FPC Sermon 01-20-19

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  • An Introduction to the Narrative Lectionary (NL)

    Someone asked me if I ever got tired hearing (or in my shoes, talking about) the same stories from the Bible over and over again. The response I gave was ‘No!’ because I love the stories of the Bible. I love stories about Jesus. I love the Psalms. I love the words of the prophets. I love the ones that are straightforward and make sense. I even love the ones that are really challenging and take a lot of effort to figure out and wrap my mind around. I even love the ones that I cannot quite figure out, even after hearing them for four decades. Sometimes I love those the most (just sometimes, mind you, not always), because the God I have come to know is mysterious, and the ‘answers’ that God provides for humans are rarely easy ones.

    It’s also beneficial that there are so many stories from the Bible. I have been the regular preacher at First Pres Logan for over three years now and have preached sparingly here for nearly seven years. In those years, you have heard me preach from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and a smattering of Old Testament and other New Testament texts. For many years we have been following a scripture ‘schedule’ called the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). Often called ‘the lectionary’, the RCL is used by a number of denominations for preaching and study schedules. In the RCL, scripture is divided up into three parts: Year A, Year B, and Year C. Each Sunday has four scripture readings (an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a gospel text, and a letter from the New Testament). Year A is Matthew, Year B is Mark, and Year C is Luke, with the gospel of John divided up and scattered in various places throughout the three years.

    You probably learned this a long time ago, but I love to preach from the gospels. When I choose one of the four texts for any given Sunday, I most often choose the gospel text. The gospels are the heart of our Christian faith, after all, because they tell us about Jesus Christthe Savior. But I recognize this can be problematic. If I only preach from the gospels, we are missing out on a large portion of the Bible. Did you know that the New Testament comprises 24% of the Bible? And the gospels, the first-person accounts of Jesus, comprise less than 11% of the content of the Bible.

    If you’re wondering why I spend so much time preaching from them, well, that is because they are about Jesus. The life and teachings of Jesus, and the gospel accounts recording this, are central to our faith as Christians. Those stories are central to my life. But when it comes to worship and preaching, I think it’s time for a bit of a change.

    Having essentially preached my way through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and parts of John, I am switching away from the Revised Common Lectionary to something called the Narrative Lectionary (NL). The Narrative Lectionary is a four-year cycle of biblical readings. On the Sundays from September through May each year, the texts follow the broad sweep of biblical history, from Creation all the way up to the early Christian Church. The NL texts showcase the breadth and variety of voices from Scripture. The NL also presents a unique teaching opportunity. It can be tough for many of us to read scripture every day, the NL allows us to put some context into these stories.

    Let’s be clear.  Rarely have I avoided the difficult texts in the Revised Common Lectionary (although I’ve been guilty of that a few times). But using the NL does an even better job of keeping preachers honest about the breadth of scripture. There are some difficult passages throughout the Old Testament (and the New), and we’re going to hear them and explore them, all through our lens of Jesus Christ. Our Sunday Bible texts will be filled with flawed and very, well, human people. And yet—and this is the theme you can’t ignore when you work through these stories in order—God never lets us down. God’s covenant with us is renewed over and over and over again. These are our stories—the good, the bad and the difficult ones—and the task of preaching is to help us understand that the story isn’t over. The stories we are living, our lives now, are part of that narrative that began generations ago. Let’s continue to see if we can find our story in God’s story.

    Picture Directory—Time to update our photos!

    As I wrap up, I would like to inform you of an opportunity on Rally Sunday (Sept 8th). We intend to update our church photo directory, to include new people not in our last one. This gives everyone the chance to submit a few photos. We will be taking photos of your family on Sept 8th in Bruner Hall from 10-11am. You may also submit a photo to us, if you desire.

    Grace and peace be with you all,

    Pastor Derek

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