Doing my future preparations the other day, I encountered something interesting with the Pre-Lent (Gesimas) Gospel lessons. For those of you wondering about Pre-Lent, it’s a part of the Historic One-Year Lectionary. [ Go here for a brief description. For some more information click here.] First of all, my thanks to Rev. Wurst for your counsel on these as well.
What I stumbled across is that the Gospel lessons for each of the weeks fits with one of the emphases of our Synod. Take a look:
Septuagesima (70 days before Easter as the Church counts it – the Church has never been very concerned about numbers)
The Gospel lesson is from Matthew 20:1-16. One of the ways in which I have heard this Sunday taught is by using the Lutheran theme of “Grace Alone” since the parable of the laborers in the vineyard teaches this. But doesn’t this text also speak of our “Life Together”? Called into the fields by God’s grace alone, we are all in this together. The eventual removal of those who claimed a greater reward based upon works could demonstrate our sinfulness and its effect upon our Life Together. Focus here would of course be Jesus, who is indeed the One who brings us into this Life Together.
Sexagesima (60 days, again who cares about the numbers)
The Gospel lesson is from Luke 8:4-15. This is St. Luke’s parable of the sower and includes both the purpose of parables and the explanation of the parable (who says that the disciples weren’t Lutherans – they were constantly asking “What does this mean?”
The parable of the sower often reflects the Lutheran theme of Scripture Alone (or Word alone). This parable could be preached in such a way as to emphasize our “Witness”. The Sower (Jesus) is reckless in spreading His Word. He throws it out there and lets it grow where and when it can. This is witness, that the Word of God does the work, that Jesus is actually the One who bears witness and is also the One who reveals the kingdom. In this text, we are set free from the guilt of those who would hammer home “results” and worldly measurements. This is a vital message to our people when talking about evangelism or witness because many of them have been held down under guilt for years because they didn’t witness enough. Give them the Gospel, set them free, and then watch the witness.
Quinquagesima (50 days, actually right on this time)
The Gospel lesson is from Luke 18:31-43. This includes both Jesus foretelling His own death and also Jesus healing the blind beggar. This text has been used to emphasize the Lutheran theme of “Faith Alone”. This could also be used to preach about “Mercy”. Here, the One who is mercy explains how He will receive none from the world and yet rise victorious on the Third Day. Jesus then goes on to show mercy to a blind beggar who is told by the world to shut up and sit down. Mercy is asked for, and mercy is given. Faith received the gift.
For those of you on the One-Year lectionary, consider these thoughts when you prepare for Pre-Lent if you wish. I thought I would throw them out there. For those who would like to add to my “elementary” thoughts above, please add to them by commenting.
For those of you still asking “What is the One-Year lectionary?” and “Why is this guy using the One-Year lectionary?” consider this blog post by Rev. Asburry which describes some of it with a link to a paper he prepared as well. Here is Rev. Weedon’s post on this.
For a good history of the different lectionaries used click here. It is a paper by an ELS pastor (the ELS still largely uses the One-Year lectionary).
Here are few of my reasons for using the One-Year:
1. Repetition is the mother of all learning.
2. The Church of the past should be the teacher of the present (as any father teaches his son).
3. My sermon preparation can (and usually does) involve reading multiple Luther, Walther, Gerhard, and Stoeckhardt sermons. Add into that sermons by Matthias Loy (Ohio Synod) and Norman Madsen (Norwegian/ELS, regarded as one of the best preachers in the Synodical Conference). I only wish there were more of Chemnitz in english. There is much to be learned from these preachers. I know that some of the 3 year lessons correspond through parallel accounts and so forth, but is nice to continue week to week with the same fathers in the faith.
Finally, for more information on the historic one-year, go to http://www.historiclectionary.com/