Here’s the TL:DR for this review: Buy this book already or put it on a holiday request list now. End of story. (This review is for the Year W book, but I also recommend the Year A resource as well.)
While I do read many scholarly books, and I read all the material in the books, I have no idea when I last read and was deeply moved by a book that featured a discussion of Boolean search terms in the introductory material. In order to create the quilted document (long-lasting, detailed, required special care AND comforting) of this lectionary, the Reverend Dr. Wil Gafney went beyond her own translation work. She dug into the scriptural text, with the expectations of a 4 readings per worship lectionary, and pieced together the stories of the women of scripture. A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church: Year W is a multi-use tool for congregational worship or study, personal devotion or study, and scholarly reflection and interpretation.
Each lectionary set pairs 4 texts- a narrative portion of the Hebrew scripture, a Psalm, an Epistle portion, and a selection from the Gospels. The readings are coordinated with the theme of the day and the season and with the overarching goal of lifting up the people of these stories and as we reflect on them, we are opened by the Spirit to deeper reflection and meditation on the nature of the Rock Who Gave Us Birth.
Dr. Gafney consulted with a wide variety of people as she did this work and it was the privilege of many in this organization (RevGalBlogPals, Inc) to be part of that conversation. You can find on-going conversation about it in our Facebook group. I commend you to Gafney’s own website for further reflection and for conversation on implementing this lectionary in your own context.
While many friends and colleagues have already dived into this resource and are using it for Advent, perhaps you are already overwhelmed by Advent planning. Conversely, your Advent might have been set before the conversation began. In this case, I offer for your reflection one of my favorite sets of readings from this lectionary. It is a prime example of the unexpected and thought-provoking nature of Gafney’s scholarship and this tool for worship.
The readings for Good Friday are Judges 11:29-40, Psalm 22, Hebrews 12:1-4, and Luke 22:14-23:56. As a person who strives to break through the assumptions of substitutionary atonement in a variety of ways, Gafney’s translations, plus her text notes and preaching prompts, prevent this sacred day from falling into its usual rut. If we are disgusted by the story of a human father sacrificing his daughter to fulfill a vow, why would we embrace a narrative of a Heavenly Parent doing the same thing? How does our own grief (Psalm 22) and our understanding of a wide variety of persons in the cloud of witnesses affect this interpretation and our meditation in the Great Three Days?
For this reviewer, the revolutionary nature of the Good Friday readings underscores why this lectionary is needed and needed now. I purchased my own copy and have plans to gift copies to several people upon their ordination. I highly recommend you do the same.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Big Timber Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Big Timber, MT. She blogs sometimes at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She serves on the board of RevGalBlogPals, Inc. and is working on a book about the fruits of the Spirit.
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