The Old, Old Stories
In our congregation, we use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for our Scripture Readings each week throughout the year. This lectionary is a set of preselected passages on a three-year cycle, and each week there four passages that we may include in our worship service. A complete list of these passages can be found at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu.
Lectionaries—whether the RCL or another one—help us follow the church year and cover a range of passages and topics. Since the RCL is on a three-year cycle, there is usually a significant space between repeated passages, but they do get repeated.
Of course, there are certain stories we revisit every year—Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost are the easy examples. Why do we do this? Why do we re-read and re-examine passages we’ve already taken a look at?
The week following Easter reminds me why. Despite the rotation, each year in the RCL, the Gospel Reading for this week remains the same. The passage is John 20:19-31. It’s the account of the disciples—and later Thomas—encountering the risen Christ. I’ve had to preach on this passage almost every year for longer than I’ve even been a pastor (e.g. as a seminary student or intern). Every year, I expect to basically repeat myself, and every year, I’m surprised that yet another new topic or angle catches my attention.
This passage reminds me of the importance and value of these ancient stories of our faith. There is always something more there to discover or consider from a different perspective. Moreover, we are people who grow in our own understanding of ourselves, our world, and our faith from one year to the next. So, new meanings and applications will reveal themselves as we find ourselves in the space to receive them from these sacred texts. It’s almost as if these stories grow with us, or maybe we grow into them.
Do you have a favorite passage from Scripture you find yourself returning to from time to time? The next time you read those verses, allow yourself to contemplate the fresh meanings or additional nuances that catch your eye or ear. There is a reason we still study these words and find them teaching us new lessons thousands of years later.
“I love to tell the story;
’Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love.”*
* “I Love to Tell the Story,” Text by Katherine Hankey, 1834-1911. Public Domain.