Narrative Lectionary

Narrative Lectionary Leanings–Remember

For some of us, this weekend is World Communion Sunday. Our text for Sunday is from Exodus. It is our first dip into the waters of this book, having finished Genesis last week, and we are dropped right into the instructions for the Passover.

Will you do some interpretation to get people from A to B? Or just let the text stand on its own?

Exodus 12:1-13 and 13:1-8

Working Preacher’s resources are here.  The Text this Week is here.

As we’ve been hearing the story of the people of Israel, I keep thinking about which stories in our lives we lift up for posterity. Moses instructs people in this text to “remember”. We never just remember something from the past. We always remember it and interpret it in light of where we are now.

The other place Christians often use the word “remember” liturgically is at the Table, when we remember Jesus, the night he was betrayed…. And at the Font, we tell people to remember their baptisms.

I was an infant at my baptism, so I don’t remember it, exactly. And I wasn’t there the night Jesus was betrayed. I wasn’t there in Egypt either. And yet, I can remember, I can connect those stories to my story today.

Where does the text speak to you today? Where are you leaning?

Please share ideas for Children’s messages. And if you celebrate World Communion, those ideas may be helpful for others too

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Narrative Lectionary: When Dreams Come True (Genesis 37:3-8, 17b-22, 26-34; 50:15-21)

joseph-thrwon-into-the-pitJealousy.  Lies.  Bitterness. Favoritism.  Sibling squabbles.  A good family therapist could have saved Jacob, Joseph and the whole family a lot of trouble.  Suppose Jacob had learned not to show favorites among his sons, and to appreciate each one for who he was.  What if Joseph had learned not to be such a button-pushing brat?  And what if the brothers had practiced not letting him get under their skin?  The whole story of our faith might have changed.

Find the scripture here.

Read the Working Preacher commentary here.

Of all people, Jacob, now named Israel, should understand the destruction ahead when a parent loves one child more than another.  Jacob was once the younger brother who took the elder brother’s place, and now he has made one of his younger sons a favorite over the older brothers.  Joseph, the spoiled young son of the father’s old age, is sure enough of his father’s affection to lord it over his brothers.   He is seventeen, the story says, a young adult, old enough to know better, but he still runs to his father to tattle on his brothers.  His dream that they will one day bow down to him adds to their rage.  The angry brothers in this story echo the fury between Jacob and his own brother, Esau.

The brothers are so angry with Joseph that they can hardly think straight.  When the opportunity arises, they decide to kill him.  No wait, they’ll rescue him.  No, on second thought, they’ll sell him to some traveling traders.  And so off Joseph goes, and they believe they’ll never see him again.  They don’t confess the truth even when they see their father grieving day after day, believing the “evidence” that Joseph is dead.  In the face of their father’s pain, they stay silent.

After many years, and more dreams, a famine forces the brothers to come to Egypt to seek food.  A series of reunions happens, and finally the family is restored.  Seeming wiser now, Joseph is deeply emotional about seeing his brothers again.  As his long-ago dream promised, his brothers are now bowing to him.  Instead of reveling in that, Joseph wants something different now.  He seeks the long-lost connection with his family, knowing that what he didn’t value before has now become precious.

Looking back over the turbulent decades since their last meeting, Joseph announces that the plans they constructed for evil, God has used for good.   He offers his brothers a word of forgiveness, but the word also holds the echoes of the old relationship.  Joseph tells them, “have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.”  If they’re seeking a family bond where all of the brothers are now equal, now that their father has died, that still hasn’t happened.

The story gives us an important part of Israel’s history as a people, and tells us about our ancestors in faith.  At the heart of the story is one fractured family, and God’s redemptive and gracious work.  The family ends the story as they started it – imperfect and anxious.  We can see clearly that this family at the foundation of our faith is much like our own families, and that God’s plans to continue to unfold through wildly imperfect people.

