In Defense of the Revised Common Lectionary

I love it when liturgists talk smack!

Someone sent me a blog post, Why I Left the Revised Common Lectionary Behind, in which Rev. Chris Duckwortht argues against RCL and in favour of a new lectionary, recently constructed, “the Narrative Lectionary, a project out of Luther Seminary that offers a 9-month, single-reading lectionary starting with Genesis and moving through to the Epistles and Revelation.”

The top reason for leaving the RCL is that “the RCL presents Old Testament texts only in relation to the Gospel text”. FALSE. About half the year a community can decide to read through the Firsts Testament semi-continuously, just as the RCL reads through the New Testament. Recently, communities spent seven weeks reading through 2 Samuel. Compare that to the Narrative Lectionary: 2 Samuel appears for only one Sunday. Let’s look at the Narrative Lectionary use of the First Testament: the Pentateuch gets five Sundays – 3 reading from Genesis, one from Exodus, one from Deuteronomy. That’s it! The Garden of Eden second creation story, Isaac’s birth, Jacob wrestling, Moses’ call, and the 10 commandments. That doesn’t even cover the stories you would expect in a cardboard children’s bible!!! In RCL, Genesis alone gets something like 26 readings – 14 weeks in a row in Year A. Followed by 7 weeks of Exodus. Need I go on…

My personal opinion: the RCL is far superior to the NL. To paraphrase American Bandstand, it’s got a good beat and it’s easy to preach from.

August 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

The honor of hosting this months’ Biblical Studies Carnival goes to Bob McDonald, who has now posted the best of August’s biblioblogging for your edification.

How Ice Cream Contributes to Christian Theology

The future of ecumenism.

(H/T: Michael F. Bird)

Does Your Pastor Practice Oikonomia?

Over at Internet Monk, Father Ernesto has written a brief introduction to oikonomia, a prominent feature of pastoral care in the Orthodox tradition. It basically boils down to dealing with people as if the goal were not to “fix” them but to bring them to God:

Americans have a strong built in idea that God is a law and order God. There is only one problem. That is not really what God seems to do in Scripture. He does support principles of justice. The prophets constantly rail against injustice. But, God’s purpose is to bring people into his kingdom. And, if a law appears to interfere with bringing someone into the Kingdom of God, then God has no problem in putting that law aside. Thus, the woman caught in adultery is forgiven outside the law because that unexpected forgiveness is precisely what she needs to hear in order to bring her into the Kingdom of God.

It should be noted, however, that although oikonomia can involve lessening the prescribed penance for sin, it could in some circumstances mean a hard-hearted (or headed) sinner might require a more severe penance in order to bring him to his senses. The bottom line is to deal with each personal individually rather than blindly applying the canons:

God understands people and God understands what will best work to give the best possibility that a person will truly come to him and be saved. In the same way, the bishop and his priests and deacons are called not to simply apply the canon, but to so come to know the person involved that when they apply the canon, they will do so in the way that is most likely to preserve that person’s salvation. Thus someone may be ordained much sooner than expected. A discipline for a sin committed by a church member may either be lightened or strengthened. But, at bottom, whatever action is taken must be based on a knowledge of a person and what will most help their journey to salvation.

So, oikonomia involves fulling admitting that rules and structure can be positive—and that there is such a thing as sin—but being willing to address these matters as if there were something more important than written laws and guidelines. It almost sounds like something Jesus would do, doesn’t it? :-)

Heresy Discovered in Early Christianity

…Which is good news for the orthodox. Larry Hurtado explains:

I continue to see some scholars stating as unquestioned fact that “orthodoxy” and “heresy” really only emerged after Constantine, that only with the power of imperial coercion could these categories operate, and that in the pre-Constantinian period all we have is Christian diversity, with no recognizable direction or shape to it.  In some cases, scholars will admit that with Irenaeus (late second century) and perhaps even Justin (mid-second century) we may see the early expressions of notions of “heresy.”  But a recent study by Robert M. Royalty, Jr., The Origin of Heresy:  A History of Discourse in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity (London/New York:  Routledge, 2013), marshals effectively evidence and argument that should correct such views.

July 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

The latest Biblical Studies Carnival is now posted at My Digital Seminary. Enjoy!

Rethinking Prostitution

Miguel Ruiz at Internet Monk sheds new light on some old biblical texts.

The history of Christianity is a twisted tale of conflict over sexuality and the suppression of those who dissent the party line on bedroom ethics.  These days, it is commonly argued that there is only one correct approach, from sound exegesis of Scripture, to human sexuality and appropriate boundaries.  However, we still must concede that what is commonly accepted as “right” today is not exactly how we have always taught.  Throughout the centuries, various sexual practices have gone in and out of favor with the church catholic at various times and in various cultures, as external influences have doubtlessly impacted how the relevant Scripture passages were read and understood.  We’ve run the gamut from repressing to libertine, and everything in between.  It is nothing short of confounding how difficult it is to get the Bible to speak directly and consistently on these matters.  If we truly value and respect the Word of God, we would be wise to continue listening and respectfully consider alternate interpretations, especially those coming from fellow believers as a matter of conscience.  We’ve all made mistakes in Biblical interpretation before, probably not for the last time.  So I challenge you to listen with an open mind as I explain how we’ve been largely wrong about a particular issue for a number of years: Prostitution.

Note for the sarcasm-challenged: It’s satire. But it does make a point, and some of my readers will appreciate it.

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