The new Lectionary
Year C - the year of St Luke
Last months magazine contained an introduction to the new scripture readings we are now using in church, following the Revised Common Lectionary. During Advent and Christmas you will have noticed very little difference. The readings were changed slightly but the themes were the familiar ones, looking forward to the coming of Christ and celebrating his coming into the world. During January the themes will again be very obvious and specific - the Epiphany, the Baptism of Jesus, the Conversion of St Paul. The services on these days will, of course, use the passages from scripture which directly relate to the stories from whichever gospel is most relevant.
However, from the beginning of February you will find that there is a change of approach. From February to Holy Week, and then again from Trinity to next Advent, we shall only be hearing the Gospel according to St Luke. Week by week it is Lukes viewpoint and interpretation of the life of Jesus which we shall receive. If we are to stay with Luke for a whole year, journeying with him along the way of Christ, seeing Jesus life and teaching through his eyes, then it seems a good idea to provide some background to Luke - who was he, who was he writing for, what were his own particular interests? What should we be looking out for as we read his words, that perhaps we would not expect in Matthew or Mark or John?
Nothing is known for certain about any of the Gospel writers. Our assumptions are based on tradition, backed up by insights from their writings. Taking this into account it is commonly agreed that Luke was a Gentile, probably a second-generation Christian from Antioch in Syria. He was an educated man who wrote stylish Greek with a poetic and artistic flair (the most beautiful book in the world, his gospel has been called). He was a doctor, a compassionate man, the companion of Paul on many of his travels. He was not a Jew, so we find little about Jewish customs and prophecies; he doesnt have a very precise knowledge of Palestine, probably only having visited the country for short periods. Lukes knowledge of the events of Jesus life come from Marks gospel written a number of years previously and from other written and oral eyewitness accounts, and yet his is the most comprehensive and most historical of the Gospels, telling the story of Jesus from before his birth to his Ascension into heaven.
Luke wrote his Gospel, specifically to a man called Theophilus of high rank in the Roman government, to tell him the truth about the Christian religion which Rome despised and condemned. But through Theophilus he was writing to a wider world, to convince them of the attractiveness of Jesus and the trustworthiness of his message.
As we work our way through Lukes gospel here are some of the characteristics you might look out for:
Each month the readings for the coming month are set out in the Diary at the back of the magazine. You may find it helpful to read these, and begin to think about them (perhaps noticing some of the points Ive mentioned above), before coming to church. You may like to explore a little deeper and buy a commentary on Luke, to help you understand more about the background and meaning.
Two very accessible books are those by William Barclay:
Both of these are available from the Congregational Bookshop in Castlegate and other Christian bookshops.
A deeper study which I would recommend is:
This may have to be ordered from a Penguin stockist.