Orality, Intertextuality, and the Revised Common Lectionary, by Amy C. Schifrin

Started by Richard Johnson, February 11, 2023, 03:34:29 PM

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Terry W Culler

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on February 12, 2023, 06:03:41 PM
Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 12, 2023, 05:29:22 PM
Who in the world preaches a 10 minute sermon?  And why would anyone think that was sufficient for the care of souls in their congregation?  Even 20 minutes is barely enough.  Luther said we shouldn't preach more than an hour unless we had something especially important to say!

Most of my sermons were about 12 minutes long. (Much longer than that, my wife would tell me about it afterwards.) I learned early, perhaps jr. high, that the length of sermon was the number one topic of conversations/complaint my parents and their church friends had after worship. The length of the whole service was the number two topic. We celebrated communion every Sunday, and we were usually finished in less than an hour - time to get to the restaurants before the other congregations finished.

I disagreed with a speaker who believed that you had to tell the people what you're going to tell them, tell them, then remind them again what you told them. My belief is: if you tell the effectively the first time, that's enough.

I also believe that the Sunday's message is much more than just the sermon. There are the lessons - read in a fairly easy to understand translation. (The NRSV at about an 11th grade reading level is a bit high for listening, in my opinion.) I picked the hymns to relate to the theme of the day. I considered them part of the message I was proclaiming to the people - sometimes better than the sermon.


We obviously have different views about the importance of sermons,
"No particular Church has ... a right to existence, except as it believes itself the most perfect from of Christianity, the form which of right, should and will be universal."
Charles Porterfield Krauth

DCharlton

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on February 12, 2023, 06:17:00 PM
Quote from: DCharlton on February 12, 2023, 02:01:52 PM
Quote from: J. Thomas Shelley on February 11, 2023, 11:58:59 PM
The RCL rejected discarded the Christocentric lens and thematic OT lessons for a more or less lectio continuo approach; which, as Frank Senn properly noted and objected, confused a Eucharistic lectionary with Bible Study. 

I still don't see what makes the RCL better than other options.  If the focus is on the Eucharist and not Bible study, then why have a three-year lectionary.  A one-year lectionary should do just a well.  The logic seems to be that with a three-year lectionary, more of Scripture is covered.  But if the focus isn't Bible study, why would that matter?  Another problem with the RCL is that are two options during the Season of Pentecost.  There is more variation within the RCL than there is between the RCL lectionary used by Lutherans and the LCMS three-year lectionary. 

The focus is Bible reading (or listening), not Bible study. Especially in the daily prayer liturgies, a sermon was not traditionally part of Matins, Vespers, Compline, etc. The reading of scriptures, including the psalms and NT canticles sung at these services, was sufficient to hear God speaking to us.

The two options come from two different traditions. The Roman, Episcopalian, and Lutheran tradition had a 1st Reading that was related to one of the other readings (during the Pentecost season). Other Protestants used a semi-continuous Old Testament readings (during the Pentecost season.) The RCL is a bit of a compromise between the original Roman Catholic three-year lectionary, the Episcopalian and Lutheran adaptations of it; and the Protestant Common Lectionary used by others.

QuoteI understand the argument for a common lectionary across denominations.  I understand the value of using a lectionary that is closely tied to the Church Year and to traditional themes that are found in historical lectionaries.  I just don't understand how the sequence utilized in the RCL is more suitable for the Eucharist than something like the Narrative Lectionary, which is still Christocentric and which takes note of the Church Year.

Having been in ecumenical pericope study groups, having a common lectionary was quite important.

The RCL has many more thematic dates related to the church year, e.g., each Sunday in Advent, the temptation of Jesus, than I've seen in the Narrative lectionary.

Yes.  There are many reasons that make the RCL preferrable.   I understand all of that. It's the one sentence that I'm having a hard time understanding.  How do the selections in the RCL better suit the Eucharist?  Not ecumenical Bible studies.  Not the Church Year.  Not short sermons.  The Eucharist.
David Charlton  

Was Algul Siento a divinity school?

J. Thomas Shelley

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on February 12, 2023, 06:03:41 PM
I disagreed with a speaker who believed that you had to tell the people what you're going to tell them, tell them, then remind them again what you told them.

