The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The Narrative Lectionary

This column lifts up trends in worship beyond regular “Lutheran circles”

Most Lutherans are used to the traditional pattern of three readings and a psalm at Sunday morning worship that follow a three-year cycle called a lectionary. Connected to a church calendar that has seasons such as Lent and Epiphany, the lectionary uses words and terms not heard in casual conversation. Most of the time the readings have some common theme but sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the connection is.

After writing these past years about what other Christians are doing in worship that we might learn from, it’s fun to look at how other Christians are learning a new thing from Lutherans. Called the Narrative Lectionary or NL, it is the brainchild of Rolf Jacobson and Craig Koester, professors at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. As they explain at www.workingpreacher.org, the NL began as an experiment in 2010 to overlay the key stories of the Bible (in order) on top of our common church calendar to help people become “fluent in the first language of faith.”

Working within the church calendar, the NL takes the congregation on a journey from Genesis to the letters of Paul, along with reading all of one Gospel. Over the four-year cycle (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) worshipers will touch on the key stories and passages that point to who Jesus is; how the whole of the Bible points to his life, death and resurrection; and how that big story makes us the church.

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