I thrive on order and structure. My husband knows that to spring something on me on short notice is to create stress for me. Years ago, I heard a speaker describe a “time fence.” A time fence is a boundary around your time. For those who are spontaneous, their time fence is small or nonexistent. Time for them is like the open prairie. You cannot trespass on their time because they freely give whatever you need.
For others, like myself, time is bounded by a large fenced enclosure. I sit in the middle, but I want a large space between my fence and myself. I want to see what has come into my fence from a long distance away. I like time to plan and prepare. I am one who looks at restaurant menus online if I know I am going to an unfamiliar establishment. I want to know my options ahead of arrival.
My preference for structure may be why I like the lectionary. The lectionary is a listing of scripture readings appointed for given days. The Revised Common Lectionary used by many Protestant churches includes readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, the Epistles and the Gospel, with some variation depending on the seasons of the Church. Many pastors preach from lectionary texts. The beauty of the lectionary to me is that I can read and pray over the texts prior to attending corporate worship and hearing a message preached on one or more of them. This is a particular advantage if you are traveling and attend an unfamiliar church. If the pastor of the church you are visiting preaches from the lectionary, you can still prepare for worship by praying over the texts ahead of time.
Since my dad died, we’ve been traveling often to his house in Tennessee. We attend worship at his church on Sundays when we are there. It is such a joy to arrive and to hear the texts preached that I have already spent time with in prayer. This preparation makes corporate worship more meaningful for me.
On a larger scale, I know that others all over the world are hearing messages preached on the same set of texts. It connects me to the wider Church in a deeply spiritual way. Across differing denominations and worship styles, the lectionary is a thread that binds us all together. It keeps us from falling into ruts of only hearing “favorite” passages. It challenges us to read scripture more broadly than we might otherwise. It calls us to structure and discipline, to growth and order, by giving us a framework for scripture study. And because the Revised Common Lectionary is on a three-year cycle, it calls us to revisit the same passages time and again, so that the texts meet us in different stages of our lives.
The discipline of praying the lectionary texts has become a transformational spiritual practice for me. The more I do it, the more I appreciate the beauty of the lectionary.