Aka "three points and a poem".
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

Charles Austin

Having spent a lot of time in the pew, as well as in the pulpit, I can say from the pew perspective, that in many cases, if the sermon is a flop, at least there's the sacrament. And having traveled much, sometimes the sermons, even good ones, don't particularly "hit me" on that day, although they may be something that particular congregation needs to hear. But the Sacrament "works" for me every time. This remains true even if the liturgy is poorly presented.
And I loved preaching the three-year lectionary.
Iowa-born. Long-time in NY/New Jersey, former LWF staff in Geneva.
ELCA PASTOR, ordained 1967. Former journalist. Retired in Minneapolis.
GUILTY on ALL 34 counts

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 12, 2023, 08:24:23 PM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on February 12, 2023, 06:03:41 PM
Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 12, 2023, 05:29:22 PM
Who in the world preaches a 10 minute sermon?  And why would anyone think that was sufficient for the care of souls in their congregation?  Even 20 minutes is barely enough.  Luther said we shouldn't preach more than an hour unless we had something especially important to say!

Most of my sermons were about 12 minutes long. (Much longer than that, my wife would tell me about it afterwards.) I learned early, perhaps jr. high, that the length of sermon was the number one topic of conversations/complaint my parents and their church friends had after worship. The length of the whole service was the number two topic. We celebrated communion every Sunday, and we were usually finished in less than an hour - time to get to the restaurants before the other congregations finished.

I disagreed with a speaker who believed that you had to tell the people what you're going to tell them, tell them, then remind them again what you told them. My belief is: if you tell the effectively the first time, that's enough.

I also believe that the Sunday's message is much more than just the sermon. There are the lessons - read in a fairly easy to understand translation. (The NRSV at about an 11th grade reading level is a bit high for listening, in my opinion.) I picked the hymns to relate to the theme of the day. I considered them part of the message I was proclaiming to the people - sometimes better than the sermon.


We obviously have different views about the importance of sermons,


Or perhaps different views about the attention span of people in the pews.


Basically, a sermon is to be an absolution (if it's properly preaching the gospel). In some way it proclaims that your sins are forgiven by God through Jesus. It doesn't take 20 minutes to do that.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: DCharlton on February 12, 2023, 10:03:46 PM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on February 12, 2023, 06:17:00 PM
Quote from: DCharlton on February 12, 2023, 02:01:52 PM
Quote from: J. Thomas Shelley on February 11, 2023, 11:58:59 PM
The RCL rejected discarded the Christocentric lens and thematic OT lessons for a more or less lectio continuo approach; which, as Frank Senn properly noted and objected, confused a Eucharistic lectionary with Bible Study. 

I still don't see what makes the RCL better than other options.  If the focus is on the Eucharist and not Bible study, then why have a three-year lectionary.  A one-year lectionary should do just a well.  The logic seems to be that with a three-year lectionary, more of Scripture is covered.  But if the focus isn't Bible study, why would that matter?  Another problem with the RCL is that are two options during the Season of Pentecost.  There is more variation within the RCL than there is between the RCL lectionary used by Lutherans and the LCMS three-year lectionary. 

The focus is Bible reading (or listening), not Bible study. Especially in the daily prayer liturgies, a sermon was not traditionally part of Matins, Vespers, Compline, etc. The reading of scriptures, including the psalms and NT canticles sung at these services, was sufficient to hear God speaking to us.

The two options come from two different traditions. The Roman, Episcopalian, and Lutheran tradition had a 1st Reading that was related to one of the other readings (during the Pentecost season). Other Protestants used a semi-continuous Old Testament readings (during the Pentecost season.) The RCL is a bit of a compromise between the original Roman Catholic three-year lectionary, the Episcopalian and Lutheran adaptations of it; and the Protestant Common Lectionary used by others.

QuoteI understand the argument for a common lectionary across denominations.  I understand the value of using a lectionary that is closely tied to the Church Year and to traditional themes that are found in historical lectionaries.  I just don't understand how the sequence utilized in the RCL is more suitable for the Eucharist than something like the Narrative Lectionary, which is still Christocentric and which takes note of the Church Year.

Having been in ecumenical pericope study groups, having a common lectionary was quite important.

The RCL has many more thematic dates related to the church year, e.g., each Sunday in Advent, the temptation of Jesus, than I've seen in the Narrative lectionary.

Yes.  There are many reasons that make the RCL preferrable.   I understand all of that. It's the one sentence that I'm having a hard time understanding.  How do the selections in the RCL better suit the Eucharist?  Not ecumenical Bible studies.  Not the Church Year.  Not short sermons.  The Eucharist.


