Lectionary frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions about the lectionary

Why are there two sets of readings?

There are two distinct lectionaries that are provided through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Web site.

The two-year Daily Lectionary comes from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993/2018) where it was adapted from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer; it may also be found in the Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study, published online each year by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This lectionary is intended for personal study and reflection, as well as daily prayer in individual or small group settings. In a two-year period, this lectionary allows users to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice, moving sequentially and systematically through large sections of scripture. Two morning psalms and two evening psalms are provided for each day, so that the readings may be framed by prayer, using the words of the psalms. Users of this lectionary may choose to read all the lessons in one sitting, or may distribute the readings throughout the day as a part of the practice of daily prayer (a common pattern is Old Testament in the morning, Epistle at noon, and Gospel in the evening).

The three-year Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays and festivals was produced by the ecumenical Consultation on Common Texts in 1992, and was included in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Westminster John Knox Press, 1993/2018); it may also be found in the Presbyterian Planning Calendar and the Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study, published online annually by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This lectionary provides scripture readings for proclamation in public worship, following the Sundays, festivals, and seasons of the Christian year (or liturgical calendar). Four scripture passages are given for each Sunday and festival: (a) the First Reading, usually from the Old Testament, but replaced by a reading from Acts during the season of Easter; (b) a Psalm or canticle, intended not as a separate reading, but as a response (ideally, a musical response) to the First Reading; (c) the Second Reading, an Epistle or other New Testament writing; and (d) the Gospel Reading, from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. The three-year lectionary cycle (Years A, B, and C) focuses on different sections of scripture each year, notably the Gospel of Matthew in Year A, Mark in Year B, and Luke in Year C (the fourth gospel, John, is prominently featured at certain times in each year).

Why does this website sometimes have Old Testament and Psalms readings that differ from other websites and resources?

The Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays and festivals, published in 1992 by the Consultation on Common Texts, includes two “tracks” of readings for the second period of Ordinary Time (after Pentecost, between Trinity Sunday and Christ the King): a semicontinuous track and a complementary track. The semicontinuous track allows churches to hear multi-week, sequential readings from important books and narrative sections of scripture (for instance, Genesis and Exodus in Year A; 1 and 2 Samuel and Job in Year B; and 1 and 2 Kings and Jeremiah in Year C). The complementary track selects Old Testament readings that are thematically tied to the New Testament readings for the day. (The Psalms readings differ in these tracks because the psalm is intended as a specific response to the Old Testament lesson.) Presbyterian / Reformed congregations have a long tradition of valuing continuous and semicontinuous readings through scripture, particularly as a way to hear and understand Old Testament readings in their larger, narrative context. For this reason, only the semicontinuous Old Testament readings are provided on this website. The complementary readings (more common in Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran tradition) are readily available through other web sites, including the Consultation on Common Texts.

How often do you read through the Bible using the Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays and Festivals?

The Revised Common Lectionary for Sundays and Festivals follows a three-year cycle and incorporates a semi-continuous reading for much of the Bible during Ordinary Time, while embracing a select lectionary for the Christmas and Easter cycles and certain other festivals.

How often do you read through the Bible using the Two-Year Daily Lectionary?

The two-year Daily Lectionary is arranged in a two-year cycle and provides for reading twice through the New Testament and once through the Old Testament during the cycle.

What cycle is the lectionary currently following?

The three-year Revised Common Lectionary begins Year A in Advent (late November to early December) of years evenly divisible by three: 2019, 2022, 2025, 2028, 2031, etc. Year B begins in Advent 2020, 2023, 2026, 2029, 2032, etc. Year C begins in Advent 2021, 2024, 2027, 2030, 2033, etc. The two-year Daily Lectionary begins Year 1 in Advent of even-numbered years: 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024, 2026, 2028, 2030, 2032. Year 2 begins in Advent of odd-numbered years: 2019, 2021, 2023, 2025, 2027, 2029, 2031, 2033.

Where do these readings originate?

The Scriptural references for the Lectionary for Sundays and Festivals are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary prepared by the Consultation on Common Texts. The Consultation is a forum for liturgical renewal among many of the major Christian churches of North America. The two-year Daily Lectionary comes from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship.

I have noticed that some of the Psalms repeat. Why does this happen?

There are several times during the church calendar that the Psalm reading repeats. The Book of Common Worship explains, “The psalms follow a weekly cycle throughout each season, except for the period from Christmas to the Baptism of the Lord, when each day has its own appointed psalms, and Ordinary Time, which follows a four-week cycle of psalms.”
In other words, you’ll find the following as you study the lectionary:

  • Christmas to the Baptism of the Lord has appointed daily Psalms
  • Ordinary time uses a four-week cycle of Psalms
  • Each season (Advent, Lent and Easter) has a weekly cycle of Psalms

Why do I keep seeing the same seven readings for the Morning Psalms of the Daily Lectionary?

There are two Morning Psalms designated for each day in the Two Year Daily Lectionary. There is considerable variety in the selection of the first psalm, but the second psalm is always one of the Laudate Psalms (Psalms 145-150; Psalm 147 is broken in half to make two separate readings, for a total of seven).

Where can I get my own copy of the lectionary readings?

The three-year Revised Common Lectionary readings are listed in the Book of Common Worship (WJKP, 2018) pages 157-400, or in the Book of Common Worship—Daily Prayer edition (WJKP, 2018) pages 545-601. The two-year Daily Lectionary is listed in the Book of Common Worship—Daily Prayer edition (WJKP, 2018) pages 602-641. Both books are available for purchase at the PC(USA) Store or by calling (800) 533-4371.

I noticed that the Daily Lectionary on the PC(USA) website sometimes includes readings from the Apocrypha. Why is that?

The two-year Daily Lectionary is derived from older ecumenical lectionaries, which include readings from the Apocrypha. Although the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) does not recognize these books as part of the canon of Scripture, we include these readings (when applicable) for the sake of ecumenical partners who share this resource, as well as for the information of Presbyterian lectionary users. On days when an apocryphal reading is included, there is always an alternate selection from the (canonical) Hebrew Scriptures provided.

I have seen alternate Old Testament readings in the Revised Common Lectionary resources of other denominations. Why are these not provided on the PC(USA) website?

During the period of Ordinary Time that follows the Day of Pentecost, the Revised Common Lectionary published by the Consultation on Common Texts provides two parallel lectionary tracks: the complementary (in which the reading from the Old Testament is thematically tied to the Gospel lesson) and the semicontinuous (which allows for a more sequential reading through the major stories and themes of certain biblical books). Historically, churches of the Reformed tradition, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have preferred the latter option, seeking to hear and preach the narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures in their biblical context. Our Web site reflects that tradition, consistent with the other published liturgical resources of the PC(USA), including the Book of Common Worship, the Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study, the Presbyterian Planning Calendar and the Daybook of the Company of Pastors.

What Bible translation is used for the lectionary readings?

The scripture quotations contained in the lectionary readings are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.