Sermon possibilities:

  • As the brothers conspire to get rid of Joseph, they say “and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” Joseph’s dreams circle around to fruition, but not in the way he imagined.  What dreams – either waking dreams or sleeping dreams – have come to life in unexpected ways for you?  For your community of faith?
  • What dream of God’s is your faith community seeking to bring to life?
  • In this story, God’s plans take decades to be revealed, and there’s pain and grief along the way that are not erased by the ending of the story. How long do we have to wait for the unfolding of God’s purposes?  What do we do while we wait?  Can we give the pain we experience its own meaning, in our stories?
  • Faith communities often act out family dynamics, with bossy older siblings and free-spirited younger siblings reprising familiar roles. Do you notice people in your community returning to old roles?  Do times of stress or worry kick you back into familiar patterns of your own?  Do you sense God at work in any of that?
  • Have you experienced being someone’s favorite child? Or being the less loved child?  How did that experience motivate you, or stunt you?  One of the redeeming experiences of faith is that we are all God’s favorite child.  Has this filled in any broken places for you, or someone you know?

Where are your thoughts taking you this week?  We’d love to hear your ideas, and to continue the conversation in the comments below.

 

Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church, a multi-cultural Presbyterian church in the city of Detroit.  She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.

The image is “Joseph Thrown in the Pit,” artist unknown, from the Vanderbilt Library of Art in the Christian Tradition.

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Narrative Lectionary: Finding Faith in the Desert

Have you ever been at the point in your life when one thing you wanted, just one thing, was more important to you than anything else? When life could have handed you a million dollars, a brand new car, and a whole household full of new appliances, and it wouldn’t have meant a thing? Because it wasn’t the thing you wanted?

Maybe that thing is your health. Maybe it’s a job. Maybe it’s a loved one’s health. Maybe it is children. Whatever it is, it has blinded you to everything else. That’s what Abram sounds like to me in today’s text. Find this Sunday’s text here. The Working Preacher commentary is here.

I feel like the text is supposed to be about God fulfilling promises. But instead, I think it sounds like a whiny fellow who isn’t getting his way.

It makes me wonder… In what way do I sound whiny? I have hopes and dreams that haven’t been fulfilled. Don’t we all? But still, where is Abram’s gratitude? Why isn’t he thanking God that he is safe? Why isn’t he dancing in delight over the love of his life? Why isn’t he praising God for all the material wealth he has? Why can’t he just be grateful?

Hope and expectations are hard. And this text may be particularly difficult for our congregants and friends who are experiencing infertility. For a lot of couples, the promise of children goes unfulfilled. Perhaps it’s a good time to remind our congregations that our shattered hopes and expectations are a natural part of life. That our difficulties and hardships are not punishment, retribution, nor a lack of faith. They are a natural part of life.

Why do we have shattered hopes and expectations? I don’t know. All I know is that suffering happens. And that God walks with us through all the bad times (and through all the good times). And sometimes, it’s enough.

I have to confess that I do not like this choice in this week’s Narrative Lectionary for a couple of reasons. First, it’s too short; most Sundays we have twenty or so verses. Second (and perhaps because of its brevity), it’s not meaty enough about Abram and his personality. And finally, I’m disappointed that there are so few women in this Hebrew Bible cycle. So I’ve adjusted the pericope this Sunday for my congregation. I’ve included Genesis 16:1-6 and Genesis 21:9-20. I’ll be focusing on Hagar instead of Abram.The Desert

But the lesson is the same: God is with us through our suffering. God is the God who sees, and even though we thirst in the desert, God is with us, helping us find water.

Because in the desert time, when I have a hard time finding my gratitude, when that one thing that I want is so far away, I need to know that God is near, seeing, and seeking me. God sought Abram, and God sought Hagar. Where do you see God seeking you?

Here are some other ideas for Sunday’s sermon:

  • God eventually changes Abram’s name to Abraham, and Sarai’s to Sarah. How does our relationship with God change who we are?
  • In many ways, the Hebrew Bible is about movement and migration. What movement is happening in your congregation right now that might mirror the “going” that Abram is doing, or the traveling in circles in the exodus, or the going into foreign lands?
  • Unpack the issues of infertility for your congregation. Ask the question, how can we walk alongside our sisters and brothers who are suffering this way?
  • God tells Abram that he has a “reward” coming. In what way is our following God about receiving a reward? What would we do if there was no reward?

It’s a difficult text, and a difficult task, this finding faith in the desert. You’re not alone. Tell us how you’ll approach this text.

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Lia SchollRev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).

