A Full Line-up for Epiphany

We are reading parts of the Sermon on the Mount that are almost never read in worship. This may not sound like an important revelation to you, but it fascinating for us lectionary geeks.

You may have noticed that Easter is very late this year—one day before the latest date possible. This is interesting, but not nearly as important as what this does to Epiphany. Epiphany is the little noticed church season that runs from the end of the Christmas season until Lent. Lent is always forty days long and ends with Easter. But the date for Easter is determined by a complicated formula called the computus. This is dependent on the Paschal Full Moon so it can vary by weeks each year. The place that the church calendar adjusts for this is in the length of Epiphany.

In the lectionary, the set of scripture readings for worship, there are nine Sundays in Epiphany. But we almost never have nine Sundays in Epiphany. There are often only four or five. So the scripture readings that are assigned to the later dates of Epiphany are seldom used. It is like being in the bottom of the batting order in baseball and having the inning shortened to six batters. The other three just have to sit in the dugout and watch.

What makes this important to me is that in year A of the lectionary (there are three years designated A, B, and C) we are reading from the gospel of Matthew and the latter Sundays of Epiphany contain a good part of the sermon on the mount. These are some of the greatest hits of Jesus and we often skip right over them—“salt of the earth,” ‘let your light shine,” “love your enemies,””be compassionate as your God is compassionate.” There is some great stuff here.

So this month of Epiphany Sundays has been a quite remarkable Biblical run. If you are still reading this and wondering why I am writing about it, it is to share with you these amazing lectionary facts. You may want to categorize this fascination as another one of the many ways that ministers are different from other people.