It is the 20th of January 2023. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
A mailbag Friday- for reasons I know, and you don’t.
A question came from Jamie from Nampa, Idaho- she states that Idaho is more than potatoes- ok, but what else do we need? Perhaps the Amalgamated Sugar Company- a sugar beet refining company. Also, you aren’t far from Twin Falls, which is the title of what might be my favorite Built To Spill song
“What is the history of the daily lectionary that you read from at the end of each show? I teach art history, so we talk about Illuminated Manuscripts made in monasteries, the Book of Hours comes after that and is often the first book seen in homes. And I know it’s a collection of church readings, psalms, etc., but it gets muddy in my head after the 1300s.”
Jamie has written before. She teaches art history, which is awesome- and yes, I finish most shows with a reading from the daily lectionary, and it has something of a long history, even if there has been some contention over how it should be used.
Pre-Printing press, you couldn’t have a copy of the Bible everywhere, and so a Book of Hours was a handy way for the church to combine the most important readings- especially for those in monasteries. They would include prayers, common texts for reciting, and short services that a monk could say or later by people in their homes. And yes, if everyone could have a full Bible, that would be great. But when copying takes that much time, you might reconsider all the genealogies and Old Testament ceremonial laws. It’s not that they aren’t important- but the church wanted texts out quickly that could unify worship.
The first lectionary- or collection of readings to be read at certain times of the year comes from a lectionary in the 400s attributed to St. Jerome. He probably didn’t compose it, but he perhaps inspired it, and using his name would give it clout. X The Verona Sacramentary is our oldest liturgical book. It contains specific readings for certain days and may be as early as the 5th century.
In the 8th century, Charlemagne had his famous scholar Alcuin revise the disparate lectionaries to reunify churches. The idea with the lectionary was that it kept churches and Christians in a constant cycle of remembering “Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension - and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Regular listeners to this show might remember how important celebrating Easter on the same Sunday was for the early church and how much of our modern Calendar was created to do just that.
At the Reformation, some churches abandoned the lectionary as they considered themselves free to do in the name of Christian freedom. Others created their own lectionaries.
In 1969 the Roman Catholic Church presented its “Ordo Lectionum Missae”- this had a one-year cycle but also a three-year cycle to help churches get through more Scripture. Many Protestant churches used this Ordo as a basis for their own slightly revised lectionaries (perhaps taking out the Apocrypha).
In 1978 the Consultation on Common Texts was an interdenominational group that put together the Common Lectionary in 1983. There was some criticism- some groups left and made their own, and others came together to complete the Revised Common Lectionary in 1992- this is the lectionary I use on this show. I know some Lutherans have been confused by my reading from the daily lectionary as some Lutheran churches do not use the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s cool. We can still be friends.
The idea of the lectionary is not only to unify Christians in what they are hearing but to vary the weekly texts for sermons and homilies- the now-sainted Reverend Ron Hodel used to tell me the lectionary protected me from his whims.
The readings are typically an Old Testament Reading, a Psalm (often sung), an Epistle reading, and a reading from the Gospels. Some lectionaries practice lectio continua, where the readings from Sunday to Sunday following, and others don’t. Often after Pentecost, you will find readings from the Book of Acts in the place of the Old Testament readings to stress the continuation of the church.
When it comes to anything touching the order of service and worship on a Sunday, there are bound to be arguments and division, but regardless, using a lectionary- in some form or another has been a common practice in the church for almost 1600 years.
The last word for today comes from Galatians- from Paul writing about his own ministry:
As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 20th of January 2023, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who knows Idaho as the birthplace of poet Ezra Pound, television inventor Philo Farnsworth, and Paul Revere- but not that Paul Revere- the one who sang “Louie Louie.” He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man whose favorite potato preparation is, in order, Mashed, Baked, and in the French manner- never cold and in a salad. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.