aligned w/ the lectionaries used by heterodox historical churches (AP XV’s “we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others” was certainly referring to Rome.)
    Folks could say that the LSB gives us our choice of lectionaries, but that’s a bit more freedom than we really need and I pray for a Church where love of public harmony trumps freedom.
    Advent Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

  11. Josh Hanson
    December 17th, 2012 at 11:24 | #11

    It does sadden me when I attempt to talk to my Roman Catholic wife about the readings for a particular Sunday, only to find out that she had heard something completely different. I understand the desire to revise the lectionary to better emphasize the Gospel (especially important where pastors aren’t doing that themselves), but I agree that much is lost when the Church is not “on the same page”.

  12. Rahn Hasbargen
    December 17th, 2012 at 11:25 | #12

    Just a question for my own personal learning. You mention the phrase “Pope’s Lectionary”, so my question is: Would you know if any of the lectionaries used by the Roman Catholic Church include regular readings from the “Apocryphal” books? I ask this because I was at a Roman Catholic wedding a while ago, and they read a section from Tobit in place of the Epistle reading (Old Testament, Tobit, New Testament instead of Old Testament, Epistle, New Testament) during the place in the service where the lectionary readings went.

    Given that CPH is re-introducing the Apocrypha as “not scriptural, but nice to read” into Lutheran life (I have a copy of the just-issued book, by the way), it might be useful to know the extent these books are used in regular Roman Catholic Services…..

  13. December 17th, 2012 at 12:13 | #13

    Thanks for posting this, Pr. Fraiser. You point out most of the arguments, back and forth, that I have heard over the years.

    “You three-year guys are using the pope’s lectionary!” Well, so are you, when you use the one-year. Pick your pope.

    “The one-year is The Historic Lectionary that always has been.” Both the LCMS one-year and the LCMS three-year have been revised, to some extent. The one-year does not have a pristine, unbroken history.

    “I want to be able to see what Luther or Walther preached on this text.” Most every text in the one-year can also be found in the three-year, so that negates that argument.

    “The one-year is The Historic Lectionary. The three-year is schismatic and is like doing contemporary worship.” I call the three-year the “becoming-historic” lectionary. This is not something that one guy is doing on his own off in a corner. It’s used by a great big chunk of Christendom.

    Other points:

    Both the three-year and the one-year follow the same basic church year. As a three-year guy, I probably pay more attention to the flow of the church year than a lot of one-year guys do.

    Some one-year guys “cheat” and are effectively three-year preachers. The one-year text may be from Matthew, but the preacher will say, “Over in Luke’s account, we find that. . . .” You’ve just done a de facto three-year move.

    I really appreciate the ability to preach from the same gospel for most of the Sundays of the church year. I and my people can really get into that particular gospel, while maintaining the regular progression of the church year. So, for instance, in this “Year of St. Luke,” for Bible class I am currently doing a many-months-long Bible class on Luke. For Advent-Christmas this year, I am doing a series of sermons on Luke’s infancy narrative and the canticles therein. It works very well. Likewise for the lectio continua on various epistles during the green seasons–great time to do a Bible class and/or sermon series on that epistle.

    I like the increased coverage of Scripture that the three-year lectionary offers. It helps to keep my sermons fresh, and it helps the people to hear the whole counsel of God.

  14. Josh Hanson
    December 17th, 2012 at 12:33 | #14

    @Rahn Hasbargen #12
    To the extent that this site is current, it looks like most of the regular Sunday readings from the Apocrypha in the Roman church are from three books: The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch.

  15. John Rixe
    December 17th, 2012 at 12:54 | #15

    @revaggie #7

    Another resource with direct links to the texts is

    http://yaag.org/new_index.php5

  16. Rev. Kevin Vogts
    December 17th, 2012 at 12:59 | #16

    There’s an old joke about two pastors having a conversation:

    “At our church, WE use the HISTORIC one-year lectionary.”

    “Oh, really, which one?”