Methinks you are using a too narrow definition of "the Eucharist." I see it as the entire communion liturgy, which is set within the Church Year. The lessons set the theme for the day within the church year. Some examples: 1 Advent is the second coming; 2 & 3 Advent center on John the Baptist preparing the way, 4 Advent looks to the promised coming of infant Jesus. "Advent" means "coming." "Epiphany" is about revealing Jesus. 1 Epiphany is the Baptism of Jesus; Last Epiphany is the Transfiguration of Jesus - These "white" Sundays with God revealing that Jesus is his son, form bookends to the "green" Epiphany season in between. Similarly, the "white" Holy Trinity (1 Pentecost) and optional "white" now Christ the King (Last Pentecost) form bookends to the "green" Pentecost season.


The chart I attached above can help show how such themes show up in each year, as well as how we go through the major Gospel for the year (during the "green" seasons) and emphasize John during Lent and Easter. The RCL covers a lot of Scriptures over the three years as well as highlighting the themes of the Church Year - which are celebrated in the Eucharistic liturgy.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: J. Thomas Shelley on February 13, 2023, 12:07:23 AM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on February 12, 2023, 06:03:41 PM
I disagreed with a speaker who believed that you had to tell the people what you're going to tell them, tell them, then remind them again what you told them.

Aka "three points and a poem".

I disagree. One good, solid point is enough - followed (in our liturgies) by a good Hymn of the Day.

I've often said that writing a sermon is deciding what I'm NOT going to say. My exegetical papers are 3-4 times longer than a sermon. There's way too much - and too many themes to cover in a sermon. Deciding on one theme and trying to eliminate paragraphs that don't support that message is the process of composing a sermon.

Although I remember a student at seminary who began his sermon preparation with a three part outline:
A.
     1.
     2.
     3.
B.
     1.
     2.
     3.
C.
     1.
     2.
     3.
Then he filled in the blanks. (Not my method at all.)
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Brian Stoffregen

Quote from: Charles Austin on February 13, 2023, 12:23:20 AM
Having spent a lot of time in the pew, as well as in the pulpit, I can say from the pew perspective, that in many cases, if the sermon is a flop, at least there's the sacrament. And having traveled much, sometimes the sermons, even good ones, don't particularly "hit me" on that day, although they may be something that particular congregation needs to hear. But the Sacrament "works" for me every time. This remains true even if the liturgy is poorly presented.
And I loved preaching the three-year lectionary.

I've also heard it said that a good hymn can save a poor sermon.

One particularly poor preacher I heard a few times, was quite well loved by the congregation because he was exceptional at pastoral care. We each have our gifts.
I flunked retirement. Serving as a part-time interim in Ferndale, WA.

Pilgrim

Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 12, 2023, 05:29:22 PM
Who in the world preaches a 10 minute sermon?  And why would anyone think that was sufficient for the care of souls in their congregation?  Even 20 minutes is barely enough.  Luther said we shouldn't preach more than an hour unless we had something especially important to say!

Having now sat in the pew as retired for a couple of years, I always strove for my sermons to be in the 10-12 minute range. The average lay person's attention span goes dull far more quickly than the average preacher thinks that they are stimulating orators. Good preached is, in my humble and retired opinion, far, far more difficult to find than preachers who think they are good preachers. Just saying!
Pr. Tim Christ, STS

Pilgrim

Quote from: Charles Austin on February 13, 2023, 12:23:20 AM
Having spent a lot of time in the pew, as well as in the pulpit, I can say from the pew perspective, that in many cases, if the sermon is a flop, at least there's the sacrament. And having traveled much, sometimes the sermons, even good ones, don't particularly "hit me" on that day, although they may be something that particular congregation needs to hear. But the Sacrament "works" for me every time. This remains true even if the liturgy is poorly presented.
And I loved preaching the three-year lectionary.

Amen to Charles on that point!
Pr. Tim Christ, STS

DCharlton

Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on February 13, 2023, 02:25:01 PM
Quote from: DCharlton on February 12, 2023, 10:03:46 PM
Quote from: Brian Stoffregen on February 12, 2023, 06:17:00 PM
Quote from: DCharlton on February 12, 2023, 02:01:52 PM
Quote from: J. Thomas Shelley on February 11, 2023, 11:58:59 PM
The RCL rejected discarded the Christocentric lens and thematic OT lessons for a more or less lectio continuo approach; which, as Frank Senn properly noted and objected, confused a Eucharistic lectionary with Bible Study. 

