The focus of my sermon from April 26 was about making space for Jesus in our daily lives, that we might recognize His presence. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we might not always recognize Jesus’ presence with us until we break out of our usual patterns of activity and expectation.
One of the ways that we can do that is by taking time to read Scripture on a regular basis, which is something that many of us would like to do, but often find it hard to do: Where should we begin? What should we read? How much should we read?
“What to read?”
You are probably familiar with the lectionary as a list of readings assigned for Sundays throughout the year, and it operates on a three year cycle.
But that’s only one kind of lectionary, and there are lots of others.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) also has a two-year daily lectionary from our Book of Common Worship. You can find the readings online at https://pma.pcusa.org/devotion/ . That page is updated every day to show the current day’s readings.
I decided that what I wanted to get back into the habit of reading the Daily Lectionary.
In case that’s unclear, let me be explicit: reading the Daily Lectionary was a spiritual practice that I had done regularly in the past but stopped doing. Why? I don’t have a good answer why. I enjoyed doing it when I was doing it, but eventually I fell out of the habit. (Yes, that happens to pastors too.)
“What is in the Daily Lectionary?”
The daily lectionary consists of 7 readings:
- 2 Psalms (morning)
3 Readings (mid-day)
2 Psalms (evening)
Now, I know you may be thinking, “Seven readings?!?” but these are not long readings.
In fact usually they are fairly short, compared to readings that we usually have for a Sunday worship service.
How long will this take each day? Looking at the readings from the past two weeks’, I can tell you that reading all 7 of them takes an average of 13 minutes per day. The shortest day was about 10 minutes, and the longest was about 17 minutes.
If you can take 20 minutes a day, you can do this.
The mid-day readings usually include one reading from the Hebrew Bible, one reading from the epistles, and one reading from the Gospels.
Those suggested times are just suggestions. You can read them all at once, or divide them differently.
When I was reading them regularly before, I found it worked best for me to read the two “morning Psalms” and the three “mid-day” readings early in the day, and then I would read the 2 evening Psalms when I went to bed.
There’s no wrong way to do it.
“Does it matter if we are all reading the same thing?”
If you already have a daily devotional that you are reading and enjoy, then I would recommend that you keep using it.
However, if you have struggled to make Scripture reading a regular part of your spiritual life, this might help, and I think there is a benefit to knowing that others are reading the same thing that you are.
It’s nice to have a shared experience, and it can also give us something to talk about: “What did you think of today’s reading?” or “One of yesterday’s readings really spoke to me…” etc.
As I started to think about this, I wondered how we could read “in community” even at a time when we cannot come together. At first I thought about doing it over Zoom, but that didn’t seem like the right answer. But I wanted to do something to help make this a part of our daily lives.
Then an idea came to me…
“What if I read them to you?”
I still remember my parents reading to me when I was young. They read to me for many years. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when they finally stopped, but I remember thinking, “I bet most of my friends aren’t still getting read to by their parents.”
I have always enjoyed reading, but a few years ago I started listening to audiobooks, and re-discovered the joy of having someone read to me.
Now I’d like to make that same offer to you.
I will read each day’s lectionary readings for you to listen to whenever you want: early in the morning, late at night, or spread throughout the day.
If you want to read along, you can do that very easily.
If you want to just listen, that’s fine too.
If you just want to know what the daily readings are so that you can read them yourself, that’s a great option as well.
“How can I listen?”
There are several ways to access these recordings, so if you do not know how to do it one way, keep reading, and maybe you’ll find another option you like better.
Try not to be intimidated if you aren’t comfortable with some of the technological options, and choose whatever works best for your preference and comfort level.
If none of the options for listening feel comfortable to you, there is still another option.
Option 1: Listen as a Podcast
If you already know what a podcast is and how to use them, then all you need to know is that you should use https://feedpress.me/lectionary as the link to subscribe.
You can also search for “Daily Lectionary” in the iTunes Podcast Directory; however, if you do that, please note that there are more than one with similar titles, so look for either my name (Timothy J. Luoma) or the picture of the Plattsburgh church which is what I used for the image associated with the podcast.
Each day’s readings will go up at midnight on the day of the assigned reading, so no matter how early in the morning you get up, it should be available for you.
Each episode also includes links to the text of the readings, in case you want to read along as you listen.
Option 2: Receive Links via Daily Email
If you don’t know what a podcast is, or would rather get a link via email, you can use this link: https://feed.press/e/mailverify?feed_id=lectionary to do that.
Note: To sign up, you will need to enter your email address, then you will receive an email with a link. You must click that link in the email you receive in order to confirm that you want to receive the daily emails.
You will receive one email each day with a link to the page for today’s readings. Click the link, and you will find a web page where you can listen (and read along, if you’d like).
(Unfortunately, there is no way to have the actual audio file delivered via email, but the link should make it almost as easy to get as if it was in your email.)
Option 3: Read (and Bookmark!) a Web Page
If you do not want to use either of those options, you go to this page: https://feedpress.me/lectionary.
From there, you can see and listen to the past several episodes.
I recommend adding it to your browser’s “bookmarks” or “favorites,” so you can quickly get back to it.
I will also see if we can add a link to that page from the church’s webpage.
Option 4: Read using your own Bible and a printed reference guide
You can also find printable lists at https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/lectionary/ of the readings for each month in 2020 (or for the entire year, if you want).
Make Space for Jesus
This idea may not appeal to everyone, and that’s OK. Spiritual practices are not a “One Size Fits All” situation. But if you’ve struggled to do this before, maybe this option will help.
As always, I recommend being gracious to yourself. God is more interested in your making an effort than “beating yourself up” if you don’t feel like your efforts are good enough. It’s a learned skill and a learned habit, and any new practice will take time to become a part of your daily routine.
Let me assure you that I have plenty of failed attempts in my “spiritual history” of things I wanted to do. I have boxes (not “a box” but literally plural “boxes”) of empty journals with pages that were never written in, or which were written in for the first 1–10 pages.
The only people who haven’t failed at developing a spiritual practice are those who have never tried to start one.
The good news is each day we wake up gives us another chance to try again.
My hope is that you never give up trying, and that this might help at least some people during this time, even if it does not become a daily practice for everyone.