  17. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 17th, 2012 at 13:52 | #17

    If our revisions to RCL make us sectarian, then so do our revisions to the Historic Lectionary. Are you aware of anyone else who uses the LCMS version of the Historic Lectionary?

    Actually, it is quite different for the Historic Lectionary. There are two points to consider:

    1) As I already pointed out, it is not outside historic practice to add extra readings. The Epistle and Gospel are used. We just standardized which additional Old Testament readings were being used. Everything else remained the same (excepting point 2, that is);
    2) For the most part the Historic Lectionary is universally the same across the board. There are some occasional variations, especially as it pertains to the end of the Sundays After Trinity. The total number of variations is quite small, though, and never pervasive throughout the entire lectionary. With the Vatican 2 lectionary, the Common Lectionary, the RCL, and the RCL-R, there were sweeping changes made in large sections. And the changes extended into introits, graduals, collects, and verses as well. While there might be one or two isolated instances of that happening with the Historic Lectionary–and even then, only for one or two Sundays–it’s never done with such widespread usage as it has been done with the new lectionary.

    But if you go back and compare the LSB Historic Lectionary to the lectionary of Luther’s day, they will look nearly identical.

    If you compare the LSB Three-Year Lectionary to the lectionary of Vatican 2, they will look worlds different.

  18. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 17th, 2012 at 13:54 | #18

    Rev. James Gier :
    We rotate. Three focused years on the One-Year Lectionary … and then broadened out in the Three-Year Lectionary. Then back to the One-Year. We are currently in the third year of the One-Year and plan to rotate back to the Three-Year with next year’s Series A.
    There are advantages gained from both, and experience in both can help cover any (perceived) weaknesses of the other.

    I’ve been advocating such a practice for quite a while now, but I think that it is something that should be done at the circuit level. We don’t exist in a vacuum. And while we are free to choose we should never do so without consideration for those around us. Circuits should all do the same thing. The stodgy Historic Lectionary guys should be willing to use the Three-Year Lectionary; and the stodgy Three-Year Lectionary guys should be willing to use the One-Year Lectionary.

  19. Rev. James Gier
    December 17th, 2012 at 14:03 | #19

    @Rev. Josh Osbun #18

    We are in sinc with half the circuit for 3 years, and the other half the next three years. Though I do agree that unity all around is better.

  20. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 17th, 2012 at 14:09 | #20

    Charles Henrickson :
    “I want to be able to see what Luther or Walther preached on this text.” Most every text in the one-year can also be found in the three-year, so that negates that argument.

    Your explanation doesn’t address the point of the argument for the Historic Lectionary. To say, “I want to be able to see what Luther preached,” necessitates using the Historic Lectionary. While it is true that most of the texts of the Historic Lectionary can also be found in the Three-Year, most of the texts of the Three-Year are not found in the Historic Lectionary, meaning that we don’t have Luther sermons on them.

    Other points:
    Both the three-year and the one-year follow the same basic church year. As a three-year guy, I probably pay more attention to the flow of the church year than a lot of one-year guys do.

    Great harm was done to the structure of the Church year when Gesimatide was omitted. It served as an important bridge between the Christmas cycle (which extended through to Transfiguration) and the Easter cycle.

    Some one-year guys “cheat” and are effectively three-year preachers. The one-year text may be from Matthew, but the preacher will say, “Over in Luke’s account, we find that. . . .” You’ve just done a de facto three-year move.

    No, that’s not quite right. The parallel text would come on a different Sunday in the year in the Three-Year. To reference the parallel text in the Historic Lectionary does not equal a jump to the Three-Year. It simply brings in data that is pertinent to that particular day and that particular text. That is to say, with the Historic Lectionary, the texts are not independent of the day as they are in the Three-Year. This point is demonstrated in the way that the LSB Three-Year structures the Sundays after Pentecost. A text falls on a particular day range, not a particular Sunday. Pentecost 3B can be different each time you get to it. Trinity 3 will always be the same.

    I like the increased coverage of Scripture that the three-year lectionary offers. It helps to keep my sermons fresh, and it helps the people to hear the whole counsel of God.

