February 2016 Report, Part 5
Pastor Jonathan Schroeder, Chairman
The Scripture Committee (SC) of the Hymnal Project is responsible for developing the Church Year, the three-year, one-year, and daily lectionaries, the appointment of all readings for minor festivals and occasions, the Prayers of the Day, and a commentary on the propers. The SC will also review the texts for the creeds and the Lord’s Prayer, and will oversee the use of Scripture throughout the project.
The SC spent its first two years studying, analyzing, and proposing a new three-year lectionary and revised Church Year. The committee prioritized these projects because much of the hymnal project’s work is defined by the lectionary and the Church Year. Our work on the one-year and daily lectionaries, the calendar of minor festivals and occasions, and the texts for the creeds and various prayers will intensify once the three-year lectionary and Church Year have been finalized.
The SC greatly appreciates the work of the people who have been involved in the three-year review project. They have provided a wealth of information on the use of the CW lectionary in WELS congregations. We look forward to receiving and reviewing continual feedback on our proposed revisions.
Jesus said, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:52). It is a great privilege for us to dig through the Word of God on behalf of our synod, bringing out treasures new and old for the gathered guests.
Where We Are Headed
The Church Year
The hymnal project cherishes the worship treasures passed down from our Christian forefathers. One gift from history for the worshiping congregation today is the Church Year. This series of seasons and Sundays developed during the first millennium of the New Testament Church and has been used by the Church across the world ever since. The Christian calendar leads Christ’s bride through an annual journey that follows the great events in the life of Christ during the festival half of the year, from Advent to Pentecost. In the Season after Pentecost the Church focuses on the great teachings of Christ.
The SC will propose a Church Year that retains most of the familiar features of the calendar published in Christian Worship. The proposed changes are relatively few. Some changes will be nothing more than new terminology, like calling it the “Season after Pentecost” instead of the “Pentecost Season.” Some alternative Sundays will be designated, such as the Sunday of the Passion (for use on the final Sunday in Lent).
The SC intends to propose a Church Year that reflects the historic practice of the Church, that largely corresponds with other major calendars, and that provides God’s people with the patterns and rhythms, the Sundays and seasons, that form the context for their worship.
A lectionary is a set of Scripture readings designated to be used on particular days. The blessing of lectionary-based worship lies in balance and breadth. Using a lectionary to determine the content of worship helps ensure that the congregation sees the great events in the life of Christ and hears the great teachings of Christ annually. Following a lectionary brings a wide variety of scriptural teachings before a congregation over the three-year cycle.
The great majority of WELS congregations (95%) currently plan their Sunday worship using the three-year lectionary that was published in Christian Worship. This lectionary appoints three readings and a psalm for every Sunday and festival of the Christian Year. The CW lectionary largely corresponded with the lectionaries used in other major denominations, most notably in the Gospel readings.
The SC will propose a new lectionary with the following features:
It will largely retain the Gospels as they exist in the CW Lectionary. When possible, the Gospel will align with other major lectionaries to show our connection to the Holy Christian Church.
The Gospel will establish the theme for the Sunday, and all of the readings will match that theme.
The First Reading will be balanced between Old Testament prophecy and narrative. During the Easter season the book of Acts will also be used.
Old Testament narratives will be used that commend themselves as preaching texts.
The Second Reading will be thematic, not continual. Rather than a series of continual readings through an epistle over several Sundays, the Second Reading will match the theme for the Sunday.
Three readings and a psalm will be provided for each Sunday. Alternate readings and alternate pericopes could be provided apart from the pew edition.
It will provide a revised system for the Sundays after Pentecost (the date of Easter will impact the Sundays at the beginning of that period of the Church Year rather than the end) that will more closely correspond to other Lutheran lectionaries and attendant resources.
Commentary on the Propers
The SC plans to produce a commentary on the lectionary similar to the well-received Planning Christian Worship 2. The proposed commentary would offer an expanded treatment of the Sundays and festivals. It will provide a brief exegesis of the readings, thoughts on context of the Church Year, and hymn and psalm suggestions.