|A. Hanson, Luther Seminary. 2013|
We read from the Bible each week as part of our liturgy.
There are many different translations of the Bible into English from its original language of Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). My favorite translation is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and is also the most widely accepted for academic study.
The Old Testament (more correctly called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible) includes three parts:
The Torah: First five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
The Nevi'im: Prophetic books. There are major and minor prophets
The Ketuvim: The writings (miscellaneous collection of books including Psalms, Song of Songs, etc).
The New Testament includes four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are considered to be the Synoptic Gospels because they have many similar stories and tell the story of Jesus. John's Gospel also tells the story of Jesus, but does so in a way that has a higher Christology (which means that Jesus is said to be the Son of God, God incarnate, etc). The Book of Acts is the second part of Luke's Gospel and was written by the same author or group. The remaining books in the New Testament are letters written by Paul and other early Christian leaders to specific Christian communities.
The Bible is best viewed as a library of individual books instead of one cohesive whole. This library is called a canon and represents the books that are generally agreed upon to be authentic. There are also non-canonical books, called the Apocrypha, that are used in some traditions, but have some more disputed origins.
The readings from scripture each week include a First Reading (usually from the Old Testament), a Psalm that is chanted or sung, a Second Reading (also called an Epistle and from the New Testament) and a Gospel reading from one of the four Gospels.
There are several ways to select readings for a given Sunday. The ELCA usually uses what is known as the Revised Common Lectionary. This is a three-year plan for reading scripture and focuses on a different synoptic Gospel each year. Year A is Matthew, Year B is Mark, and Year C is Luke (which is what we are in presently). Readings from the Gospel of John are used in the seasons of Christmas, Lent, and Easter. The lectionary attempts to tell the story of our Christian faith in a way that corresponds with the church year.
There is a downside to using this lectionary because the readings appear to be fragmented and there are huge chunks of the Bible that never appear in lectionary texts. In an attempt to tell a more cohesive story, two professors from Luther Seminary, Rolf Jacobsen and Craig Koester, have developed the narrative lectionary, a relatively recent invention. This is a four year lectionary cycle that covers the sweep of the Biblical story from Creation through Paul's letters to the early Christian church. The aim behind the narrative lectionary is to help tell our story as people of God.
Additionally, congregations can select their own readings to correspond to a sermon series or theme for the congregation. The preacher will build their sermon off of one or more of the readings.
Part V: Sermon