    Interesting. But how can you claim to be preaching the “whole counsel of God” when you don’t preach on all the texts? That is to say, just because you’re using more texts it doesn’t mean you’re getting more of the counsel of God. Or just because you’re using the Historic Lectionary it doesn’t mean that you can’t preach the whole counsel of God.

    I won’t post it here, but in a group on Facebook dedicated to studying the Historic Lectionary, someone actually posted a resource from centuries gone by that assigns a specific doctrine of the Church to each Sunday in the Historic Lectionary according to the Gospel for the day. It’s really quite impressive. I’m looking forward to trying it one of these years. If you want it let me know and I’ll email it to you. (It’s not a link but a Facebook document.)

  21. December 17th, 2012 at 14:22 | #21

    I like it when I hear a pastor talk about this week’s reading from whatever lectionary and I get to say to him “But we use the Historic Lectionary at my congregation.” :)

  22. Pastor John Fraiser
    December 17th, 2012 at 15:18 | #22

    @Rev. Josh Osbun #17

    “But if you go back and compare the LSB Historic Lectionary to the lectionary of Luther’s day, they will look nearly identical.”

    I have done just this, and I find that there are 32 Sundays in which the historic lectionary and the LCMS One-Year do not match.

    Hardly identical.

  23. revaggie
    December 17th, 2012 at 15:24 | #23

    I think the whole debate between one year and three year is pretty pointless. Yes, yes each has their pluses and minuses; but if a pastor is doing his job as a proclaimer of the Word, he will serve his congregation well which ever lectionary he uses.

  24. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 17th, 2012 at 15:55 | #24

    Pastor John Fraiser :
    @Rev. Josh Osbun #17
    “But if you go back and compare the LSB Historic Lectionary to the lectionary of Luther’s day, they will look nearly identical.”
    I have done just this, and I find that there are 32 Sundays in which the historic lectionary and the LCMS One-Year do not match.
    Hardly identical.

    There are others who know their historic lectionaries better than I do. But what I notice right off the bat is that the website that you give cites Pope Pius V from 1570 as its foundational authority. The Sarum Missal predates the Book of Common Prayer (1549) and more closely matches what we currently use today. (I have yet to compare every single Sunday myself, though I’m sure someone somewhere has already done that. What I have compared mostly matches.)

    I bring this up because right off the bat with Advent 1 the lectionary that you provided as “the” lectionary differs from what Sarum states. It also differs from what is generally credited as the text from which Luther preached on Advent 1.

    So which lectionary is “the” lectionary? What you used is newer and different. What I am using is older and the same.

    But again, I haven’t tracked every historic lectionary out there.

  25. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 17th, 2012 at 15:58 | #25

    revaggie :
    I think the whole debate between one year and three year is pretty pointless. Yes, yes each has their pluses and minuses; but if a pastor is doing his job as a proclaimer of the Word, he will serve his congregation well which ever lectionary he uses.

    And that would be why Rev. Frasier took the time to say:

    For those head-shakers, please consider that for those of us who are clergy, this is our craft. We have devoted our lives to the ministry of the church, and for this reason, it is right that we discuss and consider things in greater detail than those outside the craft might otherwise — much in the same way one in a civil profession would give attention to things that the rest of us know nothing or very little about. One man’s trivium is another man’s craft. In fact, if one gives no greater thought to his profession than those outside the profession, then there is little use for the rest of us that he occupy that profession. It should be no different for pastors.

    You might find it “pointless,” but others of us find it helpful.

  26. Matthew Mills
    December 17th, 2012 at 16:22 | #26

    Pastors Frasier and Osbun,
    Do you see us free to discuss which lectionary to use because the LSB includes both as options? To avoid leading questions, perhaps I should just ask: would you use either exclusively if it were prescribed in our synod for the purpose of public harmony in worship, or would you stick to your favorite regardless?
    Advent Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

    P.S. to Pr. Frasier, When you write “trivium” do you mean the first group of seven liberal arts, or the place where three roads meet?

