Eco-Justice Ministries has identified six ways in which the Revised Common Lectionary makes it difficult for preachers and worship planners to affirm themes of creation care. Those who are intentional about planning environmentally-relevant worship do have many options for addressing those themes, depending on whether or not the congregation is committed to using the Lectionary.
If you are currently using the lectionary on a regular basis, you might:
- Be sure to emphasize strong eco-justice passages when they do appear in the lectionary. Eco-Justice Ministries is compiling an extensive listing of creation-care texts that are – and are not – included in the lectionary. Consider extending lectionary readings by a few verses to include creation references that the lectionary does not include (adjacent verses, or skipped passages).
The Minnesota Episcopal Environmental Stewardship Commission has a helpful listing of all lectionary selections for the three year cycle which highlights a key reading for each Sunday.
- Pay more attention to the Psalms as a source for sermons and liturgy.
- If your denomination's policies allow, stretch beyond the lectionary for resources in other parts of worship planning – prayers, responsive readings, etc. Select from the wide variety of materials that highlight themes of creation and justice. Look for materials that emphasize how we are embedded in community: with all people, with all creation, and into future generations.
- Be very attentive to hymns and other music used in worship. If you are seeking out hymns about creation, look carefully at the theology that is expressed. Many "creation" hymns place humanity is a controlling role, or see us as largely separate from the rest of creation. Some hymns look at the rest of creation primarily in terms of aesthetic beauty, or as resources for our use.
- Be sure to select major educational curricula are not also lectionary based. If worship themes are defined by the lectionary, educational and spiritual formation programming should be especially intentional about studying and reflecting on other sections of the Bible. (The Eco-Justice Ministries website has extensive reviews of almost 100 curricula for children, youth and adults.)
These first five steps do not break away from, or add to, the lectionary. They are intentional choices that can be made by worship leaders in settings where the lectionary must be used to highlight texts and perspectives that are not well represented within the lectionary.
A range of other options are available for those who wish to – and are able to – break away from the lectionary readings. These options also work well for those who do not use the lectionary on a regular basis.
- Use the "Season of Creation" readings and resources for a four week period in September-October. (In some Episcopal diocese, the Season of Creation is an accepted alternative to the regular lectionary readings.)
- Develop occasional sermons based on texts that are never found in the lectionary, or that are awkwardly paired. (For example, the wonderful story of the Tower of Babel, which speaks to the human desire to be god-like, is always paired with the Pentecost story.)
- Plan a sermon series to reinforce a theme that is poorly developed in the lectionary: surprising texts that show Earth community, the challenge of the prophets, the consequences of human sin, etc.
- Use the entire season from Pentecost to Advent (“ordinary time”) for worship that speaks to the crises that we are facing – because these are not “ordinary times”.
- Follow an alternative lectionary for an entire year. A “Shalom Lectionary” from the 1980s is available that brings a very different structure and balance of texts. Some church leaders are proposing the development of an eco-justice lectionary.