The Revised Common Lectionary has a certain parlance (way of referring) to the Sundays in Ordinary Time (the time NOT of Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter). Recap anyone?
While the church year is strewn with special days and celebrations, there are two main seasonal times of the church; Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter. Other days such as Transfiguration Sunday and Pentecost Sunday are also noteworthy time. Aside from these times are what is called Ordinary Time and is counted by how many Sundays after the last major event. But basically it is just Sunday after Sunday of just weekly worship and support for circles of faith. The lectionary gives numbers to these Sundays to help worshipers, laity, and ministers/pastors/preachers to keep track of this passage of time. This Sunday, June 18th is the first Sunday after Pentecost which signals the absolute end of the Easter season (last major church celebration time) and is numbered/names “Proper 6”, also known as “11”. The listing of lectionary passages I use also matches the dates to this numbering. Don’t worry if it sounds utterly confusing; I have to reorient myself a few times after the Easter season is over. After you have worked with it, it gets easier to pinpoint just when and where you are.
Now, to further complicate things, there are two sets of Old Testament/Psalms readings, and followers of the lectionary are free to choose which set to follow each Sunday. I had in the past tended to stick to using the first set all the time. But going into the third year of commenting on the lectionary, I decided to change things up, and am using the second set this week. Thoroughly confused yet?
Now, imagine yourself just newly released from a place that multiple generations before you had lived and all the things you had relied on are suddenly gone – every convenience and stable resource . . . gone! I imagine you might be as confused from that experience as trying to decipher the way the RCL organizes itself.
“They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:2 – 6)
In a situation like that, beloved reader, how might you act and respond?
“So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. The people all answered as one: “Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (Verse 7 – 8a)
And I am sure when they said it, the Israelites gathered under Moses’ leadership meant it. But the forty years were grueling years, and many who started out where no longer alive when the promised land was reached. In fact I seem to remember that being the plan because the original Israelites weren’t able to sustain the sort of obedience that the God of Moses demanded.
You must be wondering however, beloved reader, how the wandering of the Israelites and the confusion of the lectionary connect in my mind. It is simply this. The lectionary gives a road map to finding our way through the bible, but it is up to us to apply it and live it out. Reading the lectionary passages each week will not automatically give you the answers you need. In fact, figuring out and deciphering the numbering system and progression of the lectionary throughout will not guarantee you enlightenment and salvation either!
This lectionary year, being Year A, is the year where the focus is coming to faith anew. Unbelief to belief, or moving from a shallower faith to a deeper faith. From this point on until the beginning of Advent we will journey week by week uncovering new ways of coming to and living out our faith. Whether the path be confusing and winding, or straight ahead and long, I pray you may learn along the way. Selah!