Letter for July and August 2023
Do you want to know who chooses the Bible readings for our services at St Luke’s? And how are they chosen?
It’s worth knowing. It matters. The Bible is the Word of God, and contains all things necessary for salvation. And the weekly Bible Reading is the largest influence on the sermon. If you care about what the church is preaching, you will care about how its Bible readings are chosen.
When I arrived at St Luke’s, all of the Bible Readings were taken from the C of E Lectionary, which has a good choice of readings for the major festivals: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, etc. And it covers a good number of the books of the Bible in the other seasons of the year. So if a vicar had a lazy tendency to preach their favourite book every week, or to preach without reference to the Bible, then lectionary readings are there to provide a helpful framework of Bible passages. But the Lectionary has weaknesses.
It goes round in circles every 3 years. And week on week, it tends confusingly to jump around the Bible rather a lot. I prefer to preach a Bible book from beginning to end. This continuity helps us understand the message in its proper context. And it helps us to avoid the lectionary’s habit of missing out chapters and verses it doesn’t like.
The Apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:27: ‘for I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole counsel of God.’ So I preach the whole message of God by preaching from all of the books of the Bible, in the order that each book was written. And this should include the bits which, in our comfort zone and with our own particular prejudices, we might choose to avoid.
I try to choose each year at least one gospel series, at least one series from an epistle, and at least one series from the Old Testament. As long as we get a sensible diet of the whole of God’s Word, I am happy to have suggestions from others in the congregations, not just my own thoughts.
That’s why I sometimes ask for the congregation to vote on its preference for a teaching series (eg the Book of Ruth in 2020) or have asked for parables or psalms you would like to hear from. This is not because I’m short of ideas. Its because, once we have established the principle of hearing from the whole mix of Gospel, Epistle and Old Testament, it’s good that God’s people should be able to influence the choice as well. Response slips are how I encourage that, but I am always open to suggestions. This week it was suggested to me that in the Autumn, we should hear from Galatians. So we shall.
To summarise: Our Sunday readings at St Luke’s have Lectionary readings at festival time, and at all other times a variety of teaching series to reflect the priority of hearing the whole counsel of God.
With my prayerful best wishes,