I still don't see what makes the RCL better than other options.  If the focus is on the Eucharist and not Bible study, then why have a three-year lectionary.  A one-year lectionary should do just a well.  The logic seems to be that with a three-year lectionary, more of Scripture is covered.  But if the focus isn't Bible study, why would that matter?  Another problem with the RCL is that are two options during the Season of Pentecost.  There is more variation within the RCL than there is between the RCL lectionary used by Lutherans and the LCMS three-year lectionary. 

The focus is Bible reading (or listening), not Bible study. Especially in the daily prayer liturgies, a sermon was not traditionally part of Matins, Vespers, Compline, etc. The reading of scriptures, including the psalms and NT canticles sung at these services, was sufficient to hear God speaking to us.

The two options come from two different traditions. The Roman, Episcopalian, and Lutheran tradition had a 1st Reading that was related to one of the other readings (during the Pentecost season). Other Protestants used a semi-continuous Old Testament readings (during the Pentecost season.) The RCL is a bit of a compromise between the original Roman Catholic three-year lectionary, the Episcopalian and Lutheran adaptations of it; and the Protestant Common Lectionary used by others.

QuoteI understand the argument for a common lectionary across denominations.  I understand the value of using a lectionary that is closely tied to the Church Year and to traditional themes that are found in historical lectionaries.  I just don't understand how the sequence utilized in the RCL is more suitable for the Eucharist than something like the Narrative Lectionary, which is still Christocentric and which takes note of the Church Year.

Having been in ecumenical pericope study groups, having a common lectionary was quite important.

The RCL has many more thematic dates related to the church year, e.g., each Sunday in Advent, the temptation of Jesus, than I've seen in the Narrative lectionary.

Yes.  There are many reasons that make the RCL preferrable.   I understand all of that. It's the one sentence that I'm having a hard time understanding.  How do the selections in the RCL better suit the Eucharist?  Not ecumenical Bible studies.  Not the Church Year.  Not short sermons.  The Eucharist.

Methinks you are using a too narrow definition of "the Eucharist." I see it as the entire communion liturgy, which is set within the Church Year. The lessons set the theme for the day within the church year. Some examples: 1 Advent is the second coming; 2 & 3 Advent center on John the Baptist preparing the way, 4 Advent looks to the promised coming of infant Jesus. "Advent" means "coming." "Epiphany" is about revealing Jesus. 1 Epiphany is the Baptism of Jesus; Last Epiphany is the Transfiguration of Jesus - These "white" Sundays with God revealing that Jesus is his son, form bookends to the "green" Epiphany season in between. Similarly, the "white" Holy Trinity (1 Pentecost) and optional "white" now Christ the King (Last Pentecost) form bookends to the "green" Pentecost season.

The chart I attached above can help show how such themes show up in each year, as well as how we go through the major Gospel for the year (during the "green" seasons) and emphasize John during Lent and Easter. The RCL covers a lot of Scriptures over the three years as well as highlighting the themes of the Church Year - which are celebrated in the Eucharistic liturgy.

Tick tock.  Tick tock.
David Charlton  

Was Algul Siento a divinity school?

Terry W Culler

Quote from: Pilgrim on February 13, 2023, 03:36:05 PM
Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 12, 2023, 05:29:22 PM
Who in the world preaches a 10 minute sermon?  And why would anyone think that was sufficient for the care of souls in their congregation?  Even 20 minutes is barely enough.  Luther said we shouldn't preach more than an hour unless we had something especially important to say!

Having now sat in the pew as retired for a couple of years, I always strove for my sermons to be in the 10-12 minute range. The average lay person's attention span goes dull far more quickly than the average preacher thinks that they are stimulating orators. Good preached is, in my humble and retired opinion, far, far more difficult to find than preachers who think they are good preachers. Just saying!

While I agree that American attention spans are not what they were 60 years ago, they are still generally good enough in my experience to deal with a well laid out and presented 25-30 minute sermon proclaiming Christ's sacrifice for the sinners in the pews.  If all I was going to do was tell them that Christ opened the pathway to heaven confess His Name and believe in their hearts God raised Him from the dead, well I'd just print it in the bulletin, sing a hymn or two, offer a prayer for the church and send them home.  Might take less than 1/2 hour.  I'm sorry brothers but I'm having the feeling some of you have raised the rightly administered Sacrament so high you're neglected the proclamation of the pure Gospel (hope I'm wrong about that)
"No particular Church has ... a right to existence, except as it believes itself the most perfect from of Christianity, the form which of right, should and will be universal."
Charles Porterfield Krauth

Pilgrim

Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 13, 2023, 07:59:07 PM
Quote from: Pilgrim on February 13, 2023, 03:36:05 PM
Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 12, 2023, 05:29:22 PM
Who in the world preaches a 10 minute sermon?  And why would anyone think that was sufficient for the care of souls in their congregation?  Even 20 minutes is barely enough.  Luther said we shouldn't preach more than an hour unless we had something especially important to say!

