What essentially defines the liturgical church, aside from the regular receiving of Holy Communion, is the systematic reading of the entire Bible over a three-year period by assigned readings in a Common Lectionary. Additionally, this systematic reading is conforms to a one year cycle which we refer to as the Liturgical Year or Church Year. This cycle introduces themes such as Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost which roughly relate to the Jewish Calendar and the appointed feast days of God. (See Liturgical Calendar.)
Why a fixed schedule of readings? This follows the ancient tradition of the synagogue that was in effect in the time of Christ. Jesus was asked to read the assigned text in His hometown. Do such readings limit the preacher’s range of options and, perhaps, hamper the Holy Spirit from acting freely in the sermon preparation? Not necessarily, although they could if not properly understood. Jesus preached under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We must do likewise. (Of, course what we say may not always be well-received.)
The Lectionary essentially gives three readings: from a Book of the Old Testament, from a New Testament Epistle, and from the Gospel, together with a responsive reading from the Book of Psalms. These resources should offer a broad range of preaching material. But what if they do not fit the sermon the preacher had in mind. The problem is with the word “sermon.” We are not preaching sermons. We are giving a prophetic word from the appointed scriptures. Appointed means we must preach from the whole of scripture. It is too easy to neglect parts of scripture in favor of parts that we find of personal interest.
Which one of readings should we give emphasis in our preaching? Usually the answer is not any one in particular but rather we should preach from the whole of the readings. They often fit together because it is quite evident that they were carefully selected. It is often better to interpret any one scripture in context with other scriptures. Of course the appointed lessons may suggest other readings from the Bible. Nothing should prevent us from bringing in additional readings. Naturally we must respect people’s time.
The liturgy, when properly used should help open doors to God and not close them. The liturgy is not designed to restrict the Holy Spirit. Rather, the Spirit has helped establish and refine the liturgy over many years. Our liturgy today is the liturgy of the Synagogue with the added feature of Holy Communion as ordained by Jesus. It is both evangelical and pentecostal. One church or denomination does not own it. Christ is the head of the Church and the liturgy. Are we under Christ?
Excellent resource materials for those who are new to liturgical worship may be found at The Voice.