The Practice of Using the Lectionary
One of the Christian disciplines that has shaped the Transforming Center from the very beginning is fixed-hour prayer—the practice of praying at set times throughout the day. When we gather together on retreat or in smaller groupings, we pray four times a day—morning, mid-day, evening and night. Even when we are not together, many of us as individuals try to pray at least some of the hours as a part of our personal devotion.
A discipline closely associated with fixed-hour prayer is the practice of reading Scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary—a three-year reading schedule that follows the Christian calendar.
The lectionary readings for each week include an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, an Epistle and a Gospel that share a common theme. Following the lectionary helps us pray and engage Scripture together even when we are apart. We usually “read into” the Sunday readings so that those of us who attend churches who use the lectionary, will then hear the Scriptures we have already been reflecting on throughout the week. Then on Monday, we start reading the lectionary selections for the upcoming Sunday.
Through the discipline of using a shared schedule of Scripture readings, we engage the full range of Scripture and touch all the major themes and passages at least once every three years. Rather than merely cherry-picking the passages from Scripture that we would prefer to read, the use of the lectionary forces us to interact with Scriptures we might otherwise avoid and allows God to surprise us with messages we might otherwise have missed.
When we follow the lectionary schedule, we practice surrender—giving ourselves over to Scriptures that have been chosen for us rather than choosing Scripture according to what we think we need or some agenda we have in mind. We surrender to God’s control, allowing him to bring Scripture to bear on our lives in unexpected ways and as he knows we need them. Since the lectionary readings follow the rhythms of the Christian year, we are also surrendering to and thus being shaped by the life-transforming lessons contained in each season—Advent, the Christmas season, Epiphany, Lent, the Easter season, ordinary time—and many other important days in the life of the Church. We offer the schedule of lectionary readings here as a way of helping us all to engage the Scriptures for spiritual transformation—when we are alone and when we are together.