An Uncommon Lectionary: A Companion to Common Lectionaries

Available from Polebridge Press

Ash Wednesday
First Sunday of Lent
Second Sunday of Lent
Third Sunday of Lent
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Fifth Sunday of Lent

The Uncommon Lectionary provides readings from gospels outside the New Testament—Thomas, Peter, Mary (Magdalene), the Sayings Gospel Q—and from other early church documents such as the Didache, the Secret Book of James, and the Odes of Solomon. Designed to complement and supplement common lectionaries, it helps priests, pastors, and liturgical leaders introduce modern listeners to the message of Jesus as it was understood and experienced in all its variety by his earliest followers. The section below provides Lent readings following the liturgical calendar.

Ash Wednesday 

First Reading: Isaiah 58:1–8, Tanakh

Cry with full throat, without restraint;
Raise your voice like a ram’s horn!
Declare to My people their transgression,
To the House of Jacob their sin.
To be sure, they seek Me daily,
Eager to learn My ways.
Like a nation that does what is right,
That has not abandoned the laws of its God,
They ask Me for the right way,
They are eager for the nearness of God:
“Why, when we fasted, did You not see?
When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?”
Because on your fast day
You see to your business
And oppress all your laborers!
Because you fast in strife and contention,
And you strike with a wicked fist!
Your fasting today is not such
As to make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast I desire,
A day for men to starve their bodies?
Is it bowing the head like a bulrush
And lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call that a fast,
A day when the Lord is favorable?
No, this is the fast I desire:
To unlock fetters of wickedness,
And untie the cords of the yoke
To let the oppressed go free;
To break off every yoke.
It is to share your bread with the hungry,
And to take the wretched poor into your home;
When you see the naked, to clothe him,
And not to ignore your own kin.
Then shall your light burst through like the dawn
And your healing spring up quickly.”

Second Reading: Job 42:1–6, Tanakh

Job said in reply to the LORD:
“I know that You can do everything,
That nothing you propose is impossible for You.
Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge?
Indeed, I spoke with understanding
Of things beyond me, which I did not know.
Hear now, and I will speak;
I will ask and You will inform me.
I had heard you with my ears,
But now I see you with my eyes;
Therefore I recant and relent,
Being but dust and ashes.”

Psalm: Psalm 102:1–12, BCP 1979

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you; *
hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble.
Incline your ear to me;*
when I call, make haste to answer me,
For my days drift away like smoke,*
and my bones are hot as burning coals.
My heart is smitten like grass and withered,*
so that I forget to eat my bread.
Because of the voice of my groaning*
I am but skin and bones.
I have become like a vulture in the wilderness,*
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake and groan;*
I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top.
My enemies revile me all day long,*
and those who scoff at me have taken an oath against me.
For I have eaten ashes for bread*
and mingled my drink with weeping.
Because of your indignation and wrath*
you have lifted me up and thrown me away.
My days pass away like a shadow,*
and I wither like the grass.
But you, O Lord, endure for ever,*
and your Name from age to age.

Gospel: Gospel of Thomas 6–7, 14, 27, 104, SV

His disciples asked him, “Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?”

Jesus says, “Don’t lie, and don’t do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven. After all, there is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed, and there is nothing covered up that will remain undisclosed.”

Jesus says, “Blessed is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.” . . .

Jesus said to them, “If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits. When you go into any region and walk in the countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them. After all, what goes into your mouth won’t defile you; what comes out of your mouth will.” . . . “If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the Father’s domain. If you do not observe the Sabbath day as a Sabbath day, you will not see the Father.” . . .

They said to Jesus, “Come let us pray today, and let us fast.” Jesus said, “What sin have I committed, or how have I been undone? Rather, when the groom leaves the bridal suite, then let people fast and pray.”

First Sunday of Lent

First Reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, NJB

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:
A time for giving birth, a time for dying;
a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.
A time for killing, a time for healing,
a time for knocking down, a time for building.
A time for tears, a time for laughter;
a time for mourning, a time for dancing.
A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them;
a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.
A time for searching, a time for losing;
a time for keeping, a time for discarding.
A time for tearing, a time for sewing;
a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking.
A time for loving, a time for hating;
a time for war, a time for peace.

