Preachers find, share resources for lectionary-based preaching
Many ministers have textweek.com bookmarked on their computers — at least those ministers (including a growing number of Baptists) whose preaching or teaching follows the three-year cycle of scripture texts as designated by the Revised Common Lectionary.
“This is a resource I use as a supplement to my research in commentaries and other traditional print resources that I have on the shelves in my study,” said Stephen Cook, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Memphis, Tenn. “I find it to be a very accessible resource for a wide cross-section of materials.”
Cook said he is impressed with the “enormous amount of information” for each Sunday’s scripture readings.
“What I most often utilize are the site’s links to articles from various academic journals, homiletics professors and other local congregational ministers,” he added.
Worship planners, said Cook, have access to prayers and litanies that can add “new perspectives and fresh voices” to worship services — especially during seasons of the Christian year such as Advent and Lent.
“I will often explore the offerings they provide from different denominational backgrounds to add depth and perspective to these seasons with which Baptists are still, generally speaking, less at home.”
David S. Naglee, a district superintendent in the North Georgia Conference of United Methodists, considers a login to Textweek a weekly exercise for sermon preparation.
“I particularly appreciate the incredible collection of commentary and exegesis articles for each text of the day as well as links to more in-depth journal articles,” he said. “There is a wealth of material in one place that always offers a new insight and fresh perspective on the text.”
Preaching professor Brett Younger of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology recommends the site to his students.
“When I started teaching preaching, I recommended that students look at the major commentaries like Interpretation and New Interpreter’s,” he said. “But when they turned in their sermons the footnotes were from bad websites like desperatepreacher.com and getmeasermonquick.org.”
He realized that “most preachers are more likely to visit the Internet than the library.” So he started directing his students to Textweek — “because it is both thoughtful and accessible.”
Now he logs into the site during class to discuss with students the best way to use the many resources found there.
For many Baptists, Younger noted, following the church year and preaching from lectionary-designated texts is a new discovery.
“In the churches in which I grew up we had high, holy days, but most of them did not go back centuries or have much to do with the history of the church,” he said.
“We celebrated the Sunday before Christmas (though we never had a Christmas Eve service), New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service, Spring Revival, Youth Revival (which was in the gym because sometimes the special music included a guitar), Easter (but never Good Friday), Mother’s Day (but not much on Father’s Day), Promotion Day, High Attendance Day, Fall Revival, and G.A. Coronation.”
So he was pleasantly surprised a couple of Decembers ago when, during a phone conversation with his Southern Baptist mother, she mentioned Advent.
“I almost dropped the phone. ‘Mom, are you observing Advent?’ She explained that it was a new thing; they had just gotten some material from Nashville,” he said with a laugh.
Younger notes that for centuries, most churches and most Christians throughout the world have shared an understanding of the church year that grows out of the central stories in scripture.
“The seasons of the church year parallel the seasons of our faith,” he added. “We live with the kind of expectation that we feel at Advent, the hope we celebrate at Christmas and the promise we remember at Epiphany.”
“We live with the penitence we confess at Lent, the sorrow we know in Holy Week and the joy we experience at Easter,” he continued. “We are becoming the church we see at Pentecost.”
The longest season of the Christian year, Younger noted, is labeled “ordinary time” or “common time” — adding that “most of our days feel ordinary.”
Hence he recommends Textweek and other resources attuned to the church year to his students preparing to lead or already actively leading in worship.
This online trove of preaching/teaching resources — textweek.com — is the brainchild and ministry of Jenee Woodard, a Bible scholar and United Methodist who lives in Jackson, Mich. Nurturing Faith editor John D. Pierce asked her about the home-based ministry that has widespread use and influence.
By John D. Pierce
“I am aware that my website reflects my own theological leanings, and am always looking especially for material with which I disagree.”
Q & A with Jenee Woodard
NF: How did the idea for Textweek come about?
JW: Textweek began in about 1996 when my then 2-year-old son was being diagnosed with autism. I was applying to various schools to study text criticism, and it very quickly became obvious that the severity of his disability would make it impossible for me to study in traditional ways.
Yet, the Internet was new, and I could see ways to look at comparative texts (commentaries, etc.) quite easily by indexing them on the same HTML pages. So, Textweek was created for my own study and my own interest in how different Christians throughout time have seen texts differently and lived them out differently.
NF: What is the mission of Textweek?
JW: The mission of Textweek has gone beyond that of my own study to help-ing pastors and others in the church see other interpretations of the text than they might be most easily drawn to. Just as I find it interesting and helpful to see alternate interpretations, I like to present links to alternate interpretations of texts.
NF: Have you discovered a growing interest in lectionary-based preaching?
JW: I have been interested in lectionary-based preaching since I went to Augustana College (now Augustana University) in Sioux Falls, S.D., a Lutheran school.
I used the lectionary as I set up “The Text This Week” because it provided a convenient scaffold for deciding what a pericope would be, and for organizing the work. People who are not preaching on the lectionary can use the scripture index to get to the material without using the lectionary.
NF: How do you gather content, and what are the parameters for the kind of materials you post?
JW: I gather content by looking for leads in current material and social media. Very often, people send me links to their own work. I will link pretty much anything that says something.
I am aware that my website reflects my own theological leanings, and am always looking especially for material with which I disagree.
NF: How would you suggest a newcomer approach the site?
JW: Lectionary preachers should be able to follow the indexes to find what they’re looking for. The pages are long, and I am looking at some ways to make finding things easier. Others can use the scripture index.
NF: What good evidence have you seen that the site is widely used and appreciated?
JW: My website statistics show between many hundreds of thousands to over a million readers using well over two to four million pages per month. And I get emails from people who find my work useful. I always appreciate them.
NF: How can those who value Textweek contribute to its success?
JW: Those who value Textweek can use it and enjoy it and pray for me as I put the links together.
I also can always use donations, and there is a “support” link on the front page of the website. Businesses, schools and organizations can advertise at the site, though I only take “on subject” ads and not those that do not further the mission of the website. NFJ