This evening, the ACNA daily lectionary begins reading through 1 Thessalonians. It just completed the Epistle to the Galatians, which could be said to have some thematic links to the Circumcision / Holy Name on January 1st and the Epiphany on the 6th. But 1 Thessalonians, often known for its attention to the subject of the return of Christ, doesn’t really have much connection with the Epiphany season. So what’s the logic here?
It must be remembered, first of all, that this is a simple lectionary; its purpose is to take us through the Bible with as little interruption and skipping around as possible. Normally, this would mean going through the Epistles in canonical order (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, etc.). But for this lectionary it seems the designers decided to bring us through chronologically, starting with the Epistles of St. Paul. Galatians is thought to be his earliest, followed by those to the Thessalonians, then the Corinthians, and so on. When the Pauline Epistles are finished in early April, the General Epistles are covered (Hebrews, James, Peter, Jude, John) into late May. Then the cycle will be ready to repeat soon after.
Some readers may lament the decision to use the ‘secular calendar’ for our lectionary, rather than the liturgical calendar. But 1) the daily lectionaries in the Prayer Books followed the secular calendar for centuries before switching over to the liturgical one, 2) this way is simpler and more accessible to more people, and 3) with our version of the Revised Common Lectionary at the Sunday Eucharist, we already get a lot of seasonally-appropriate Scripture readings. The Daily Office Lectionary doesn’t need to pick up that task in addition.
So as you pick up 1 Thessalonians tonight, keep in mind that you’re walking through the written legacy of Saint Paul, and don’t try to force connections with the Epiphany season.