Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Saturday, July 21, 2018

David's dream house is nixed

Since ancient times, Cedars of Lebanon
have been treasured for luxury projects.

Another thing I love about worship in the Episcopal tradition is that we follow what is called the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).

This is a three-year set of prescribed readings -- Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament epistles (or Revelation) and Gospels -- for each Sunday of the liturgical year (which begins with the season of Advent in November).

In this way, worshipers are exposed to hearing much of the Bible as the writers intended.

The three years are organized primarily around the Gospels: Matthew (Year A), Mark (Year B -- the current year), and Luke (Year C). The Gospel of John gets its due at certain seasons during every year (Advent, Lent, Passiontide, Easter) and in Year B when Mark -- the shortest Gospel -- runs out of steam.

This is radically different from the tradition (Methodist) in which I grew up and which had no such thing. Instead, readings were left to the discretion of the preacher.

This often resulted in preachers who got stuck in one-note-Johnny mode and just preached on the same theme no matter what lesson they chose. On the other hand, there were those who dragged the congregation into the weeds with them in 33-part sermons on an exhaustive (and exhausting) topic.

Episcopalians (and Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians and many Methodists) are now spared all that.

And for all this the universal church can be thankful for the Second Vatican Council, which led to the revision of the Roman lectionary on which the RCL is based. You can read more about the RCL here, and also check out the RCL website here, which gives access to the complete series of readings plus other useful tools.

Another gift of the Second Vatican Council is the restoration of the ancient office of lector to lay readers. Lectors read the Old Testament and New Testament lessons and also lead the Prayers of the Faithful.

Early Christians carried forward the Jewish tradition of reading from the scriptures and then the letters of Paul and others during services and lectors developed very early on (there is a reference from 155 CE) and were a sign of honor in the congregation.

After the fall of Rome, as literacy declined, the office of lector became restricted to those who could passably read from the Latin scriptures (St. Jerome's Vulgate translation was used right up to modern times). Eventually the office eroded away altogether except in certain rare occasions.

The Protestant Reformation evidently was ignorant of the ancient tradition and carried forward the late medieval practice of having the presiding minister read all the lessons.

(One respite from all this in my Evangelical United Brethren youth was the responsive readings included in the back of the denominational hymnal -- actually a very faint recollection of the responsive readings of the Psalms by monks and nuns reciting their daily offices -- and continued today in the Episcopal and Roman churches.)

I am honored to be one such lector at Grace Church and tomorrow I have a reading from the Old Testament book of II Samuel (7:1-14).

In this reading, King David -- who is now installed in a magnificent palace of cedar (remember the Cedars of Lebanon?) -- decides that God's tent dwelling is a bit on the shabby side and he is going to replace it.

While many public officials become obsessed with their perks and prerogatives -- and David certainly was among them -- he did take time to reflect on the Lord of Hosts who had made all his successes possible.

However, God trashed David's dream.

If you want to know how and why, you can join us at Grace Church at 10:30 AM and hear the answer. Or you can check it online at the RCL website here.

Grace Episcopal Church is at East 7th Street and Cleveland Avenue. Worship on Sundays is at 10:30 AM. Parking available in the street or in the public parking lot across from the front of the church. You will also enjoy the weekly playing of our 46-bell carillon, one of only four in the state of New Jersey.

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

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