Friday, November 2, 2012

Who Changed My Bible?

This Sunday is All Saints’ Sunday. Let me be the first to say (because we aren't there yet) 'Happy All Saints' Sunday!' All Saints' Sunday, and the raising of Lazarus - the gospel lesson appointed to the day - means to bring to the fore of the Church’s attention the resurrection hope.

It is interesting (if obvious to preachers) to note that, before the inclusion of the Revised Common Lectionary, officially adopted by the Episcopal Church in 2006, the Prayer Book readings assigned for the Feast of All Saints’ were either the sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes (“blessed are the pure in heart”) from Matthew’s gospel or, alternately, what is sometimes called the sermon on the Plain from Luke’s gospel. With the adoption of the RCL in 2006, however, these readings are now each read once every three years (not every two), with the raising of Lazarus added into the three year rotation as reminder of our mortality and that “because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised.”

For those of us who grew up accessing All Saints’ Day from the vantage of Jesus’ teachings on holiness, the shift is substantial and still a little strange - this reading from John’s gospel is read mostly at funerals. Make no mistake, the Christian life of holiness is still central to the day, but John’s gospel asks us to begin the question of Christian living at the place of death and dying: Jesus and Mary and Martha in grief at the tomb. 


Does the resulting starting point helpfully save our reading the Beatitudes are mere moralism? 

Does anyone else miss the focused attention on Matthew 5? 

Does anyone else think here of Jeremy Taylor's Holy Death and Holy Dying? 

If you are a preacher, do you tend to a) preach the feast without following the texts as closely on this day b) preach the texts such that the feast is the not the focus c) find your preaching of All Saints swinging between focuses from year to year d) seek a way to integrate the three gospel readings for All Saints in a unified way.

I have my sermon (mostly) done. But I am interested in your thoughts, preachers and lay people. The raising of Lazarus was only introduced to this feast in the Episcopal Church in 2006 and many churches were late in adopting. We haven't been doing this for very long. If we were good at thinking about this, I would be surprised (and likely unconvinced).

Full disclosure: I like the addition; it's growing on me, if necessarily changing me, too. Which is why I think we have much to gain by talking openly about the addition and transition.

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