Monday, February 21, 2011

One Year vs. a Three Year Lectionary

In anticipation of doing some research on the lectionary I stumbled across the issue of the One Year (Historic) Lectionary vs. the Three Year Lectionary.  For the entirety of my 23+ years of ministry I have used the Three Year series.  This stems simply from the fact that the churches which I served had this tradition prior to my arrival and the inserts or pre-printed bulletins they used included this series.  Over the years I have heard repeated promotion and defense of the One Year series, so this is not something new to me.  However, I don't remember hearing it discussed at seminary, at least not in a very in-depth way.  Furthermore, this is not a topic that captured my interest.  Perhaps that is due to the fact that I haven't understood the finer points of the debate. 

My recent interest in the lectionary, by the way, comes from a proposed master's thesis on the Apocalypse (book of Revelation) and the liturgy.  A decision from Nashotah on my proposal will not come until after the first of March when the committee next meets.  What I hope to explore concerns the historic omission of the Apocalypse from the liturgy and lectionary, with its inclusion coming only in the 20th century. Stay tuned.  Maybe I'll have something intelligent to offer down the road.  

But let me get back to the original issue.  One argument I read in defense of the One Year series regards the greater opportunity this series offers the church to learn and commit to memory God's Word.  While an original intent with the Three Year series (coming out of reforms in Vatican II) was to expose the church to a larger selection of scripture, some believe that with changing patterns of attendance, where people no longer consistently and sequentially come Sunday after Sunday, this intent has fallen far short of delivering what it desired.  That may be true.  The exposure of people to the Word is truly 'hit and miss' whatever series you employ.  Perhaps the argument is strengthened for the One Year series in that over an extended period of time the odds of people hearing sermons on a given text are improved, versus the chance they might not hear it again for another three years - or longer.  

Another argument could involve the antiquity of the series.  Obviously the core of the One Year series goes back, it would seem, to Luther and maybe beyond.  Antiquity in the lectionary, as in the liturgy itself, demonstrates a potential connection to the wisdom of the ancient fathers.  It would be interesting to see a paper or thesis which studies this lectionary and whatever patterns can be detected which lend greater credence to its use.  Do we know substantive reasons behind the original selection of the lections?  Questions to ponder.

On the other hand does a good defense or study of the Three Year series exist?  I am not sure if my own research will delve into such areas.  Nevertheless, they are intriguing questions to explore....

5 comments:

Pr Mark Henderson said...

I can't help with a particular resource, Donald, but use of a revised version of the Revised Common Lectionary (RVRCL?!) is universal in the Lutheran Church of Australia. The main reason for our adoption of the RCL, if I understand correctly, was that it was more ecumenical, as the RC and Anglican churches down here had switched to it (and that's c. 70% of the worshipping Christian population). As a preacher, I have to say I appreciate the RCL, but there is surely something to be said for the closer familiarity with the Bible that the historic Lutheran one year lectionary would provide.

Christopher Gillespie said...

As a new pastor, the antiquity argument won me over. I have all our Lutheran fathers until Vatican II operating with some variation of this lectionary. I can read further back if I so desire. Thus, each week my sermon preparation includes Luther, Gerhard, Walther, Kretzmann and others in between.

The Rev. Donald V. Engebretson said...

Part of me would like to switch to the One Year series for the very reasons stated, not least of which for the availability of resources. A copy of Fred Lindemann's THE SERMON AND THE PROPERS (CPH, 1958) was left behind in the office when I took over 10 years ago, and I would love to be able to use it, but it is tied to the historic lectionary. At this point those who use the historic lectionary have the advantage of access to the older, ancient sources, such as those noted. I realize that CPH did a survey not long ago seeing if there might be potential for developing resources for those who use the One Year series. Unfortunately, due to the low numbers and discontinuity among the few, they decided to pass. I assume someone has taken the ball and run with it now and will produced some resource equivalent to CPH's (e.g. inserts, etc.) Does anyone know of someone doing this at present?

Rev. David M. Juhl said...

http://www.historiclectionary.com

The Rev. Donald V. Engebretson said...

Thank you for the link, David. I've actually been to the site and checked it out. I should probably explore it a bit more. However, the arrangement of the site is a bit awkward, in that to find articles about the liturgy you seem to have to wade through the various church year categories, or do a general search. I also haven't found a specific article addressing some of my questions, such as the logic of the selections themselves and how this may compare to the three-year series. I am not opposed to the One Year series and am tempted to adopt it in the future, and believe that Pr. Pepperkorn's site might be great resource once I do. I'm just interested at this point in information 'behind' the lectionary - the historical, thematic questions not always addressed.

Again, thank you for letting me know of the resource!