What’s a lectionary?

photo: lectionaryFor centuries, churches have used lectionaries to guide the structure and content of their worship. In the most general terms, lectionaries provide pre-selected sets of Scripture readings for use at specific times.

One of the most commonly used lectionaries for Western Christians is the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), a three-year cycle of scriptures that’s aligned with the traditional church calendar[1]. It is applied more or less strictly depending on the denomination and local congregation’s styles. Throughout the year, the RCL offers four Scripture passages for each week: two from the Old Testament (always including a Psalm) and two from the New (always including a passage from one of the Gospels).

At Mosaic, the RCL readings are the focus of the weekly devotionals we publish. In our Sunday services, we often use parts of them to open and close our services. Occasionally, we use them to set the tone for the whole service. This is especially true during major seasons and holidays, like Advent, Lent, and Easter.


[1] Again in the most general terms, the traditional church year contains several “seasons,” that contain specific holidays. The year begins with the Advent season, which is followed by Christmastide, Lent, Easter, and a couple of long stretches called Ordinary Time.

I love this name, “Ordinary Time.” It comes from the word “ordinal,” meaning counted, because the weeks of Ordinary Time are referred to in relation to the most recent major season or holiday, e.g., “the third Sunday after Pentecost.” But they are also a time when we’re not looking forward to or celebrating anything in particular except plain old discipleship–going about the business of living life as Christians. It’s both ordinary and profoundly important.

Photo Credits
Lectionary: Justin Taylor; CC BY 2.0