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Every Sunday in the liturgy, we are blessed to have what is called a lectionary, or a set of readings for every Sunday and Feast Day in the Church Year. There are specific readings for certain days like Easter, Christmas Eve, Pentecost, Trinity VII, and Epiphany II. Why does the church do this? Why doesn't the church just choose it's own readings each week? Why doesn't the pastor just start at Genesis and preach through The Revelation to St. John? Why doesn't the pastor choose his own readings based on his personal study, or maybe even a topic that he is trying to introduce in the life of the congregation?
Well, one of the reasons the lectionary is beneficial, why we have a set Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel reading, is to prevent your pastor from preaching an agenda. Let's say that the pastor wants to push something through in a congregation, or more concretely, let's say that the pastor wants to preach about stewardship and get everyone in the church to tithe more. Your pastor would then choose texts that deal specifically with giving, with self-sacrifice, with worshiping the world over and against God. He would choose readings that fit what he wants to preach, what he wants the congregation to hear. The lectionary curbs your pastor's ability to press an agenda in the life of the church. It forces the pastor to actually preach the text of Scripture, rather than use scripture to fit his own desires.
Another reason why the lectionary is beneficial is to curb the congregations hearing. Let's say the congregation starts doing topical studies on Sunday mornings, like "Ten ways to have a better marriage," or "Reasons to give up things and trust God," or "How to balance your checkbook and have your best life now because that is what Jesus thinks is awesome sauce." The lectionary destroys any notion of the Divine Service being anything about what you do, because the lectionary are a set of readings that tell you about what God is doing for you. The lectionary is a great thunderbolt against self-righteousness and Christless preaching. The lectionary forces the congregation to confess that Church isn't about what they want to get out of it, but what God desires them to receive.
However, the chief reason for the lectionary is because it places us in the life of Christ and His bride, the Church. The lectionary takes us from the incarnation to the cross and empty tomb. It takes us from why we need Jesus in the preaching of the Law and forgives us in the hearing of the Gospel. The lectionary declares to us the life we have in Christ as the church continues to receive the gifts that He purchased and won for us on the cross. Why the lectionary? Because it hands Jesus over to us and shows us that our life flows from the life of Christ. This is one of the reasons why the pastor doesn't just preach through the bible and then start over again when he is done. The Divine Service is all about Jesus for you, for your forgiveness and salvation. This is why the Gospel must be read every Sunday. This is why we read texts that deal with who we are both outside and in Christ. This is why we read the epistles of St. Paul, Peter, James, and John, in order that we may receive the earliest preachings of the word of our forgiveness and life in Jesus. The lectionary is that's set series of the Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel readings that hands Jesus over to us and comforts us in our anxiety. In doing this then, we can read the bible throughout the year and see that it is all about Jesus and our salvation.
Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam be drowned anew so that you hear only the voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "It is finished, I have done all things for you, be at peace," Amen.