Preaching the biblical story
The Narrative Lectionary (NL) is four-year cycle of readings for use in congregational worship and preaching. The goal is to preach annually through the biblical narrative in order to center the lives of believers in God’s story. Each week, two texts are assigned -- a preaching text and an accompanying text.
Each year, the preaching texts trace the sweep of the biblical story:
- September-December (~16 weeks): Follow the broad outline of the Old Testament story with accompanying texts from the Gospels.
- Christmas-Lent (15-19 weeks): Move through one Gospel per year with accompanying texts from the Psalms.
- Easter-Pentecost (7 weeks): Move from resurrection stories to the early church, with accompanying texts from the Psalms, then the Gospels.
From June through August, three sermon series are assigned:
- Old Testament series (such as Psalms, Ruth or Job).
- New Testament series (such as Ephesians, 1 John or Revelation).
- Catechetical series (such as Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer).
Readings are selected with two goals in mind: choosing the key texts that (a) tell the overall biblical story and that (b) lend themselves well to preaching.
These are stories of hope and disappointment, suffering and redemption. The Gospel stories differ each year, highlighting the distinctive aspects of each gospel’s telling of the story of Jesus.
The Church Year
The church year shapes the narrative lectionary:
- Fall-Advent: 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 and the coming of the Messiah.
- Christmas-Lent: Readings from the Gospels fit the movement from birth of the Messiah at Christmas, the public revelation of the Messiah during Epiphany, and the Passion and resurrection through Lent, Holy Week and Easter.
- Easter-Pentecost: Resurrection accounts, stories from Acts and readings from Paul’s letters tell of the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence through the Easter season to the Day of Pentecost.
Join God's story
The Narrative Lectionary was developed by Luther Seminary professors Rolf Jacobson and Craig Koester in partnership with congregations across North America. It continues to grow across denominations and around the globe. Pastors and other leaders report the power of God’s Word as it is preached through the Narrative Lectionary.
“[Members of my church] feel like they are learning the gospel as a whole with its specific point of view and context. We are sold!”
- Pastor Pamela McGrath, North Community Church UCC (Marshfield, Mass.)
“The Narrative Lectionary has helped Bethlehem's people know the stories and understand the connections in the Gospels like never before, and far beyond the Revised Common Lectionary's ‘snippets.’ You get to see the whole painting, as it were, and not the ‘square inches of art.’”
- Pastor Chris Nelson, Bethlehem (Minneapolis, Minn.)
“The Narrative Lectionary enables a fresh perspective for crafting sermons by recognizing the stories of Scripture provide episodes in an ongoing story.”
- Joy J. Moore, Associate Dean, Fuller Theological Seminary