Second Reading: Gospel of Philip 67:27–35, 70:13–17, NHL

The Lord did everything in a Mystery: a Baptism and a Chrism and a Eucharist and a Redemption and a Bridal Chamber.

The Lord said, “I came to make the things below like the things above, and the things outside like those inside. I came to unite them in that place.” He revealed himself in this place through types and images . . .

Christ came to repair the separation that was from the beginning and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation and unite them. But the woman and the man are united in the bridal chamber. Indeed those who have been united in the Bridal Chamber will no longer be separated.

Psalm: Ode 41:1–7

Let all the Lord’s babes praise You, Lord.*
Let us receive the Truth of Trust in You.
You will acknowledge Your children.*
Let us sing of Your love
We live in You, Lord, by Your grace*
We receive Life by Your Anointed One.
A great Day is shining upon us*
Wonderful are You who shows us Your Glory.
Let all of us agree in Your Name O Lord.*
Let us honor You in Your goodness.
Let our faces shine in Your light*
Let our hearts meditate in Your love by night and by day.
Let us exult in the exultation of You, Lord.

Gospel: Gospel of Thomas 21–23, SV

Mary said to Jesus, “What are your disciples like?”

He said, “They are like little children living in a field that is not theirs. When the owners of the field come, they will say, ‘Give us back our field.’ They take off their clothes in front of them in order to give it back to them, and they return their field to them. For this reason I say, if the owners of a house knew that a thief is coming, they will be on guard before the thief arrives, and will not let the thief break into their house (their domain) and steal their possessions. As for you, then, be on guard against the world. Prepare yourselves with great strength, so the robbers can’t find a way to get to you, for the trouble you expect will come. Let there be a person among you who understands. When the crop ripened, he came quickly carrying a sickle and harvested it. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!”

Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, “These nursing babies are like those who enter the Father’s domain.”

They said to him, “Then shall we enter the Father’s domain as babies?”

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make the male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the Father’s domain.”

Jesus says, “I shall choose you, one from a thousand and two from ten thousand, and they will stand as a single one.”

Second Sunday of Lent

First Reading: Proverbs 1:20–31, NRSV

Wisdom cries aloud in the streets,
Raises her voice in the squares.
At the head of the busy streets she calls;
At the entrance of the gates, in the city, she speaks out:
“How long will you simple ones love simplicity,
You scoffers be eager to scoff,
You dullards hate knowledge?
You are indifferent to my rebuke;
I will not speak my mind to you,
And let you know my thoughts.
Since you refused me when I called,
And paid no heed when I extended my hand,
You spurned all my advice,
And would not hear my rebuke,
I will laugh at your calamity,
And mock when terror comes upon you,
When terror comes like a disaster,
And calamity arrives like a whirlwind,
When trouble and distress come upon you.
When they shall call me but I will not answer;
They shall seek me but not find me.
Because they hated knowledge,
And did not choose fear of the Lord;
They refused my advice,
and disdained all my rebukes,
They shall eat the fruit of their ways,
And have their fill of their own counsels.”

Second Reading: Job 28:1–12, NJB

Silver has its mines
and gold a place for refining.
Iron is extracted from the earth,
the smelted rocks yield copper.
The miner makes an end of darkness
when he pierces to the uttermost depths the black and lightless rock.
Mines the lamp folk dig in places where there is no foothold,
and hang suspended far from humankind.
That earth from which bread comes
is ravaged underground by fire.
Down there, the rocks are set with sapphires,
full of spangles of gold.
Down there is a path unknown by birds of prey,
unseen by the eye of any vulture;
a path not trodden by the lordly beasts,
where no lion ever walked.
The miner attacks its flinty sides,
upturning mountains by their roots,
driving tunnels through the rocks,
on the watch for anything precious.
The miner explores the sources of rivers,
and brings to daylight secrets that were hidden.
But tell me, where does Wisdom come from?
Where is understanding to be found?

