If you are especially observant, you will notice a change this month in our liturgy at Zion. If we were careful, you might never even recognize this subtle but important difference.
But before that, a short history lesson. For hundreds and hundreds of years, the church used a “lectionary” to prescribe the Scripture readings that would be used each Sunday. Every year the same texts would be used. Year after year after year. These Scripture readings guided the faithful through the seasons of the church year. It soon became useful to give each of these Sundays a “name.” Not being very creative, often the name of the Sunday was simply the first word or three spoken in the Introit, which was the first thing spoken or sung that day. So the first Sunday in Advent was called *Ad Te Levavi,* which is Latin for “To you (O Lord) I lift up (my soul)” from Psalm 25.
The Roman Catholic Church, in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), decided that they wanted to change this tradition. Their motives were okay – they were concerned that people did not know enough of the Bible. If more of the Bible were read in church, people would hear more of it and be less Biblically illiterate. The more Bible, the better. But on the other hand, the radical willingness to change everything in the 1960s was not exactly the high watermark of Western Christian culture. But in 1969, when the Roman Catholic Church dramatically did away with the most consistent thing from the previous 1,500 years of Church practice, practically every Christian denomination followed their lead. The three-year lectionary was born.
Since the publication of the Lutheran Worship in 1982, the three-year lectionary has been widely used in the LCMS. So it is that since at least the 1980s, most Lutheran churches have followed Rome by ditching the “historic” one-year lectionary and adopted a three-year rotation of readings. The seasons of the church year are still observed, but there is greater flexibility and variety in the Scripture readings. And since that time, a debate has ensued as to which is the “superior” lectionary.
Someone recently asked me, since the reason for the three-year was to increase Biblical literacy, has it worked? Are people less Biblically illiterate than they were in 1982? The answer, sadly, is that Biblical illiteracy has increased at an alarming rate since that time. The well-intended reform to the lectionary may have only made the problem worse. After all, which is better: to hear the same readings every year? Or to listen to the same texts every three years? Repetition, it is said, is the mother of learning.
Therefore, for reasons of pedagogy (education), but also of remembering that we at Zion are a part of a 2,000-year tradition, we will be using the one-year lectionary starting the first Sunday of Advent. * Ad Te Levavi * “To you (O Lord) I lift up (my soul)” that is.
We may stumble over the Latin names, and some of them may make you giggle (*Sexigesima* and *Quasimodo Geniti* come to mind). You may find that at times, our readings won’t match up with the sermons you watch on TV. But you may also figure out why we have one pink, ahem, “rose” colored candle on the Advent wreath. And you may find that you actually *learn* the Scripture readings that we use every year. Quality, not quantity, will help you when the going gets tough. Finally, if you enjoy hearing other sermons on the same readings, there are many sermons available that use the one-year lectionary. Martin Luther, Johann Gerhard, St Augustine, even John Calvin, and other church fathers are available on the Internet or in books.
I am reminded of the statement of the Greeks when they showed up at the feast, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” So join us in this transition, ask questions, be curious, and hear God’s Word as we come together to “see Jesus.”