Connecting with the Lectionary

This time last year, the Uniform series became Connections. We said at the time that the Scripture selections for Connections would be drawn from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) beginning in January 2017. Sure enough, the lesson texts in the January–April 2017 volume of Connections come from the lectionary. That will continue going forward.

The series, formerly known as Uniform, has always been based on Scripture texts recommended by an ecumenical team. Until now, the Scripture passages came from the Committee on the Uniform Series, a team affiliated with the National Council of Churches. Now, they will come from the RCL, which is produced and managed by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), an ecumenical consultation of liturgical scholars and denominational representatives from the United States and Canada. (You can read more about the CCT and the RCL at commontexts.org.)

Why did we decide to change to the RCL as the Scripture source for Connections?

For one thing, we received many requests for a lectionary-based Bible study curriculum. Publishing a third line isn’t feasible, and the Uniform Series could transition to the new approach more easily than Formations, since it was already based on a texts recommended by an ecumenical team.

Second, using the RCL texts creates an opportunity to connect Bible study with worship by relating the lesson text to the sermon text, and that’s one of the connections we want Connections to make. Many pastors use the lectionary to help guide their sermon ministry, so classes that follow a lectionary-based program of study should bring some helpful context to the sermon.

That’s not to say that the lesson texts and sermon texts will always match. In fact, if your pastor so desires, the lesson text and sermon text need not ever match.
That’s because each week, the RCL suggests a first reading (usually an Old Testament text), a second reading (usually an Epistle text), and a Gospel reading. A reading from the Psalms is also suggested. So, your pastor may look at the Connections Scope and Sequence as he or she does sermon planning, and develop sermons on one of the other lectionary texts.

That’s not to say that the lesson and sermons texts shouldn’t match. After all, listeners who enter the sermon experience having recently studied the text are bound to get more out of it than those who experience the text “cold” in worship. But since the various lectionary readings often shed light on one another, studying one of the other texts before hearing the sermon will enhance the experience.

The Revised Common Lectionary page maintained by the Vanderbilt University Divinity School Library is a great place to learn more about how the lectionary works.

The Suggested Daily Bible Readings included in the Study Guide are also recommended by the CCT. The readings for Monday–Wednesday are meant to help readers reflect on the previous Sunday’s text, while those for Thursday–Saturday are meant to help readers anticipate the coming Sunday’s text.

I’ll be writing more about the lectionary down the road. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please direct them to me at mike@helwys.com.

Blessings on you as you study Scripture with your group, as you worship with your church family, and as you study and worship along with all of the other Christians whose Scripture explorations are guided by the Revised Common Lectionary!

Michael L. Ruffin
Connections Editor

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