If you’ve read my past few posts, you may be asking yourself, “With all the challenges of creating a good daily lectionary, why not just start at Genesis and read through to Revelation in a year and be done with it?” Good question.
My initial answer is that there is nothing wrong with reading Scripture that way. There are many plans that will get you through the Bible in a year (or less) that you can access for free. There are some advantages to a daily lectionary sanctioned by the church, however.
First is coordinated reading with the rest of the church. You are reading the same passages on the same days. This may seem like a small thing, but there are times when knowing that we are not just making this up as we go along becomes important. There is value in bringing questions about a passage to your priest or your friend, knowing that it will be fresh in his mind since he recently read the same passage. A priest should be able to reference a passage in his sermon, knowing that at least some of his congregation has read it that week.
Having the readings correspond with the seasons of the church year is also an aid in devotion and further solidifies us as we are all figuratively and literally on the same page with where our focus lies. Advent, Lent, and Easter take on deeper meaning as seasons when we follow the lectionary which tries to steer us to appropriate and fitting readings for these seasons.
This leads into the second benefit which is accountability. The church says we are to read this today (just as she teaches us to pray). “Did you read your Bible today?” becomes a more meaningful question when the assumption behind it is “according to today’s lectionary.” There is no waffling and saying “yes” because you read the one verse at the end of a devotional.
But the most important reason to follow the lectionary of your church is submission. Yes, in some ways it is a trivial thing. As I said above, there are multiple ways to accomplish Scripture reading. But if your church says, “This way,” to respond, “No, my way,” reveals a problem. The Church does not say that you cannot also do it your way. Read Scripture as much as you want. But at a minimum, do it her way.
This simple act of submission teaches us to be obedient to the Church and her teaching both on the level of understanding salvation history and doctrine and in actually submitting to something. As you may be able to tell, I have strong feelings on the subject of lectionaries, so this has been tough for me. I have a hard time submitting to one that I think is less than great. But I am trying to learn to color within the lines. My non-parenthetical lectionary is an attempt to add some of my personal devotion on top of the lectionary instead of replacing it.
If you have not been a follower of the lectionary in your devotional practice, I challenge you to try it. If you aren’t Anglican, find the one your church prescribes. If your church doesn’t prescribe one…that’s probably a separate post. Join with the church in prayer, in reading, and in worship, that we might be one.