  27. Rev. Clint K. Poppe
    December 17th, 2012 at 16:25 | #27

    Pastor Fraiser,

    Thank you for your post and balanced approach to the subject. Like many on this list, I grew up with the one year lectionary. When the three year series was intoduced into my home congregation, there was little fanfare, just a simple explanation that we would be “more connected” to other Christians and that we would have “more Bible” in our worship. Pretty hard to find anything wrong with that! I had the feeling that my pastor was a bit bored with the current system and wanted to try something different, but I never had that conversation with him.

    For many years I preached and taught from the three year series, first LW and then LSB. There were many things that I appreciated about the series, but I had this nagging sense that something was missing. We had more Bible, certainly, and we were able to focus each year on an individual Gospel, but the harder I worked, the more the people I was called to serve seemed to be less literate regarding God’s Word.

    I hesitated to switch to the one year series. Many of the arguments I heard made me down right mad. There seemed to be an attitude that if you used the one year series you were a “real” Lutheran or “more faithful.” I wanted nothing to do with that hyper-Lutheran nonsense. Still, I was drawn to the one year series for a different reason, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it.

    One day I was visiting with a brother pastor regarding the topic. As I listened to him it dawned on me what I was missing; Repetition. “Repetition is the mother of all learning.” While we had more Bible, we were also having more of a superficial understanding for many of our people, especially our folks who are not in worship every Sunday. Just over two years ago I made the move to the one year series (LSB) in the congregation I serve.

    Here is what I have learned and observed since I made the switch:

    In the one year series the three readings form a unit nearly each week (and minor festival) with the Epistle being an application of the Gospel/Old Testament connection.

    I really love the three “gesima” Sundays and the idea of a “pre-Lent” focus.

    I do not miss the “lectio continua” Epistle readings.

    I work harder now (since I am working with the same texts each week) to keep my preaching fresh and textual.

    It seems to me that the one year series has a more clear and intentional Christological focus. (Might just be me on this one…)

    I could say more, but this post is already much longer than I intended. Since both the 3 year and 1 year series are listed as options in LSB, I would encourage friendly discussion regarding this adiaphora among us rather than the less desirable alternatives.

    In Christ, Clint

  28. Rev. Josh Osbun
    December 17th, 2012 at 17:25 | #28

    Matthew Mills :
    Pastors Frasier and Osbun,
    Do you see us free to discuss which lectionary to use because the LSB includes both as options? To avoid leading questions, perhaps I should just ask: would you use either exclusively if it were prescribed in our synod for the purpose of public harmony in worship, or would you stick to your favorite regardless?
    Advent Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills
    P.S. to Pr. Frasier, When you write “trivium” do you mean the first group of seven liberal arts, or the place where three roads meet?

    I once wrote an article about how adiaphora ought to be mandated (not for the sake of binding consciences, but for the sake of establishing unity in practice). If one or the other were mandated I would submit. If my preference was not the one mandated, I would continue the discussion. If my preference was the one mandated, I would defend it.

  29. Matthew Mills
    December 17th, 2012 at 17:43 | #29

    @Rev. Josh Osbun #28
    Thanks Pastor,
    That is an excellent way of putting it. There are quite a few practices that I have to acknowledge to be adiaphora, while asserting that I’ve never heard an argument against them that wasn’t frivolous or heretical (Liturgical worship, common cup, vestments et cetera.) It would be nice to see a few of them mandated “for the sake of establishing unity in practice.”
    Fight the Good Fight+,
    -Matt Mills

  30. Rev Thomas Winter
    December 17th, 2012 at 22:13 | #30

    @Rev. James Gier #8
    I have toyed with the idea of the “six-year lectionary” myself, along the very same lines. The three-year offers some time to preach on John 6 over a series of weeks (among other things). The one-year lets me read Luther, Gerhard, Giertz, Walther, Stoeckhardt, and the earlier church fathers.
    CPH and the seminaries have produced some nice materials for the more commonly used three-year, but those who use the one-year have worked together to provide many worthwhile helps for each other, such as http://www.historiclectionary.com/ .
    In either case,the lectionary ties the church to the rhythm of the church-year, and it forces the pastor to contend with some challenging texts.

