Last November, we made a small change in our worship each week. Beginning in Advent, we have chosen to read only one lesson, rather than two.
I wanted to share again why we are trying this out.
On page 357 of the Book of Common Prayer, under the heading “Lessons” it says
The people sit. One or two Lessons, as appointed, are read,
These instructions, known as rubrics, give us direction and guide us in our worship. Here it highlights that two different practices are acceptable: we either read one lesson or we read two.
The lessons in question are from in the Revised Common Lectionary and are usually made of one reading from the First Testament and one from the Second.
While we have tended to use all of the options available (A first lesson, a psalm, a second lesson, and the gospel), tradition has also encouraged a different practice: to let the preacher pick which lesson to pair with the gospel.
[It is worth noting, too, that the psalm is also optional.]
For some, the idea that the Book of Common Prayer even gives us these options is crazy. For others, the idea that we would never exercise such discretion is equally crazy.
But we so rarely do things because we can. We do them because they bring value to us. The value I hoped to explore in choosing one lesson per week (generally from the Hebrew Scriptures, the First Testament) is quite simple.
While the lectionary often gives us compatible readings which reveal a great deal of nuance and tensions, few of us take a great deal of care each week to read them ahead of Sunday morning, suss out the striking connections, and reflect on the complex tapestry of our scripture.
We come to church and we hear some of it and our minds wander to our shopping lists and lunch plans.
And while I was trained to focus primarily on the gospel in my preaching, it leaves the other lessons to be the chafe, brushed off and ignored.
In this case, like many, less is more.
Less reading provides us with more attention.
I hope that in this year, as we try out this practice, we’ll find the space to focus, allow our minds to see connections, and show the patience to see how God’s grace can be revealed, even in small changes.
Grace and Peace,