This Monday (4 November) is the start of a new year of Bible readings, and I'd love you to join me and many other people in reading the Bible together!
The basic idea behind a lectionary is that, whereas we could all sit at home on our own and follow our own personal Bible reading plans, it's really much better if we read the Bible in community.
The vast majority of Christians would recognise this when it comes to their local church. There are plenty of sermons available online, and we could sit at home listening to them (or watching them), but we choose to gather with other Christians in local congregations to listen together to what God wants to say to us.
There are two ways in which this can be taken further. One is by extending that principle beyond the local congregation. There's something to be said for multiple congregations following the same scheme of Bible readings for their Sunday gatherings. The preachers can then ring each other up during their preparation and help each other to hear what God is saying to us through the passage. If you have friends or family who go to a different church, you can discuss together what you heard on Sunday, and find that you are talking about the same thing. Ultimately, it could be the case that the whole church throughout the world is listening together to the same passages of Scripture on any given Sunday (which is what the Revised Common Lectionary to a significant extent actually achieves).
The second way of taking this lectionary idea further is to apply it to our Bible reading through the week. Most Christians (hopefully) make a regular practice of reading Scripture during the week. There are plenty of schemes available, and when these are widely used, we can find ourselves reading the Bible together in community. So, for example, if you read something in the morning that perplexed you, wouldn't it be great if your friend or housemate or colleague had also read the same passage that same day, and could help you to make sense of it?
The Church of England has a rich tradition of Bible reading, particularly for clergy. The Book of Common Prayer daily services of morning and evening prayer work through the Book of Psalms every month, the Old Testament every year and the New Testament three times per year (approximately). But if you use the (very helpful) daily prayer page on the C of E website, the daily readings follow the Weekday Lectionary from 2005/2010. This takes you through the whole Bible every year, but with a few exceptions and with quite a lot of gaps in the Old Testament books.
If, like me, you try to read the Bible through every year, then the C of E Weekday Lectionary can serve that purpose, as follows:
- Download the lectionary (and print it off, if you still enjoy the feel of paper!). This will help you keep track of things, even if you use the daily prayer link above, or the calendars (in various formats) from here
- Note that books generally appear from start to finish in a predictable way. It's easy to spot the gaps and fill them in
- The lectionary follows the church year, and does clever things with Sundays before Lent and Sundays after Trinity
- Watch out for important feast days: they have their own readings, which displace those in the lectionary
- All the Psalms are included, except 58, 83 and 109
- The Apocrypha features in the later Sundays after Trinity, but there is always an alternative reading if you prefer to read the Bible...
- Every Old Testament book is included, except Lamentations, although some Old Testament books appear only twice every four years. I'm assuming you can live with that. It's a bit complicated with Chronicles and Ecclesiastes, which appear in different places in different years, and fall on weeks that may be omitted entirely. Worth keeping track of them
- The entire New Testament is included every year (except for the genealogies in Matthew and Luke)
- Some gaps might appear in the week after Advent 4 and the readings for 7-12 January (but don't worry about those for Jeremiah, Micah and 1 John, which are covered elsewhere)
- If Epiphany falls on a Sunday, the readings for the week following Epiphany 4 will be omitted (1 Corinthians 15 comes after Easter, by the way)
- Some Sundays before Lent might not happen. Most of the disruption is taken care of, except for Joel and Genesis
- Some Sundays after Trinity (19-22) might not happen. Again, the disruption is mostly taken care of, except for 2 Kings
I think that's all, and I hope it might be approximately correct. Do comment or get in touch with any inaccuracies or questions!