  31. David Hartung
    December 19th, 2012 at 08:06 | #31

    Pastor John Fraiser :
    @Rev. Josh Osbun #17
    “But if you go back and compare the LSB Historic Lectionary to the lectionary of Luther’s day, they will look nearly identical.”
    I have done just this, and I find that there are 32 Sundays in which the historic lectionary and the LCMS One-Year do not match.
    Hardly identical.

    I seem to recall having read somewhere that Rome did not really implement a common church-wide liturgy(and presumably lectionary) until the Council of Trent. If true, this would account for the differences you notices. For those who demand liturgical standardization, this should be of great interest. It seems that the Church survived and thrived for over 1500 years without liturgical standardization.

  32. Rev. David Mueller
    December 19th, 2012 at 10:21 | #32

    @David Hartung #31
    Hmm. And yet, there was the canon of the Mass. Canon–law–everybody must do this. To say that since there wasn’t a standard lectionary does *not* mean there wasn’t a standard liturgy or standard *of* the liturgy. Eastern rite, Western rite, minor variations within them, and yet, still *the* Eastern rite and *the* Western rite.

    I think we have *plenty* of variety available within the extensive resources of LSB.

  33. NewUlmPremium
    December 19th, 2012 at 10:49 | #33

    I personally am happy with either lectionary. It is disconcerting when the lectionary is substituted for a sermon series and then switching back to the lectionary.

    @Rev. David Mueller #32
    One could go from a liturgical Lutheran church into a western rite Catholic or Orthodox church to an eastern rite Catholic or Orthodox church and notice that almost everything is similar with a few things not present in the Lutheran liturgy.

    Frank Senn’s little book Christian Liturgy is helpful for that.

    @David Hartung #31

  34. David Hartung
    December 19th, 2012 at 14:38 | #34

    @Rev. David Mueller #32

    Please do not misunderstand me, we use the LSB, primarily Divine 1, and the three year lectionary. I merely wished to point out that until Trent, there was apparently significant variety in practice.

    I see much value in standard, set readings for our services, I only wish to point out that just perhaps, over the years there was more variety in lectionary and liturgy than is often admitted by our uber liturgical friends.

    BTW, Norm, have you done away with the captcha codes?

  35. December 20th, 2012 at 12:15 | #35

    Let’s not forget that we were one with the Papists before Trent. Using pre-Tridentine forms (like the Lectionary) is not bad. Mimicking post-Tridentine forms, however, is no better than mimicking the sects. At the same time, TLH’s one-year cycle does just that (mimics the sects), because it is the Anglican Lectionary. While it does have great similarities to the one Luther used, there is no disputing the fact that TLH is one giant Anglican-mimic. So we are left in a funny situation. As for me, I’d rather stick with the Roman Missal (especially since it fits the specific feast days/Sundays better).

  36. helen
    December 20th, 2012 at 19:14 | #36

    @Daniel Baker #35
    While it does have great similarities to the one Luther used, there is no disputing the fact that TLH is one giant Anglican-mimic.

    A great deal of the Anglican “mimics” Luther in some sense. Much of the KJV is Luther, via the English translation of his German Bible. [Perhaps their lectionary, post the RC separation, is influenced by Luther's, too? I'll let the historians tell me.]

  37. David Hartung
    December 21st, 2012 at 07:44 | #37

    Daniel Baker :
    While it does have great similarities to the one Luther used, there is no disputing the fact that TLH is one giant Anglican-mimic.

    Early in my education, I was told by one of my teachers that when the LCMS made the decision to move to an English service, the liturgy they used was actually taken from the Anglicans, and modified. While TLH was not the first English hymnal(I think), it was still very close to that time when the switch was made.

    Those are my thoughts, one of you historian very likely have more information on this.

  38. December 22nd, 2012 at 09:00 | #38

    I keep returning to this post, not so much for the three and one year debate, but because the opening paragraph is so fantastic. It should be read at every ordination, instillation, and before every worship committee meeting, among a myriad of other times.

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