The Roman Catholic and Revised Common lectionaries tend toward Hebrew scripture, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel (although even that pattern has its exceptions). However, while any structure is of course arbitrary, the specific Old Testament/New Testament balance inherent in this pattern invite its rejection along with its deep-rootedness in the fall/redemption theology that belongs to the earlier paradigm of the church’s life. The employment of a different pattern would immediately invite a new way of looking at familiar texts.

I chose the traditional divisions of the Hebrew scriptures – Torah, Prophets, and Writings – and added Gospel as the fourth reading for each week. However, I have in turn chosen some variations on these themes. Clearly this pushes the proverbial envelope. I beg to use in my defense, however, the fact that one does have to wonder at least a little bit about some of the traditional divisions in the Bible itself. For example, why are the census figures of Numbers considered Torah? Why is Jonah, long considered a work of fiction by the ancient rabbis, included as a prophet?

Thus, in a given week in this lectionary, any number of the readings may come from either the Hebrew scriptures or a portion of the New Testament, following the pattern of Torah, Writing, Prophet, and Gospel. Simply the way in which we label a text invites us to read it anew, such as calling Mary of Nazareth a prophet (Advent 4 and Transformativa 15).

      The length of readings varies substantially, and I do not know of a way around this, without doing some of the texts a severe injustice. On occasion, one can extract and discard verses without causing serious problems. In general I took for a guide the principles used by the Vatican II editors, who omitted things such as stage directions, names that were not important to the context, non-essential information, harsh verses, and things that would alter the context in the case of readings chosen for thematic purposes – all the while recognizing that this is, of course, highly subjective.

At the same time, however, it is difficult to break up certain passages. The story of Jonah really needs to be told in its entirety, and yet that makes for a very long reading. On the other hand, John’s prologue is usually read as one piece and I have intentionally broken it into two smaller bites, as it were: John 1:1–5, and 6–18. Further, the gospel reading for Lent 1 (Mark 1:14–15) may seem ridiculously short but, well, that’s the piece that works for that particular Sunday; why add to it?

Here are the ways I have – roughly – divided the scriptures for the purpose of this lectionary:

      Torah – Primarily the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures. However, I have also included occasionally some teachings of Jesus as Torah. This is not to diminish Hebrew Torah, nor to supplant it with Jesus, but first and foremost to recognize the Jewishness of Jesus. Secondly, this recognizes Jesus’ own proclamation of his teaching as potential supplement to the Torah. Lastly, this invites us to wonder  what happens when we juxtapose the teachings of Rabbi Jesus with the teachings of the Torah, and ponder them in that light.

I have also, in the season of Lent, substituted the story of David from 1 Samuel for the Torah readings, to provide an opportunity to focus on that story in the context of the via negative. I have occasionally included a few other pieces from Hebrew scripture as well.

      Prophets Primarily, these texts are taken from the Hebrew prophets. However, on occasion they are taken from New Testament readings, such as the epistles, and the teachings of prophets such as John the Baptizer and Mary of Nazareth. I have also included the stories of key prophetic acts from other books of scripture, such as the stories of Vashti and Esther, and what I would call the “awakenings” of Paul and Peter from the Book of Acts. The Revelation to John is also included in this category – not for the mistaken sense that prophets foretell the future but rather that prophets speak to the urgency of the times, and read the present reality. Most definitely the book of Revelation does that.

      Writings In addition to the traditional Hebrew texts such as Psalms, Proverbs, and others, this is where I have often included portions of the epistles.

      Gospels Just as all of scripture is writing, is prophetic, and describes God’s way (torah), so it could be argued that it all proclaims gospel or good news. However, for the purpose of this lectionary I have chosen only to include five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Acts of the Apostles. This last is included in this category as, according to its author, it forms a second volume of a larger work, a continuation of the good news of the first book we have come to call “Luke” and thus, I believe, ought to be included in the same category.

I chose not to include any apocryphal readings, with the exception being John 8:1–11, which most scholars consider to be an addition to the original text. I also resisted a strong desire to include a fifth reading from non-scriptural literature for each Sunday, as I believe that would shift the focus.

Like any lectionary, this presents a framework within which to set up a series of scripture readings for preaching, study, spiritual enhancement, for reflection, for growth, for contemplation. The intent being, in this case, that these readings will guide one along the paths of Creation Spirituality.

All of this is done with the corollary that no lectionary is “neutral” or objective. Each has an agenda. They set out to tell a story, or to serve a purpose. There is nothing inherently right or wrong about this, but it needs to be stated and owned. And, accordingly, we must approach any lectionary with caution and a hermeneutic of suspicion.

This is as good a place as any to remind you that this lectionary is little more than an experiment in proof-texting. In fact, it is quite shameless proof-texting. I have taken a huge number of my favorite scriptures, and arranged them rather neatly to serve my purposes.

Yet I don’t think that that renders this exercise completely invalid. It is simply a caution. Any lectionary sets out to prove a point, as it were. This one does so at the hand of an individual, rather than a denominational or ecumenical council, and so that makes it a little more suspect.

Having said that, however, I would hope that the pattern of scriptures chosen in this lectionary can provide a fresh vehicle for encountering God through a yearly cycle, intentionally encountering and exploring the four paths in the process, while dancing among the liturgical seasons, and doing all of this with an eye and ear and heart to Creation Spirituality. Like any good lectionary or other liturgical tool it provides a method for challenging us in our worship and devotional lives. It lets scripture companion us as a church to explore new dimensions of God in our midst – through the incarnate Christ, the cosmic Christ, the living Christ.

Matthew Fox asks, “Can the churches themselves believe enough in the resurrection and in Pentecost to be resurrection and to become awakeners of the Spirit?”[1] It is my hope that this lectionary – even just as a spark for discussion – might help move us a little in that direction.

[1] Fox, Cosmic Christ, p. 8.

© Donald Schmidt “Taken from Emerging Word: a Creational Spirituality Lectionary by Donald Schmidt. Copies are available from him.”

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