Gail Ramshaw has written widely on liturgical language. Her book Treasures Old and New discusses images in the lectionary readings.
Lutherans are trained to hear the scriptures as proclaiming either law or gospel. By "law" they mean not passages from the Old Testament but all of the Bible's bad news: the sins we commit, the misery we experience, the sorrows we inflict on one another, the death we anticipate, the distance from God that diminishes our lives. By "gospel" they mean not the final reading on Sunday morning but the good news of the mercy given by a loving God, wherever in the Bible it is proclaimed.
It is striking that the psalm appointed as the response to the reading from Acts 16 is appointed also for the morning of Christmas Day. One of the gifts of the lectionary is that a biblical text wears different vestments depending on when it is shows up for Christian worship. Thus those preparing to preach need to attend not only to biblical commentaries but also to liturgical unfolding of scripture and theology in the assembly.
In Acts comes Luke’s imaginative way to build upon ancient stories. The tongues of fire are no longer seen from afar on top of God’s mountain. And the multiplicity of languages becomes God’s vehicle for bringing salvation to the entire world.
The reading from Revelation 22 concludes the book’s resurrection songs: the baptized enjoy the fruits of the tree of life. But the tree is not merely one of the countless archetypal trees that religions and cultures everywhere have imagined.
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