 

 

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Narrative Lectionary Leanings: Paradise Lost??? Edition (Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8)

There is a meme that appeared on my Facebook feed this summer about how Adam and Eve were the first one’s not to read Apple terms and conditions. You can see it here. And while it is a clever jab at our internet culture (who EVER reads those terms and conditions before clicking the box and proceeding?) it is a poor reading of our story.  After all the text in Genesis never mentions an apple (neither, for that matter is the Devil/Satan). And Adam and Eve were told clearly what the cause/effect relationship was when it came to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

To begin Year 3 in the Narrative Lectionary cycle we read from Genesis 2, the second creation story.  The reading is Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17; 3:1-8 and can be read here. The Working Preacher commentary is here, and the podcast is here. Text This Week resources on related Scriptures are here

Traditionally this second Creation story is referred to as the story of The Fall, the story of how we once lived in paradise in open relationship with God and then in an act of wilful disobedience threw it all away. The wound in the relationship in this story is not set right (some say) until the atoning work of Jesus.  As Paul says on Romans 5 “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” I would suggest that the relationship between God and humanity has yet to be fully restored to the Eden-ic fullness and arguably will not be until the eschaton. But hopefully it is growing closer in each of us.

So did that bite which brings on knowledge change the human condition forever? After all, in the hymn to creation from Genesis 1 we are told that God looks at all that has been made and declares it as Very Good. Does this second creation story erase that judgement?

Or maybe was it a necessary thing.

Scripture makes it abundantly plain that God is all about relationship with God’s Creations. God never abandons the people despite having ample reason to do so (the people routinely appear to abandon God’s path after all). God continues to reach for relationship. Was that relationship that God so obviously craves really possible with people who were innocent and unaware? Or is the relationship, with all its struggles and wrong turns and heartbreak only possible once the people have the knowledge of good and evil, have a conscience?

In Grade 9 we read Mark Twain’s Diary of Adam and Eve (or possibly just excerpts, it was 30-some years ago) and in that piece Twain has the suggestion that the only way Adam and Eve can live to their fullest is to have them eat the fruit. Now admittedly Twain uses that line in a discussion between God and Satan regarding the human couple’s inability to figure out copulation  and so the “multiply” part of the first commandment (see Genesis 1:28) is in doubt, and admittedly it is Satan’s suggestion that the fruit be eaten. But it does raise the question, could humanity only grow into what God wanted/needed us to be by “falling”.

If so, what is the sin that breaks the relationship?

Traditionally the sin is a combination of wilful disobedience and pride. Eve and Adam openly break the rules and they do so in a prideful desire to be like God (and then refuse to take the blame…pointing fingers instead). That much is in the text. But if the fruit had to be eaten eventually maybe part of the sin is a lack of patience, a lack of trust. Maybe if they had waited until they were ready, until they were given permission, then the results of eating the fruit would have been a deepening of relationship rather than a breaking of it. We grow through the Fall. We change through the Fall. Maybe that is not entirely a bad thing…

Lest we forget, there is a gender-fairness issue in the way this text has been used and interpreted. Even Blake’s picture to the right talks about the fall of Eve (who then leads Adam astray). I suggest that this is not suited to the text. Yes that is Adam’s  “excuse” but it is clear to me that both humans are equally culpable in the rule-breaking. We try not to let our children get away with “he made me do it”, why have generations of scholars let Adam do so????

Finally, this Sunday is the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. How does that impact our sermon preparation?

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Gord Waldie has been an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada since 2001. For the first nine years he served in a resource town in Northwestern Ontario and more recently in Northern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner Patty, their four daughters, and a female dog with a severe anxiety disorder. Some days he feels a little bit outnumbered.

He blogs at Following Frodo and Ministerial Mutterings.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Narrative Lectionary Summer Series: The Lord’s Prayer

by Rev. Julie (Woods) Rennick and Rev. Marci Glass

Our Father in heaven; holy is your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive our sins, as we forgive others; save us from the time of trial and deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory – now and always – amen!

Words so much a part of our repertoire that they trip off the tongue with hardly a thought. A prayer that encompasses everything we need – God in heaven; daily needs; forgiveness and delivery from evil – it’s all there. It really is the perfect prayer.

And yet. Familiarity breeds contempt – or at least can hinder our ability to hear God speak.  So let’s take a journey together into this perfect prayer; let’s explore its nuances, its phrases, its very familiarity and let’s discover more, plummet the depths and listen again to the reply that comes when Jesus is asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

lords prayer

This short series on the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, the Jesus Prayer will, over four weeks, delve into what it means, why it has stood the test of time and why the Christian Church loves this prayer so much. 

