For a long time I was in the habit of reading all four Lectionary texts before going to church on Sunday. My church at that time didn’t necessarily follow the Lectionary readings, but it was a devotional habit that helped give shape to the year in terms of the Christian story. (For a great introduction to what the Lectionary is, click here.) The more I read, the more I became interested in the space that was created when all four texts were read together. Put another way, if each passage was a different voice sitting around the kitchen table, what would their conversations be about from Sunday to Sunday?
This past Sunday, a few friends and I got together to do an experiment to test this question. I chose the texts from the last Sunday of the liturgical year, November 28th, The Reign of Christ Sunday, or more traditionally, Christ the King Sunday. I printed each passage out separately and gave one to each person. I deliberately did not read them myself, so as not to bias the conversation. We each had a pair of scissors and a pencil. As we began we each read over our passage a few times to familiarize ourselves with our text, but we did not read them out loud to each other.
When everyone was ready, I gave the invitation for anyone to cut out any phrase or verse that seemed like a good “conversation starter”. We looked at that phrase, and whoever felt that something in their passage responded to the opener in a fitting way also cut out a phrase, sentence or verse, and taped it to the first line. We continued in this way until we had used every line from each of the four passages.
I imagine that every time this would be done, and with every different group of people, the “conversation” would be different because the people are different. Thinking of the biblical text as the “living word” would mean that it would continue to unfold and take on new meaning every time it is read, through every circumstance and experience of life.
I would love to know what you hear these texts to be “talking about”. Here’s the “transcript” of the conversation between Jeremiah 23.1-6, Psalm 46, Luke 23.33-43, and Colossians 1.11-20 (New Revised Standard Version):
(Col 11-12) May you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father.
(Luke 35) And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying,
(Jer 1-2) Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord.
(Ps 1-3) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, thought he earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. (Selah)
(Col 11) May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and
(Luke 43) He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Col 13-15) He has rescued us form the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Ps 7-8) The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Selah) Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
(Jer 3-4) The I myself with gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply
(Col 18b) so that he might come to have first place in everything
(Ps 10-11) “Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nation, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Selah)
(Jer 6) In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
(Col 12b) who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.
(Luke 41) And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.
(Ps 9) He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the blow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
(Jer 5) The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
(Col 16-18) for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
(Col 15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation
(Luke 38-40) There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”
(Col 20) and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
(Luke 35-37) “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
(Ps 6) The nations are in uproar, the kingdoms totter;
(Luke 34) [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they case lots to divide his clothing.
(Jer 4) I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
(Luke 42) Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
(Col 19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
(Ps 5) God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it
(Luke 33) When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
(Ps 4) There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
(Ps 6b) He utters his voice, the earth melts.
(Ps 5) The morning dawns.