The Reading of Scripture

This week’s post will explain why we read Scripture on Sunday morning, and why we intend to do more of it.

From the earliest history of God’s people, the covenant community gathered to hear God’s Word (Deut. 31:10–13). And moving forward through the centuries, Scripture reading has been interspersed with the singing of Psalms, hymns, and Scripture songs. In this kind of service, God’s Word is magnified and honored, not the opinions and self-importance of the pastor. It’s no surprise to see the practice of scripture reading has lessened in our churches as the cult of personality has exponentially increased with celebrity preachers.

Another way to view the importance of Scripture reading is in light of the Incarnation. The prologue of John’s Gospel explains the person and mission of Jesus in terms of the “Word” of God—Yahweh’s long-anticipated self-revelation, which was read and preached in Israel from time immemorial. This Lord was now upon them. For generations, the Lord’s word was heard, and then this speaking-Lord now stood in their midst, breathing the same air and eating the same food. The Word made flesh.

Christian worship, by its very nature, is focused on Christ; therefore, our worship should have the Word at the center. Hence Paul’s admonition to remain devoted to the Bible’s public reading. Although in Timothy’s context, this reading aloud in worship would have consisted mainly of Old Testament readings (since the New Testament had not yet been completed), the imperative applies to the entire canon. Christian worship, to be Christian in the fullest sense, must prioritize Scripture reading.

And there is another reason. Preachers may be informed by theological study, wisdom, and experience, but their sermons are not inspired by the Holy Spirit. Scripture alone is inspired. Therefore, Scripture reading is in a class by itself among other elements of Sunday morning worship. Without pitting Scripture reading and sermon against one another, we want to recognize the preeminence of the text itself. Its reading, you might say, is the main event.

In Sunday morning’s service at NCC, you will hear two passages added to the normal reading of the sermon text. These are from the Old and New Testaments, respectively, and come from the Revised Common Lectionary, a lectionary of readings from the Protestant canon of Scripture. When we read these texts, we are doing so in communion with Christians all over the world, a reading that not only proclaims Christ’s glory, but does so in unity with the church universal.

May God bless the reading and hearing of his Word.

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