January 27, 2010

Why the Revised Common Lectionary is the perfect model for Emergent Church

Random thought came to me tonight.  How it came to me is the subject of my next blog.... but in any case.

Every week, people all across the world use the exact same texts to tell the stories of scripture.  We start with the exact same thing.  And then we take those few words, those phrases, those verses and we transform them into "emergent" sermons.

As pastors, we borrow and we beg.  We look at what others have done successfully.  We rely upon the expertise of others.  But then, when Saturday night comes (yes, I'm a saturday night writer) - it's just me and my laptop and the concerns and hearts of my congregation that I'm thinking about.  So we take all of the wisdom and advice that's out there and we adapt and we mold and we shape and we transform what is in reality a very structured institutional thing like the revised common lectionary and we create very different, very contextual, very powerful messages for our local congregations.

That's what we do with emerging church. we take the core of the Christian faith and the way of discipleship and we beg and borrow and wrestle and share with others - but at the end of the day it's about how we live all of that out in our local contexts. It's about how it makes sense for the people we work with on a day to day basis.

Just a thought.

If anyone has had it before - I would love to read more and discuss it.  If you want to borrow it - with it's short, blinding light of brilliance - just let me know =P


  1. I would beg to say that this is less "emergent" Christianity and more...well...just Christianity. We may have lost it over the last (few) generation(s), but what we're seeing is simply the pendulum the other way. The caution is that we can not focus only on the application of faith; it is not all about how we live. Jesus had strong words about living in pure application with no heart behind it (oh we drinkers of camels!). We, as the emergent church, must not forget that our hearts must first be set right with God. The temptation is to push only works/lifestyle change because we see very little (or none of it) in the current institution, but, in my opinion, the works are the natural result of a changed heart.

  2. to the first point - i'm not convinced that "emergent" isn't just plain old Christianity trying to reclaim some of it's better self - so fair enough.

    But secondly, I don't think I'm talking about just application here. In order for me to be able to make that translation from the words on a page into the lives of my congregations, I have to have my heart right with God and allow the Holy Spirit into my life. And then I have to know where the hearts and minds of my people are. I have to know where they struggle, where they yearn. And I have to know what the community around us cares about and what the cries of the people are. And when I do my job - or rather, when I let God do God's job... the Holy Spirit transforms the words of my mouth - even those that I carefully craft - and transforms the hearts and minds and hands of the people. And then we go out and do things that matter.

    Perhaps I thought it was such a good metaphor because we have been so stuck in this "programmatic" way of doing church for so long. We'll take what works and we will just stick it in to what we are doing. And yet through it all, we still have the lectionary. And what a great example of how something that is so structured also leaves such room for creativity and community application and somehow by God's grace also provides exactly the words and phrases we need when confronted with tragedy and celebration and how it is something that continually is adapted in practice so that the sermon I preach in my congregation is not the same as the one across the street and is not the same as the one I preached three years ago because I and my congregation and the one across the street are all different because we have grown and God has been moving in our midst.

  3. i would also say that there are more "emergent" and less "emergent" ways of doing all of that. Maybe it's just that my experience of the RCL has been so "emergent".

  4. That's a really interesting and intriguing idea. I'm going to have to chew on this one for a little while, but suffice to say I think it could be an orienting metaphor for a really great article or presentation on the emerging church.