The readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for Sunday worship include an Old Testament reading, a reading from the Psalms, an Epistle reading, and a reading from one of the Gospels. Which one of these should the preacher focus on? The obvious answer would be the Gospel reading. Certainly, the Gospel is essential to the sermon or homily. Nonetheless, the ‘Gospel reading needs to be seen in the broader context of the supportive readings: Old Testament, Psalm, and Epistle. Often the best commentaries on a verse of scripture are other verses of scripture.
The authors of the lectionary have done an excellent job of assembling complementary readings each week. The connection between the appointed readings may not always seem apparent. However, with prayer and reflection an overall theme will begin to emerge. Discovering this theme is an exciting process. We will trust God and approach the readings with joyful expectations. We will begin early in the week and let the readings resonate within us as we approach each daily task. They will provide guidance and strength.
During the season of Pentecost, there are two tracks each week for Old Testament readings. Within each track, there is a Psalm chosen to accompany the particular lesson.
Track 1 of Old Testament readings follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. In Year A we begin with Genesis, in Year B we hear some of the great monarchy narratives, and in Year C we read from the later prophets.
Track 2 follows the Roman Catholic tradition of thematically pairing the Old Testament reading with the Gospel reading, often showing how the person and ministry of Jesus Christ is foretold in the Old Testament reading.
Once we choose a track for the season after Pentecost it is probably better to stay on that track and not switch back and forth. This will better help us focus the sermon. No doubt it will also eliminate any potential confusion in our regular listeners.
As we listen to the still small voice of God within He will guide us in our understanding of the readings and how they are related. If we are focusing on what we want to say in the sermon we may miss out. Let us discover what God wants to say and let Him have His way. He will breathe life into the sermon – His life.