Psalm: Ode 13

Look, the Lord is our mirror.*
Open your eyes and see your eyes in him.
Learn the way of your face and praise the Spirit of the Lord.*
Wipe the make-up from your face and love the Holiness of the Lord.
Dress yourself in the Lord.*
Dressed in the Lord you will be spotless at all times.

Gospel: Gospel of Thomas 24–26, 28–30, SV

His disciples said, “Show us the place where you are, for we must seek it.” (Jesus) said to them, “Anyone here with two ears had better listen! There is light within a person of light, and it shines on the whole world. If it does not shine, it is dark.”

Jesus says, “Love your friends like your own soul, protect them like the pupil of your eye.”

Jesus says, “You see the sliver in your friend’s eye, but you don’t see the timber in your own eye. When you take the timber out of your own eye, then you will see well enough to remove the sliver from your friend’s eye . . .”

Jesus says, “I took my stand in the midst of the world, and in flesh I appeared to them. I found them all drunk, and I did not find any of them thirsty. My soul aches for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart from the world empty. But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, then they will change their ways.”

Jesus says, “If the flesh came into being because of spirit, that is a wonder. But if spirit came into being because of the body, it is a wonder of wonders. Indeed, I am amazed at how this great wealth comes to make its home in this poverty.”

Jesus says, “Where there are three, they are without God, and where there is only one, I am with that one.”

Third Sunday of Lent

First Reading: Genesis 2:18–25, Tanakh

The LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper as his partner.” And the LORD God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that would be its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts; but for Adam no fitting helper was found. So the LORD God cast a deep sleep upon the man; and, while he slept, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that spot. And the LORD God fashioned the rib that He had taken from the man into a woman; and He brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This one at last
Is bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh.
This one shall be called Woman,
For from man was she taken.”
Hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh.
The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, yet they felt no shame.

Second Reading: Job 28:12–20, The Jerusalem Bible

But tell me, where does Wisdom come from?
Where is understanding to be found?
The road to it is still unknown to human beings,
not to be found in the land of the living.
“It is not in me,” says the Abyss;
“Nor here,” replies the Sea.
It cannot be bought with solid gold,
not paid for with any weight of silver.
nor be priced by the standard of the gold of Ophir,
or of precious onyx or sapphire.
No gold, no glass can match it in value,
nor for a fine gold vase can it be bartered.
Nor is there need to mention coral, nor crystal;
beside wisdom, pearls are not worth the fishing.
Topaz from Cush is worthless in comparison,
and gold, even refined, is valueless.
But tell me, where does Wisdom come from?
Where is understanding to be found?

Psalm: Ode 7:2–6

You are my joy, Lord, and I move toward You. *
Your Way is excellent. You are my Helper, Lord,
You let me know You generously in simplicity. *
Your kindness humbles Your magnitude.
You become like me so I can receive You. *
You think like me so I can become You.
I did not tremble when I saw You *
For You are gracious to me.
You take on my nature so I can learn from You, *
You take on my form so I will not turn away.

Gospel: Gospel of Thomas 32–38, SV

Jesus says, “A city built on a high hill and fortified cannot fall, nor can it be hidden.”

Jesus says, “What you will hear in your ear, in the other ear proclaim from your rooftops. After all, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a lampstand so that all who come and go will see its light.”

Jesus says, “If a blind person leads a blind person, both of them will fall into a hole.”

Jesus says, “One can’t enter a strong man’s house and take it by force without tying his hands. Then one can loot his house.”

Jesus says, “Don’t fret, from morning to evening and from evening to morning, about your food — what you are going to eat, or about your clothing, what you are going to wear. You’re much better than the lilies, which don’t card and never spin. As for you, when you have no garment, what are you going to put on? Who could add to your life span? That same one will give you your garment.”

His disciples said, “When will you be revealed to us, and when will we see you?”

Jesus said, “When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample them, then you will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid.”

Jesus says, “Often you have desired to hear these sayings that I am speaking to you, and you have no one else from whom to hear them. There will be days when you will seek me and you will not find me.”

