The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one. — John 17: 22
In the 1970s there was a strong desire among churches to work together. There was a sense that the divisions between congregations had for too long kept people apart and fostered competition and not cooperation. In an effort to collaborate, a common lectionary was developed. A lectionary is a cycle of biblical passages that are read on a regular basis. The new common lectionary, first published in 1973, had a three-year cycle of four weekly readings: an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a reading from a Gospel, and a passage from an epistle (like one of Paul’s letters). This original lectionary has been revised three times. The last revision was in 1994.
In practical terms, this means that thousands of congregations around the world, read the same Bible passages on Sunday morning. In our congregation, we usually chose one as the focus of the Sunday worship. For instance, on Sunday, September 11 it is I Timothy 1:12-17. Because we chose a particular passage in advance, it allows us to coordinate the music, prayers, and preaching. It also means that we have access to hundreds of printed and online resources. These resources include educational, scholarly, artistic and liturgical pieces that help build common cause among churches and their people.
Finally, the use of the lectionary helps congregations expand their exposure to more parts of the Bible. Over a three-year cycle, each of the gospels are read, hundreds of Old Testament passages are read and most of the epistles appear in the list of readings.
In all these ways, the Revised Common Lectionary helps make the prayer of Jesus “That they may all be one,” come closer to becoming realized.
The many ways churches have found to pull apart can be answered by finding ways to pull together. In our prayer we may join Jesus in praying for the unity of the church.
Throughout the world, O God we find sisters and brothers in faith and discover their differences and celebrate our commonality. Help us to find new ways to be brought together, so that the unity you desire becomes the unity we know. Amen.