Many Protestant churches use the Revised Common Lectionary,* which is a compilation by representatives from more than 20 different denominations. Whether or not Nazarenes follow the lectionary is a choice left to individual pastors, and even if they follow it, they are free to depart from it any time they believe a different scripture would be better for the message they feel is needed.
The weekly readings follow a three-year cycle: Years A, B, and C. In the Gospel readings, Matthew is the focus of Year A, Mark of Year B, and Luke of Year C, with readings from the Gospel of John interspersed throughout the year.
Suggested readings for each Sunday include readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles, and the Gospels. All four readings are not necessarily used each Sunday. Typically, the pastor will choose to preach from one or more of those texts.
Of course, the lectionary gives no guidance as to how pastors are to develop the sermon; for that they are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The lectionary merely gives a list of suggested readings for each Sunday of the year.
The beauty and genius of the lectionary is that its use ensures that worshipers will experience virtually the entire Bible in the service across a three-year period.
A lay reader may read the Old Testament and Epistle portions. For the Gospel reading, the pastor usually takes the Bible to the head of the center aisle and reads on a level with the people and in the midst of the congregation, as a reminder to us that Jesus took his Gospel (his “Good News”) to the people and spoke his words in their midst and not from some exalted height above them.
Would it not be absurd if we came to church not wanting to hear a Word from God? The lectionary readings help to prevent that from happening—if we listen carefully.
ROB L. STAPLES is professor emeritus of theology at Nazarene Theological Seminary.
*For information, see online at http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/.