A lot of people, when asked, “Do you know what the lectionary is?” say, “Huh?”

A lection is an orderly set of readings. Most of the time the word “lectionary’ is used in regard to the Bible, and it’s practice began sometime in the Middle Ages when the Jews sought to add some direction to the random synagogue readings of scripture.

By the time of Jesus, the Jewish lectionary was in full flower, and when Jesus read publicly in the Nazareth synagogue it was probably the prescribed reading for the day.

Over the centuries Christians adopted the practice of systematically reading Scripture. Many churches today use the Revised Common Lectionary because of the orderly way it directs reading through the Old and New Testaments. It is helpful although it does leave out large portions of scripture from the reading list.

An expert on the lectionary once told me that every preacher uses a lectionary whether s/he knows it or not. There are those that think ahead and plan the texts they will use for preaching–texts of their own choosing or texts prescribed by the lectionary. These have a clear view of what they want to teach in the coming year.

Then there are those who plan their preaching week by week. And at the end of the year they can look back and see what their lectionary was.

I think knowing what your lections for the coming weeks will be is like creating a shopping list before going to the grocery store. It lets you think about the diet you want your family to have. It insures that you have all the ingredients. And it focuses your thinking in some wonderful ways.

The gospel readings for this year’s lectionary cycle are from Matthew. I look forward to exploring that gospel with LifeSpringers over the next few months.