Beginning September 9, 2012 we will start using the Narrative Lectionary for our Sunday worship services. What difference will it make to us? Actually you won’t probably recognize any significant changes. But I want to introduce the concept of Narrative Lectionary to our congregation.
The Narrative Lectionary is one part of a two part approach to gaining Biblical understanding. The other is a Survey Bible study of the Old Testament (in the fall) and New Testament (winter). I will cover the survey courses in the next post.
What is a lectionary?
A lectionary is a set of readings from the Bible for each Sunday of the church year. Lectionaries have been used since the time of the early church. We have been using one such lectionary, a three year lectionary, meaning different readings for each Sunday throughout the three years. This covers quite a bit of the Bible.
However, most, if not all lectionaries used over the past 1600 years assumed a church and Bible knowledge. What happens if most people coming into the church have no such background? The Narrative Lectionary (NL) is an experiment to help congregations with that very question.
The NL is a set of readings for Christian worship, which moves through the overarching biblical story in a ninth-month period. At the same time, the narrative lectionary respects the traditional Christian church year, with its principal festivals and seasons — Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.
• Fall: NL moves chronologically through the Old Testament story — beginning in Genesis around the start of September and culminating with the promise of the Messiah during December (Advent).
• Winter: NL moves in order through one Gospel — tracing the story of Jesus in canonical order from birth, through ministry, passion, and culminating with the story of the resurrection at Easter. There are four years to the cycle, so we will cover all four Gospels.
• Spring: NL engages part of the story of the early church, as told in Acts and other New Testament writings.
What makes the Narrative Lectionary different?
This lectionary is not simply a series of stories; rather, it is a series of stories that provide an understanding of and appreciation for the broader biblical story. The NL differs from other lectionaries in several ways.
1. The NL seeks to tell the biblical story in canonical order, in a ninth-month cycle. It tries to move rapidly through the biblical narrative, in canonical order. The lectionary also features mainly narrative passages.
2. The NL focuses on one reading each week. We will still have three readings (and usually a Psalm), but the main reading and sermon will focus on that pivotal text.
3. Because the NL is shaped this way, the church calendar is not abandoned — the birth of Christ Jesus is still celebrated at Christmas, the resurrection of Christ is still celebrated at Easter. The time of Advent is kept by focusing on the promise of the Messiah. Appropriate readings have been chosen for church commemorations, such as Reformation, All Saints, and Ash Wednesday.
Why the Narrative Lectionary?
The shortest answer is simply this: Because knowledge of the biblical story is crucial to mature Christian faith. But most Christian preaching assumes that worshippers already know the basic biblical story — and thus most Christian preaching does not seek to equip people to know the biblical story. The NL seeks to be one part of an approach that seeks to equip people to know God’s story — to find themselves in God’s story and to find in that story the love of the God in Christ.