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....