Another New Testament book that gets scant attention in the RCL is Revelation. In the Easter Season of Year C, there is a series of texts from the book of Revelation: Revelation 1:4-8; Revelation 5:11-14; Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 21:1-6; Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. While some of these texts arise in other parts of the lectionary cycle (Revelation 1:4b-8 on the Reign of Christ Year B, Revelation 7:9-17 on All Saints Year A, and Revelation 21:1-6a on New Year Years ABC and All Saints Year B), no other texts from Revelation are in the lectionary. The most obvious example of pale conclusions in the series is the last reading –Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21—purposely and obviously skipping the verses of judgment in that chapter.
As Craig Koester has noted, however, there are larger holes in the lectionary readings from Revelation– not just within the chapters that are included in the readings, but the chapters that are skipped completely. The RCL completely skips chapters 2-4, 6, and 8-20: 17 out of 22 chapters of Revelation do not make the cut at all, including thirteen chapters in a row. Revelation has its own narrative unity and integrity, and many of the passages skipped by the RCL are both preachable and necessary for understanding the larger story of Revelation. For example, the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 are missing; without reading at least some of them, the nature of Revelation as a letter to actual churches in first century Asia is lost. Koester describes the book of Revelation’s non-linear, spiral movement between “threatening” and “assuring visions.” In the lectionary readings from Revelation, we get only assuring visions, but without the threats that come before them, those visions can indeed seem pale. The whole center of the book that is missing from the lectionary includes the visions of the “Trumpets of Terror and Hope;” “The Beast and the Lamb,” including the Woman, the angel Michael, and the Dragon; “The Harlot and the Bride;” and “The End,” including the Great Battle, the Millennial Kingdom, and the Final Judgment. We seem to lose confidence as preachers when we approach these texts; they seem too strange, or too violent, or too difficult to interpret. They are, indeed, challenging texts to preach, especially because we in lectionary bound churches rarely if ever preach them. But, after spending time with these texts, pastors find that they do preach! Interpreted correctly, according to its apocalyptic genre and its specific imagery, Revelation has a relatively clear and powerful message of hope in the midst of the struggles with the “beast” in every age. But, in the lectionary, one finds only the heavenly visions from Revelation without the challenging visions of God’s struggle with evil that precede them. Thus, lectionary based congregations are often left with popular culture and dispensationalists to (mis-) interpret most of the images of Revelation for them.
The lectionary series on Revelation, during the Easter Season of Year C, is limited in both the scope of the book covered and in the restricted length of the individual pericopes. As an alternative, I developed a series that expands the texts themselves and adds other texts. This is just one possible Lectionary Mod on Revelation, expanding the length of the Revelation texts to include more than pale conclusions. It also includes one of the messages to the churches from chapters 2-3, and two of the chapters from the missing center of the book. One could further expand the series with more of the messages to the churches, and/or go into more depth in chapters 8-20, but this series at least gives the congregation a better sense of the message of Revelation as a whole, and helps the hearers make sense of some of the passages and images from Revelation that tend to be misunderstood and misinterpreted.