For Teaching, Reproof, Correction, and Training in Righteousness, Issue 95
September 15, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation
Ezekiel was surrounded by the ‘likeness’ of the glory of the LORD, and he heard ‘someone’ speaking: “eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:1). Each week, pastors continue to eat what is offered to them, and continue to speak to the community of faith. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation will offer brief studies of Scripture that may be useful to pastors in teaching and preaching God’s word.
“Two Cheers for the Lectionary.” That was the title of an essay David Buttrick once wrote for Reformed Liturgy & Music. There were several reasons for his “two cheers,” and several for his withholding of a “third cheer.” Both weekly and daily lectionaries help us to read Scripture more comprehensively, not restricting ourselves to familiar and comfortable passages. But lectionaries are also limited, skipping over passages that are strange, obscure, or out of sync with contemporary sensibilities.
I have used the daily lectionary for many years. Its setting out of Psalms, Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels has been an important part of my daily prayer. But I have recently abandoned it, at least for a time. Instead, I am praying all of the psalms, in sequence; I am currently reading through Isaiah, one chapter a day; I have finished a chapter a day with Matthew; and I am now reading through Romans, a few verses at a time, together with Karl Barth’s bracing commentary. I am trying to read more slowly, with more time for contemplation. This has helped me be more alert to the text and to what the words have to say to me. I have only been doing this for a few weeks, but already I have been surprised by new insights into God’s way with us through Isaiah, Matthew, and Romans.
As an example, I have long been familiar with Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard” in Isaiah 5:1-7. It is a poignant, yet disturbing depiction of God’s care, our indifference, and God’s judgment upon us. What I have not been familiar with – or what I forgot – is a second “Song of the Vineyard” in Isaiah 27:2-6. I won’t give it all away. Instead, open your Bible, read Isaiah 5:1-7 slowly, knowing that it is not just about ancient Israel, for it is addressed to us as well. Then read Isaiah 27:2-6 slowly, and contemplate what both songs have to tell us about God and God’s way with the church, and with each of us.
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