The Narrative Lectionary divides the prayer into four sections:
Aug 14     Our Father in Heaven
Aug 21     Give us this Day
Aug 28    Forgive us our sins
Sept 4      Lead us not into temptation

Read it in Luke (11:2-4), read it in Matthew (6:9-13), compare the differences, and ask which version draws you in more – why?

Note where it comes in each gospel, too. In Luke’s record, it comes as an answer to a direct request from his followers. In Matthew, it is part of a long discourse, full of wide ranging teaching on many topics. 

The Narrative Lectionary is using the Luke version, but it is always helpful to see how else a familiar topic or passage is treated by other authors. If you have reservations about reading only the same three verses of scripture for four weeks, what other passages might you include? 

The book, Prayers of the Cosmos, Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus, has an interesting section on the Lord’s Prayer, with textual notes, sections on each phrase, and suggestions for body prayer and other ways to pray this familiar prayer.

Perhaps this is a season to introduce your congregation to new ways of pray-ing. Labyrinths, contemplative prayer, prayer stations, etc. Theresa Cho has some Lord’s Prayer station ideas here.

Find as many versions of the prayer as you can – a quick Google search will give you a good starting list. If you’re a fan of Prince, he prays the Lord’s Prayer in his song, Controversy.

Try putting it into your own words – not rewriting it, but simply giving it your approach, your interpretation. (If you are a Spill the Beans user you will find a PDF template with eight different translations to compare). If your young adults and/or children are present through the summer months, try getting them to put it into their words – this can prove very interesting indeed! It is something I did many years ago when I was still in Youth Ministry and what they all came up with was a revelation. My favourite version remains this:

The man upstairs
You are the Master – Ace
I’ll see you when I get there
Have it your way down here as it is up there
Feed us when we are hungry
Cut us some slack – as we cut it to our brothers
Don’t tempt me mate; keep me on the straight and narrow
This is your ‘hood and it’s really rockin’
Always
Cheers! 

(Banchory Youth circa 1998)

The boys who wrote this included my then 13 year old son and his friends and they had such a deep love and affection for God and this prayer. Maybe your young folks will be able to stir up something that will touch you too.

What ideas do you have to add for the Lord’s Prayer? Any good Children’s Sermon ideas?
Please add to the conversation and share your ideas in the comments.

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dreamteam

Marci Glass and Julie Woods

Marci Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho. She is a contributing author of There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and blogs at Glass Overflowing. She’s an amateur cellist who enjoys hiking in the Boise foothills. She drinks her bourbon neat.

Julie Woods Rennick is minister of Earlston Parish Church in the Scottish Borders. She too is a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit, she blogs at A Country Girl which contains mostly sermons and at Dark Threads and Golden, which is more reflective. She writes for Spill the Beans, and, if there is any time left enjoys exploring the Scottish countryside. 

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Narrative Lectionary: Storypath

Choosing a book (rgbstock.com)

Choosing a book rgbstock.com

Narrative Lectionary users, here’s a new resource that might be of help in your preaching and educational ministry for the coming year. Storypath is a ministry carried out in partnership with the William Smith Morton Library at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. For the past six years they have been sharing weekly links to children’s literature based on the Revised Common Lectionary. Beginning in August, they will do the same for the Narrative Lectionary, with weekly posts on texts about 5 weeks ahead of the preaching/teaching dates.

Look for the links on Wednesdays beginning August 3rd at Storypath. Thank you to Ann Knox for letting us know about this great new resource. (For a sample of Storypath’s RCL work, click here.)

For this Sunday, if you are still in Job, take a look at The Trials of Job by Mary Austin and Liz Crumlish.

And if you are prepping for The Lord’s Prayer, check out this post by Julie Woods and Marci Glass

Thanks to all our contributors! Readers, please join the conversations whenever appropriate for your schedule.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.

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Narrative Lectionary: Hope for a Tree Edition

We are in the middle of the Book of Job now.

Job 14:7-15 and Job 19:23-27

Here is the overview post on this summer series by Revgals Mary Austin and Liz Crumlish. There are also great resources at Working Preacher.

Job’s lament is turning toward hope. And after the week we’ve had in the US, I could use some hope.

Here is Robert Alter’s translation of 14:7-9:

For a tree has hope: though cut down, it can still be removed, and its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the ground and its stock die in the dust, from the scent of water it flowers, and puts forth branches like a sapling.

