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Narrative Lectionary (Year 1) Overview

Free Resource: Narrative Lectionary (Year 1) Readings & Themes

What Is the Narrative Lectionary?

A lectionary is a set calendar of Bible readings used in a worship service. The most common lectionary used is the Revised Common Lectionary, which has three to four Bible passages per Sunday (or festival day): Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, Gospel. The Narrative Lectionary, on the other hand, only uses one main Bible passage per Sunday/festival, along with a shorter “accompanying text.” What makes the Narrative Lectionary unique is that the Bible passages are arranged to allow congregations to hear the whole story (narrative) of God and God’s people found throughout Scripture in order. For more on the Narrative Lectionary, check out my previous blog post on it, as well as our What Is the Narrative Lectionary? web page.

Narrative Lectionary Year 1

The Narrative Lectionary is a four-year cycle, unlike the three-year Revised Common Lectionary. For those following the “official” NL cycle, September 2018 begins the third cycle with Year 1. The main difference between the years is that each focus on a different Gospel (and thus a four-year cycle). Year 1 focuses on the Gospel of Matthew. Our free resource this week is a one-page list of all the 2018-2019 readings, along with a description of each of the themes we have come up with here at Spirit & Truth Publishing.

Fall 2018

The NL always begins on the Sunday after Labor Day weekend (sometimes called Rally Day). This year, the readings move through some of the major stories of the Old Testament for the first 15 weeks. Instead of starting in one of the creations stories found in Genesis 1, 2, or 3, Year 1 begins with the story of Noah and the Ark.

Our Living the Word series of faith formation resources follows the Narrative Lectionary, and we break the year up into units, each with their own theme. Between the first Sunday of the NL (9/9/2018) through Christ the King Sunday (11/25/2018), we have the 12 readings divided into three thematic units. The first five Sundays connect to the theme “God’s Promises Bring Hope,” moving from Noah’s Ark through Abram, Joseph, the Exodus, and the giving of the Ten Commandments. Next, we have “Living Faithfully in the Promise,” with the stories of Joshua, David, Solomon, and Elisha. The last unit in the fall is “God’s Plan for Peace.” Here, we have moved into the Prophets with passages from Micah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.

Advent 2018

As we wait for the coming of Jesus during the season of Advent, you can focus on the theme “Faith in God’s Promises.” The prophet Habakkuk must trust that, though delayed, God will always be faithful to God’s promises. Queen Esther must trust God as she steps out in faith to save her people. Isaiah gives us God’s promise for a Messiah, and we move into Matthew as Joseph must trust that God’s word spoken through an angel will come true.

Christmas & Epiphany 2018-2019

The rest of our winter quarter lasts from Christmas to Transfiguration Sunday. We celebrate “God’s Promise of Jesus” along with Luke’s shepherds on Christmas before we move back into the Gospel of Matthew. We trace the promise given to Abram to its fulfillment in Jesus, flee with the holy family to Egypt, witness John baptizing his Lord, and watch as Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. We are “Learning to Follow” Jesus through his Sermon on the Mount, in the Beatitudes, Lord’s Prayer, and other teachings. In the final unit in the winter, we see “God’s Power” in parables, miracles, and Jesus’ transfiguration.

Lent & Easter 2019

During Lent, the Narrative Lectionary focuses on Jesus’ parables as we learn “The Ways of the Kingdom.” We experience confusion and insight in the parables of what the kingdom of heaven is like. Come Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we see “God’s Greatest Promise” fulfilled in Jesus’ triumphal entry, last supper, and crucifixion, and specifically in the empty tomb and the risen Jesus’ Great Commission. This commission teaches us that we are “Called to Share” the gospel with the examples of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas. Paul describes our call as saints in the first chapter of Romans. We finish NL Year 1 with a further look through Romans, and celebrate the first Pentecost as we learn about the “Gifts of God’s Grace.”

2018-2019 Summary

This is clearly a very brief overview of the 44 Scripture passages that make up Year 1 of the Narrative Lectionary. You can see a full list of the passages in our Narrative Lectionary Readings & Themes document, a document which is also adapted to just the Sunday’s of the year for our Curriculum Scope & Sequence. We also have created a free Narrative Lectionary Planning Tool to help faith formation leaders take notes and coordinate faith formation efforts throughout a congregation’s ministries. Check out all our Year 1 faith formation resources for all ages with our Living the Word series!

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

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