The Shape: Lectionary

A lectionary is an organized system of selected readings from the Scriptures. Typically, a lectionary will include four readings for each day: one from the Old Testament (except for the Psalms), one from Psalms, one from a New Testament Gospel, and one from the remainder of the New Testament. The “Revised Common Lectionary” (RCL) is used by many Protestant churches across denominational lines.

The RCL follows a three year cycle in which each year is given a letter designation: A, B, or C. One of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, or Luke) is emphasized each year, and selected readings from the Gospel of John are interspersed throughout. Depending on the Christian calendar and the season of the year, readings will sometimes “skip around” and at other times will work their way through a particular book of the Bible.

Often, pastors will base their sermon on one of the passages suggested by the lectionary (RCL) each Sunday. By following the lectionary, pastors and churches are somewhat shielded from giving attention only to “favorite” or “easily understood” portions of Scripture. This discipline encourages the Church to hear and reflect not only on favorite passages of Scripture, but also on those that are difficult, unfamiliar, and often overlooked.

If you have questions, or if you would like further study on this topic, please contact Pastor Estep ( He will be happy to communicate with you and to point you to additional resources.


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