Breaking Rules in Church

Sunday's sermon on Jesus' first, and possibly shortest, sermon in the gospel of Luke almost stayed true to the lectionary. The lectionary is a crutch for preachers like me. Each Sunday the Revised Common Lectionary suggests scripture as the focus for worship and preaching. I like abdicating this responsibility because I don't trust myself with the power to pick the scripture for Sunday worship.

If it was up to me, we'd read a narrative text from the Gospel of Mark every Sunday, Jesus would always be nice, my faithfulness would not be challenged, and someone would inevitably be healed. But the ten passages in Mark that fit this criteria make for a short cycle. So on most occasions I surrender to the scripture dictated by the lectionary.

On Sunday, the lectionary messed up. Luke 4:14-21 was the gospel text for the day. Read it here.

The passage should have concluded with verse 22, which noted the condescending response of the crowd gathered in the synagogue after Jesus' bold claim that he fulfills Israel's longing for a savior:

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

To follow the strict suggestion of the lectionary and leave off verse 22 unexplainably avoids a glaring conflict in the text and leaves the preacher without a sermonic gem. The gospel writer of Luke positions Jesus in his hometown for his first teaching. And while any number of applicable interpretations can be deduced without v.22, the conflict predicted in v.16 when we are told, as if we didn't know, that Jesus was raised in Nazareth. So why not let the gospel writer finish what he started Dr. Lectionary?

We added it back to the reading on Sunday. I must admit that altering the lection sounds easier now than it did at the time. I regret that at the time it seemed like I was changing the Bible.

Related to my rant and regret is a larger point. Namely, there are times when tradition and order can be confused with traditionalism and paralysis. Not every thing old is accurate, and not everything new is better.