Something great about the ACNA Daily Office Lectionary is that it has a return to the fantastically simple style of our 16th and 17th century lectionaries of reading one chapter at a time. Back then, that reading pace typically applied both to the OT and NT daily readings, whereas for us it’s mostly just the OT readings that are thus treated. It’s so much easier when you don’t have to fiddle about with “what verse to stop with” – just read one chapter at a time, and continue it tomorrow. Simple!
The downside with this approach, of course, is that some chapters are longer than others. When I tried a 1662-inspired lectionary, at first I found this irritating. But eventually I came to appreciate the variety of length: sometimes you get a longer story, sometimes it’s short and sweet. Nevertheless, some chapters are just really long compared to others.
This morning brings us to one such example: Genesis 41. Clocking in at 57 verses, this chapter packs a punch with two lengthy pieces of the story of Joseph in Egypt. The first 36 verses detail his interaction with the Pharaoh and interpreting his dreams about the coming bounty and famine; the last 21 verses detail Joseph’s rise to power through the implementation of his vision-based proposal. It’d be nice to be able to break these up into two different readings, but there just isn’t enough space in the calendar to play with chapter divisions like this.
If you’re a completionist, using the lectionary to read as much of the Bible as possible each year, then you’ve just got to tough it up and read 57 verses in one go. If, however, you’re praying the Office with a lighter devotional approach, and concerned more about getting the sense of the Scriptures without necessarily reading each word – or if for some reason you need to shorten the reading or have a time limit for the Office as a whole – there is another way.
The ACNA lectionary comes equipped with an “Optional abbreviation” for a number of the larger chapter readings throughout the year. The entry in the lectionary table for this morning’s Old Testament reading is:
Gen 41 † 1-15,25-40
This means that if you want to shorten the chapter, simply read verses 1-15, then skip to 25 and read through verse 40. In so doing, you cut out a fair bit of repetition (which is very common in Hebrew storytelling), and abbreviate the lengthy description of the honors Joseph went on to receive, as well as cut out the implementation of the plan that was already described and approved.
Here’s an interesting analogy: reading chapter 41 in its entirety is like reading a sermon, whereas reading the shortened version (vv 1-15,25-40) is like reading the blog post summary of the sermon. The full version has a beginning, middle and end: “This is what we need to do, this is what we will do, this is what they did.” A good sermon format is often similar: “This what I’m going to say, this is me saying, this is what I said.” The blog post version is much more succinct: “Ain’t nobody got time for dis, so here’s the deal.”
Personally, I’m a big fan of reading the Bible in full throughout the year. If we seriously believe it is the Word of God in literary form then we really ought to be poring through its pages diligently, consistently, and completely. But as a stay-at-home parent with young children I have come to appreciate all the more how truly difficult it can be for many people to carve out that time for the longer Scripture readings. So while I see the full-chapter readings in lectionaries like ours to be the ideal to reach for, I must assure you that there is no shame in opting for the shortened version as need arises.