I don’t often think of trees when I think of hope. And I confess when I am pulling up elm shoots that have decided to grown in my lawn and flowerbeds, “hope” is not the word that comes to mind.

The Job poet weaves our connectedness to nature throughout the entire book, though, reminding us of yet another point of contact with nature, reminding us that humanity and nature are both vulnerable pieces of creation.

In chapter 19, Job speaks the words I know better from Handel’s Messiah. “I know that my Redeemer lives.” The Hebrew word for ‘redeemer’ is different than the New Testament word, no matter how much Handel makes us think of it. It is more like Boaz and Ruth. Here’s an article about the word at Working Preacher.

Job is still in the midst of his argument. Where are you thinking of preaching this week?

Please share your ideas, resources, children’s time ideas, and videos here.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Marci Glass

Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary.

Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).

 

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Narrative Lectionary: Laments of the week

If you’re following the Narrative Lectionary Summer Schedule as laid out by our good friends at Working Preacher, you are preparing for week 2 of Job, in which he laments. Given the events of the past week, it’s hard to cover lament without touching on the attacks that have occurred during Ramadan – or maybe it feels safer and easier to avoid them. What will you do?

Our excellent bloggers, Liz Crumlish and Mary Austin, posted their material on Job back in May, but please do take a look at it in your preparations. This week also brings us the arrival of Job’s friends. How do we serve those who are facing disaster? Can we resist the urge to compare the current losses or challenges of our friends to those we have experienced in the past? Join the conversation at the link if you are preaching on Job.

If you are somewhere else in the summer series, doing things out of order, you’ll find our posts on 2nd Corinthians here and The Lord’s Prayer here.

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Narrative Lectionary Curriculum: Life Mosaic, a Review

LifeMosaicAs you know, the Narrative Lectionary follows a school calendar as well as a liturgical one. We spend the Fall semester in the Hebrew Scripture and the Spring semester in a Gospel. I chose to preach the Narrative Lectionary because I want to connect my congregation with the Biblical stories. And I would love for them to go deeper in the texts than just our worship hour. So I approached the Life Mosaic curriculum with great hope.

But the opening words of it left me scrambling for identifiers: For what age was this curriculum created? Without any note on the sample, I assumed this text was for adults, but the activities reminded me of youth groups. What’s the theological underpinning of the text? The guide definitely has some markers of conservative theology (which is not my background). What’s the education level of the learners? The lesson was simple… way too simple for members, a large percentage of whom have post-graduate degrees.

For instance:

“Does Yahweh keep [humans in creation] under a tight rein or give them freedom to use creation as their own possession?”

This text asks questions as if there are only two possibilities. God’s complete control or our selfishness. It is possible that God’s good creation was created for us to partner with God, rather than only for God.

“Adam and Eve were not free to set their own agenda or ‘actualize’ themselves.”

Weren’t they? Couldn’t it have been that the Tree of Good and Evil is actualization itself? Isn’t it the opportunity for choice?

“The serpent asked a question that demoted God and his command to objects for discussion. Eve joined in this strange new discourse, setting in motion a downward train of events… The cost of such conversations is the loss of God’s friendship.”

As far as I can tell, God’s friendship never went away—following all the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Hebrew Bible through to Jesus’ friendship with the disciples, and God’s friendship with the early church and even to today.

As to the activity portion of the lesson, I think it may work for a high school class, but I cannot imagine an adult group enjoying things like “Have someone in your group act as an attorney for Adam and Eve,” or “Designate someone in your group as a news reporter and someone else as the serpent from Genesis.”

Finally, the application even seemed shaky to me. The lesson likens the Fall to someone making a “selfish choice,” which seems trite and quite the oversimplication. I want more. Deeper. More theologically dense.

I want a curriculum for the Narrative Lectionary, but I’ll be waiting for the 2.0 version of it.

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Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).

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RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.
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Narrative Lectionary: Summer Series 2016 links

IMG_7728Narrative Lectionary preachers, we have a new format for NL this summer, with one post for each of the series suggested by our good friends at Working Preacher. You will find them at the links below. Please join the conversations whenever appropriate for your schedule.

2 Corinthians: Letter-Writing Occasions by Lia Scholl and Stephanie Anthony

The Trials of Job by Mary Austin and Liz Crumlish

The Lord’s Prayer by Julie Woods and Marci Glass

Thanks to all our contributors!

 

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