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A Women’s Lectionary For The Whole Church: A Multi-Gospel Single-Year Lectionary

by Wilda C Gafney

Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, 2021

Review by Christopher Burkett, Editor

<strong><em>A Women’s Lectionary For The Whole Church: A Multi-Gospel Single-Year Lectionary</em></strong>

Don’t be put off by the title of this book. This isn’t just a lectionary of biblical readings. It does so much more than simply arranging worship Bible use according to particular principles – although those principles are in themselves well applied and insightful. This is a book that I have returned to again and again whilst it’s been on my desk. It provides innumerable stirring thoughts for any and every preacher. Let me list a few ways I have found it to be a veritable treasure trove:

First, Professor Gafney provides her own translation of the Bible passages chosen. If you, like me, are one of those preachers who uses multiple English translations to ‘get into’ a passage, then Gafney will give you plenty to think on. In naming God, she ranges far beyond the traditional ‘THE LORD,’ but never without careful attention to the purpose of the naming being suggested. Similarly, she obliterates the problematic dichotomy that puts white and light with what is ‘good’ and black and dark with what is ‘bad’. John 1:5 becomes ‘The light shines in the bleakness, and the bleakness did not overtake it’ – to me a brilliant prompt for a sermon on incarnation. That said, dark/black language isn’t always negative in scripture, so Gafney retains ‘God who dwells in thick darkness’ (for example, Deuteronomy 5:22). In these, and many other instances, Gafney offers challenges that gave me pause to think again about my complacency in the use of scripture. Helpfully she provides a full note about her choices in translation and the reasons behind them.

Second, Gafney’s way of associating texts with each other is often both original and profound. I was particularly moved by the death of Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:29-40) paired with her version of Psalm 22 and the death of Jesus in Luke 22. Likewise, the wide range of epiphanies employed in the season of Epiphany or the additional annunciation texts in Advent presents the preacher with a host of feasible starting points. I like to tease out in my preaching what other parts of the Bible beyond the passage under consideration can add to our understanding of the passage – Gafney provides so many avenues for attempting just that.

Third, each day’s selection of texts (in Gafney’s translation) is followed by a section headed ‘Proclamation’ where the author briefly discusses the texts themselves and then provides what she terms ‘Preaching Prompts.’ These prompts give the reader ways into addressing the texts homiletically (and often devotionally as well). In other words, Gafney has taken great care to make her lectionary a resource for those who would use it, whether they adopt her lectionary principles completely or not. Here is revealed Gafney’s pastoral sensibilities and her wisdom in dealing with hard issues within worship. Her lectionary always has the worshipper in mind, and any preacher aiming at a similar sensitivity will find much to stimulate in her writing. There is so much to treasure in this volume.

‘How would a lectionary centering women’s stories, chosen with womanist and feminist commitments in mind, frame the presentation of the scriptures for proclamation and teaching?’ (page xii) is among the questions Gafney cites as her motivation.’ This volume answers that question in a fulsome and inclusive way. This is certainly work for ‘the whole church’ because it so vigorously advocates that all people are created in the image of God. It gives us all resources for doing likewise. Thank you, Professor Gafney, for this beautifully written and profoundly challenging volume.


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