Having now sat in the pew as retired for a couple of years, I always strove for my sermons to be in the 10-12 minute range. The average lay person's attention span goes dull far more quickly than the average preacher thinks that they are stimulating orators. Good preached is, in my humble and retired opinion, far, far more difficult to find than preachers who think they are good preachers. Just saying!

While I agree that American attention spans are not what they were 60 years ago, they are still generally good enough in my experience to deal with a well laid out and presented 25-30 minute sermon proclaiming Christ's sacrifice for the sinners in the pews.  If all I was going to do was tell them that Christ opened the pathway to heaven confess His Name and believe in their hearts God raised Him from the dead, well I'd just print it in the bulletin, sing a hymn or two, offer a prayer for the church and send them home.  Might take less than 1/2 hour.  I'm sorry brothers but I'm having the feeling some of you have raised the rightly administered Sacrament so high you're neglected the proclamation of the pure Gospel (hope I'm wrong about that)

Tim comments: Word AND Sacrament are the twin poles of worship and the liturgy carries the freight. I have occasionally heard longer sermons that were very edifying. However, the best Gospel sermons I've heard are memorable quickly and succinctly. I worked in broadcasting for many years. 60-seconds became too long for a commercial unless it was quickly memorable. 30-second became the norm. We're down to 15-seconds these days. They do not air infomercials during normal TV shows. In our "sound-bite" social media meme based culture, the attention span of most folks is being eroded. We would do well to pay attention to what our parishioners are truly hearing and taking with them.

I would suggest that most of us (me included for which I pray God forgive me) get enamored with the sound of our own voice and the egocentric oration of our own learning. FWIW.

Tim
Pr. Tim Christ, STS

Dave Benke

Quote from: Pilgrim on February 13, 2023, 09:41:31 PM
Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 13, 2023, 07:59:07 PM
Quote from: Pilgrim on February 13, 2023, 03:36:05 PM
Quote from: Terry W Culler on February 12, 2023, 05:29:22 PM
Who in the world preaches a 10 minute sermon?  And why would anyone think that was sufficient for the care of souls in their congregation?  Even 20 minutes is barely enough.  Luther said we shouldn't preach more than an hour unless we had something especially important to say!

Having now sat in the pew as retired for a couple of years, I always strove for my sermons to be in the 10-12 minute range. The average lay person's attention span goes dull far more quickly than the average preacher thinks that they are stimulating orators. Good preached is, in my humble and retired opinion, far, far more difficult to find than preachers who think they are good preachers. Just saying!

While I agree that American attention spans are not what they were 60 years ago, they are still generally good enough in my experience to deal with a well laid out and presented 25-30 minute sermon proclaiming Christ's sacrifice for the sinners in the pews.  If all I was going to do was tell them that Christ opened the pathway to heaven confess His Name and believe in their hearts God raised Him from the dead, well I'd just print it in the bulletin, sing a hymn or two, offer a prayer for the church and send them home.  Might take less than 1/2 hour.  I'm sorry brothers but I'm having the feeling some of you have raised the rightly administered Sacrament so high you're neglected the proclamation of the pure Gospel (hope I'm wrong about that)

Tim comments: Word AND Sacrament are the twin poles of worship and the liturgy carries the freight. I have occasionally heard longer sermons that were very edifying. However, the best Gospel sermons I've heard are memorable quickly and succinctly. I worked in broadcasting for many years. 60-seconds became too long for a commercial unless it was quickly memorable. 30-second became the norm. We're down to 15-seconds these days. They do not air infomercials during normal TV shows. In our "sound-bite" social media meme based culture, the attention span of most folks is being eroded. We would do well to pay attention to what our parishioners are truly hearing and taking with them.

I would suggest that most of us (me included for which I pray God forgive me) get enamored with the sound of our own voice and the egocentric oration of our own learning. FWIW.

Tim

Great post, Tim.  "Memorable quickly and succinctly."  Preach it! 

Dave Benke
It's OK to Pray

Mike in Pennsylvania

I saw a report in Christianity Today of a study which showed that preachers consistently underestimated the actual length of their sermons, whether they were 10 minute preachers or hour long preachers.  They compared the time the preachers thought they had used versus the actual timed length.  Just saying.
NALC Interim Pastor

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