Happy New Year!! That greeting may be month early according to the calendar on your wall, but December 1st marks the beginning of Advent and the start of a New Church Year. This year in particular brings with it a few events of note. First, following shortly on the heels of honoring the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, 2014 marks the 150th Anniversary of St. John. Our Lord has blessed the Fraser area through the proclamation of His Gospel from St. John since the days of Abraham Lincoln. What a joy to be part of this congregation in this time of celebration.
But there will be ample opportunity to reflect on the lineage of St. John throughout 2014. With the advent of this particular Advent, we at St. John will be jumping into a part of our history far deeper than 1864. This Advent St. John will begin using the readings from the Historic One-Year Lectionary. This lectionary, or which Scripture passages are read on which Sundays, has been around since at least the 4th century, if not earlier. In the 6th century Pope Gregory I formally issued what is commonly known as the Gregorian Lectionary. This lectionary was the standard lectionary used in all of Western Christianity until the liturgical reforms of Vatican II in 1969 introduced the three-year lectionary in an effort to expose people to more Scripture.
During the Reformation, Luther retained the use of the Gregorian Lectionary, though he recognized some room for improvement. Luther eliminated saints’ days and feast days that had no biblical basis or that undermined the Gospel. He also provided new readings for the last two Sundays of the Church Year that focused on the end of the world.
One strength of the one-year lectionary is that the three readings for the day (Old Testament, Epistle, Gospel) tend to have a coherent theme. In the three-year lectionary that we currently use the Old Testament and Gospel readings tend to match up, but the Epistle is usually taken from a continuous reading of one book and therefore doesn’t usually fit neatly with the other two readings. While the three-year series allows for more of Paul’s writings to be read, the one-year series highlights Epistle readings that speak directly to the theme of the day.
You probably won’t notice much change, except that Transfiguration Sunday will be a little earlier this year. But what a joy it will be to sit in services knowing that you are hearing preaching based on the same readings that have been preached on for the last 1400 years. As we celebrate the 150th year of our Lord’s Church in this place, we rejoice that we are part of something far older than that – the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church of the true God.