Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jesus was baptised... as a baby?

The year of Luke has barely started, and I'm already having a gripe at the lectionary. For those who had more than enough the last time I wen't ballistic at the lectionary compilers, please forgive this additional outburst. I was doing some forward planning with our parish administrator this morning, and something struck us as rather odd about the chronology of the readings for the next month or so. Allow me to demonstrate:

Christmas day   –   Jesus' birth (Luke 2.1-20)
1st Sunday of Christmas   –   The twelve year old Jesus is found in the temple (Luke 2.41-52)
Epiphany   –   The infant Messiah is revealed to the Gentiles (Matthew 2.1-12)
Baptism of Christ   –   Jesus is baptised by John in the river Jordan (Luke 3.15-22)
3rd Sunday of Epiphany   –   The wedding at Canna (John 2.1-1)
4th Sunday of Epiphany   –   Jesus teaches in the Synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4.14-21)
Candlemas (if transferred to the Sunday)  –  The infant Jesus is presented in the temple (Luke 2.22-40)
Sunday before Lent   –   Jesus is transfigured (Luke 9.28-43)

That is a really strange chronology. Jesus is born, and then is found reasoning with teachers in the temple. Next Sunday he is an infant again, being adored by the Magi. The next Sunday he is being baptised (yes as a grown man). You then ge a couple of weeks of 'grown man Jesus' texts. But then Candlemas arrives and you are back at an infancy text. The next week, inexplicably, Jesus is transfigured.

I really cannot help but think that all of this shows how the church calendar consistently mangles the narrative of the gospels. I often hear laments about how people don't know the basic gospel story anymore... perhaps the reason for that can be found at our own doorstep? When Jesus is baptised before he is presented in the temple, confusion is completely understandable. I don't even want to think about how the feast of the naming and circumcision of Jesus can come after he was found in the temple as a twelve year old! 

I know that the lectionary is not supposed to be chronological, and that there are difficulties with easter changing date every year. However, if your study of the gospels comes solely, or even mainly through Sunday worship, the odds of having a pretty weird understanding of the events of Jesus' life are huge.

1 comment:

muriach9 said...

Is this a problem with the Common Worship Lectionary?

BCP supposes, as far as I can see, that people read >daily< morning and evening more or less straight through, with Sundays and Saints inserted into the sequence to mark the particular event. And events won't be conveniently sequential, because recorded events can fall in different years or decades or millenia.
If, on the other hand, you suppose that people only have contact on Sundays, you possibly ought to be starting from somewhere else altogether. Perhaps a properly sequenced series of homilies?