Most people involved with churches have heard of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), the three year cycle of scripture readings used in Roman Catholic and many Protestant churches. Besides the advantage of having churches on the same page each week (literally), the RCL also covers a wide amount of Scripture and relates the gospel to both the Old Testament and other parts of the New Testament.
Have you’ve heard of a more recently created series of scripture readings called the Narrative Lectionary? Professors Rolf Jacobson and Craig Koester of Luther Seminary initiated the Narrative Lectionary in 2010. It’s a four-year cycle of readings from September through May which cover the major episodes in Scripture from Creation through the early Christian church and include many different voices within Scripture. The texts are arranged in a narrative sequence to help people see their coherence and dynamic movement.
The Working Preacher website gives this explanation for why the Narrative Lectionary readings were chosen:
Texts were selected that lead well to the proclamation of what God is doing. The stories tell of hope and disappointment, suffering and redemption. In all these varied contexts, we find God dealing with the complexities of human life. Stories from the gospels differ each year, avoiding repetition and highlighting what is distinctive about each gospel’s telling of the story of Jesus.
The Church Year helped to shape the flow of the Narrative Lectionary. Old Testament readings move through the story of God’s dealings with Israel and culminate in Advent with the prophets who speak of longing and hope. Readings from the gospels fit the movement from Christmas and Epiphany to the Transfiguration, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week and Easter. Selections from the book of Acts and Paul’s letters trace the outward movement of the resurrection message, culminating on Pentecost with readings focusing on the Spirit.
There are suggested readings for the summer along with other resources if churches would like to do a sermon series.
If you want to explore using the Narrative Lectionary, Luther Seminary provides many free resources on the Working Preacher website. You can download the four year list of readings or just the readings for 2016-2017 which is Year 3. There is a commentary and podcast for each week’s reading and you can connect with others on Facebook in the Narrative Lectionary group. You can also download worship resources which include a Prayer of the Day and music suggestions. PRC has a list of Narrative Lectionary websites if you’d like to explore further.