Fourth Sunday of Lent

First Reading from Hypostasis of the Archons and On the Origin of the World, NHL

Then the Female Spiritual Principle came in the Serpent, the Instructor; and she taught them, saying,”What did he say to you? Was it, “From every tree in the Garden shall you eat; yet do not eat from the Tree of recognizing evil? Do not eat from the Tree of Knowledge?”

The earthy Woman said, “He not only said, ‘Don’t eat from them’ but ‘Don’t touch them, lest you die.’” The Serpent, the Instructor, said to her, “Don’t be afraid, You certainly shall not die; for it was out of jealousy that he said this to you. Rather your eyes shall open, your mind will become sober, and you will come to be like gods, recognizing the distinctions which exist between evil and good.” And the Female Instructing Principle was taken from the Snake, and she left it behind, merely a thing of the earth.

Now Eve had confidence in the words of the Instructor. She gazed at the two trees and saw that they were beautiful and appetizing, and liked them; she took some of the fruit and ate it; and she gave some also to her husband, and he too ate it.

Then their intellect became open. For when they had eaten, the light of knowledge had shone upon them. When they clothed themselves with shame, they knew they were naked with regard to knowledge. They recognized that they were naked of the Spiritual Element, and took fig leaves and bound them upon their loins. When they sobered up, they saw they were naked and they became enamored of one another. They understood very much.

Second Reading: Job 28:20–28, The Jerusalem Bible

But tell me, where does Wisdom come from?
Where is understanding to be found?
Wisdom is outside the knowledge of every living thing,
hidden from the birds of the sky.
Perdition and Death can only say, “We have heard reports of it.”
God alone has traced its path and found out where it lives.
(For God sees to the ends of the earth,
and observes all that lies under heaven.)
When he willed to give weight to the wind
and measured out the waters with a gauge,
when he made the laws and the rules for the rain
and mapped a route for the thunderclaps to follow,
then he had it in sight, and cast its worth,
assessed it, fathomed it.
And he said to man, “Wisdom? it is fear of the Lord.
Understanding? — avoidance of evil.”

Psalm: Ode 7:7–13

The Father of Knowledge is the Word of Knowledge*
You who create wisdom are wiser than Your works.
You who created me when I was not*
Knew what to do when I came into being.
In Your abundance You are gracious to me*
and allow me to ask for and receive Your sacrifice
You are incorruptible, the perfection of the worlds and their Father.*
You allow Yourself to be seen in Your works
that You may be recognized as their creator,*
that all may not suppose that they are self-made.
Your way is knowledge. You broaden it and make it perfect.*
Over it are the traces of Your light from the beginning to the end.
You are resting in Your Son, You are pleased with Your Son,*
You take possession of all things because of Your salvation.
You the Highest One are known in Your Holy Ones and in songs of your Coming.*
Those who sing go forth to meet You with joy and a harp of many tunes.

Gospel: Gospel of Thomas 39–46, SV

Jesus says, “The Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and hidden them. They themselves have not entered, nor have they allowed to enter those who wish to. You, however, be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”

Jesus says, “A grapevine has been planted apart from the Father. Since it is not strong, it will be pulled up by its root and will perish.”

Jesus says, “Those who have something in hand will be given more, and those who have nothing will be deprived of even the little they have.”

Jesus says, “Become passers-by.”

His disciples said to him, “Who are you to say these things to us?”

(Jesus said to them), “You don’t understand who I am from what I say to you. Rather, you have become like the Judeans, for they love the tree but hate its fruit, or they love the fruit but hate the tree.”

Jesus says, “Whoever blasphemes against the Father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven, either on earth or in heaven.”

Jesus says, “Grapes are not harvested from thorn trees, nor are figs gathered from thistles, for they yield no fruit. Good persons produce good from what they’ve stored up; bad persons produce evil from the wickedness they’ve stored up in their hearts, and say evil things. For from the overflow of the heart they produce evil.”

Jesus says, “From Adam to John the Baptist, among those born of women, no one is so much greater than John the Baptist that his eyes should not be averted. But I have said that whoever among you becomes a child will recognize the Father’s kingdom and will become greater than John.”

