The Revised Common Lectionary breaks away from the thematic harmony principle during the long season after Pentecost (Ordinary Time). Instead, three major segments of the Old Testament are read in sequence. In Year A, the common lectionary follows a semi-continuous reading of portions of Genesis and Exodus.
For the teacher or preacher who wants to share the power of the Old Testament story in a serial fashion, this is the time of year to do it! For a few weeks we’ve heard some of the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In mid-August, we begin a whole new chapter of salvation history. With Proper 17 (August 21), we shift from the ancient stories that gave Israel a sense of identity as a nation to the historic account of God’s call to Moses and the liberation of our biblical ancestors from slavery in Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, we hear of an oppressed people whose needs became known to a saving God.
I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . . And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Exodus 3:7-9
August 21: Proper 16 – The oppression of the Hebrews in Egypt and the birth of Moses – Despite Pharaoh’s best efforts to kill all the male babies born to Hebrew women, Moses had survived. Indeed, he had been raised in Pharaoh’s very household! A common biblical theme – nothing can hinder God’s purpose.
August 28: Proper 17 – The call of Moses – Today we hear one of the key stories of the Bible. In the coming weeks it will become more and more evident to us as Moses and the Israelites deepen their relationship with Yahweh (God – the “I am who I am”) in their wilderness wanderings.
September 4: Proper 18 – The Passover – As the faithful people gather year after year to remember the mighty acts of God, those acts become a present reality for them. It is an act of identity and empowerment for the people living in every generation.
September 11: Proper 19 – The crossing of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) – The event we hear today is the key story in the life of our biblical ancestors. The prayer that a bishop or priest says over the water as it is blessed at baptism refers back to the saving event at the Sea of Reeds.
September 18: Proper 20 – The manna and the quail – In our wilderness wandering, God feeds us with the manna that is the sacrament. (Read John 6:31-35 for an example of the kind of teaching that was done with manna in the early church.) However, it is important to respect the integrity of the original story and not to add Christian interpretations to the ancient narrative.
September 25: Proper 21 – The water from the rock – Another story told to show how God provided for the Hebrews during their wilderness wandering.
October 2: Proper 22 – The Ten Commandments – The Law of the Torah is actually composed of some 613 commandments. The Ten Commandments that we are familiar with give us an outline of the intention of the Law of Torah – our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
October 9: Proper 23 – The Golden Calf – The refusal of the people to put God first harks back to Adam’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.
October 16: Proper 24 – The prayer of Moses – After all the drama from the previous weeks, we encounter Moses in the Tent of Meeting as he prays for guidance. The Collect for Guidance (BCP p. 100) reflects this understanding of God’s constant presence.