Scripture in Worship – The Narrative Lectionary

This past Sunday, Pastor Andrew announced that St. Paul’s will be making a change to our Sunday worship services, specifically regarding our use of Scripture in worship.

Most “mainline” Christian congregations in the United States have adopted a set of prescribed Scripture readings for Sunday mornings. The vast majority of those congregations have adopted the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of texts drawing each week from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Gospels, and other New Testament material each week. To achieve that goal, each Sunday has three appointed texts (along with a Psalm text chosen to respond to the first reading, which is generally from the Old Testament). These different readings sometimes connect thematically, but in many instances they don’t, and the result is that significant portions of the Scripture read in worship receives no comment during the weekly sermon.

In an effort to use Scripture differently and reacquaint people with the broad narrative sweep of the Scriptures, a group of scholars at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, have developed an alternative series of readings called the Narrative Lectionary. This lectionary allows congregations to focus on one primary preaching text each Sunday, and moves more or less sequentially through the Biblical narrative over the course of the nine-month “program year” (September through the Day of Pentecost, most often in May). During that time, the preaching texts are drawn from the following parts of Scripture:

September – Advent III: Old Testament
Advent IIII – Easter – Gospel
Easter II – Pentecost: Acts/New Testament Letters/Revelation

The Narrative Lectionary features a four-year cycle of texts, allowing each Gospel’s unique voice to heard throughout the year. This year we begin again with Year 1, and dwell with the Gospel of Matthew. During those weeks in which the primary preaching text is from somewhere other than Matthew, an accompanying reading from that gospel will be read to support (but not replace) the preaching text.

This will be a noticeable change in our worship services, but we hope that it will be a welcome change as well. The decision to move forward with this transition was made after conversation with the Worship and Music Committee and the Congregation Council. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Pastor Andrew. We look forward to exploring God’s story together this year at St. Paul’s using the Narrative Lectionary, beginning this Sunday, September 7, when we reflect on the flood and the promise of God that follows.

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