Fifth Sunday of Lent

First Reading: Isaiah 2:2–4, Tanakh

In the days to come,
The Mount of the LORD’s House
Shall stand firm above the mountains
And tower above the hills;
And all the nations
Shall gaze on it with joy.
And the many peoples shall go and say:
Let us go up to the Mount of the LORD,
To the House of the God of Jacob;
That he may instruct us in His ways,
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For instruction shall come forth from Zion,
The word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
Thus He will judge among the nations
And arbitrate for the many peoples,
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not take up
Sword against nation;
They shall never again know war.

Second Reading: Gospel of Philip 82:30–84:13, NHL

Most things of the world as long as their inner parts are hidden, stand upright and live. If they are revealed they die, as is illustrated by the visible human being: for as long as the intestines of a person are hidden, the person is alive; when the intestines are exposed and come out, the person will die. So also with the tree: while its root is hidden it sprouts and grows. If its root is exposed, the tree dries up. So it is with every birth that is in the world, not only with the revealed but with the hidden. For so long as the root of wickedness is hidden, it is strong. But when it is recognized, it is dissolved. When it is revealed it perishes. That is why the word says, “Already the ax is laid at the root of the trees” (Matthew 3:10). It will not merely cut — what is cut sprouts again — but the ax penetrates deeply until it brings up the root. Jesus pulled out the root of the whole place, while others did it only partially. As for ourselves, let each one of us dig after the root of evil which is within one, and let one pluck it out of one’s heart from the root. It will be plucked out if we recognize it. But if we are ignorant of it, it takes root in us and produces its fruit in our heart. It masters us. We are its slaves. It takes us captive, to make us do what we do not want; and what we do want we do not do. It is powerful because we have not recognized it. While it exists it is active. Ignorance is the mother of all evil. Ignorance will result in death, because those that come from ignorance neither were nor are nor shall be. But those who are in the truth will be perfect when all the truth is revealed. For truth is like ignorance: while it is hidden it rests in itself, but when it is revealed and is recognized, it is praised inasmuch as it is stronger than ignorance and error. It gives freedom. The word said, “If you know the truth, the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) Ignorance is a slave. Knowledge is freedom. If we know the truth, we shall find the fruits of the truth within us. If we are joined to it, it will bring our fulfillment.

Psalm: Ode 7:14–18

Seers go before You and You are seen.*
Seers praise You for Your Love. You are near and You see.
Hatred leaves the earth, jealousy drowns, ignorance is destroyed*
for the knowledge of the Lord has come.
Let singers sing of Your grace, Lord most high, let them sing.*
Let their hearts be like day, their harmonies like Your excellent beauty.
Let there be nothing without life, knowledge, or speech,*
For You, Lord, give mouth to Your creation
You open the voice of our mouth to praise You.*
Praise Your Power and reveal Your Grace! Hallelujah!

Gospel: Thomas 47–53, SV

Jesus says, “It is impossible for a person to mount two horses or to stretch two bows. And it is impossible for a servant to serve two masters; otherwise, he will honor the one and treat the other contemptuously. No one drinks old wine and immediately desires to drink new wine. And new wine is not put into old wineskins, lest they burst; nor is old wine put into new wineskins, lest it spoil it. An old patch is not sewn into a new garment, because a tear would result.”

Jesus says, “If two make peace with each other in a single house, they will say to the mountain, ‘Move from here!’ and it will move.”

Jesus says, “Blessed are the solitary and elect, for you will find the kingdom. For you are from it, and to it you will return.”

Jesus says, “If they say to you, ‘Where have you come from?’ say to them, ‘We have come from the light, from the place where the light came into being by itself, established itself, and appeared in their image.’ If they say to you, ‘Is it you?’ say ‘We are its children, and we are the chosen of the living Father.’ If they ask you, ‘What is the evidence of your Father in you?’ say to them, ‘It is motion and rest.’”

His disciples said to him, “When will the rest for the dead take place and when will the new world come?”

He said to them, “What you are looking forward to has already come, but you do not recognize it.”

His disciples said to him, “Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel and they all spoke of you.”

He said to them, “You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence, and have spoken of the dead.”

His disciples said to him, “Is circumcision useful or not?”

He said to them, “If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect.

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