How Consecutive Regular Scripture Reading Helps Us to Grow
As I sit here at the Charlotte airport awaiting my flight to D.C. and points beyond I have a bit of time to make use of so I thought I’d type up the prayer and worship help for Tuesday while I wait. For this week I want to talk a little bit about one of the parts of our order of service at Bethany that we kind of don’t think about sometimes, and that is the Scripture Reading. Our practice has been since I was blessed to become the pastor at Bethany five years ago is that we read consecutively through a New Testament book when the sermon comes from the Old Testament and vice versa. Right now we are in the midst of 1 Kings 4 and the early part of the reign of Solomon, when we were looking at Deuteronomy over the summer we had made it to John 5. The question we’ll seek to answer this morning is why, why do we do this, and why can it be helpful to our understanding not only of worship and the Sabbath Day, but of God’s purpose in redemptive history?
One of the things I’ve noticed, and by no means have planned is the way in which the Scripture Lesson and the Sermon Text often sweetly comply with one another. I’d like to say I was that smart, but we all know the truth. 🙂 God in His grace has caused this to take place primarily because that is how the Bible works. It is designed by the inspiration and witness of the Holy Spirit on every page to point the believer to the goodness of the Lord and His purpose in making all things for His glory. So it should not surprise us when a passage like Solomon offering to cut the baby in half works so well with Blessed are the Merciful. Being that the Bible is inerrant it gives us great comfort to know that we can open the Scripture at any point and be pleased by what we read. Yet there is more to why we read consecutively than just that generic point. In the flow of the service the Scripture Reading follows the Call to Worship, the opening Bible Song, and the Invocation. That makes four word-based actions that each in their own way illustrate our dependence on the Lord for our spiritual life. In some ways the Scripture Reading is the capstone of the opening part of our worship. If you look at the first two movements in the order below you’ll notice a pattern: Singing, Prayer, Reading, Exposition.
Call to Worship
Each of these sections are meant to build upon what has come before. There is a purpose to why worship is organized the way that it is, we may not have thought about it like that, or noticed, but there is a reasoning behind why we do things that way, a method behind the madness outside of “well we need to do this stuff in some kind of order”.
Christianity is a word-based religion. We do not worship our God using images or man-made objects like statues, paintings, or choreographed celebratory rites. The central way we interact with Jehovah is through clear and understandable vocal, whether in our heads or verbal, structures that both honor our God and make-use of what He has blessedly granted unto us in the Bible by His grace. When we think about something the Apostle Paul makes note of in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 it is through the imbibing of the word of God (in that example the 150 psalms of David) that we allow Christ to dwell within us richly, which informs our prayers, our devotions, and our cries of lament in times of trial. The Scripture Lesson provides for us as a Church a common language to speak about what the Lord is doing in our lives for that day and guides us into understanding the full use of the Bible in helping God’s people realize their place in His kingdom.
There is also the purpose of encouraging us to attend worship every week. We often wonder how Jesus knew so much about Himself and His work when He didn’t have the benefit of bound Bibles He could study like we do. While I am sure Christ could go to the priest and gain access on other days if our Lord so desired the primary way that He heard the word of God was in corporate worship on the Sabbath day. The practice in the synagogue was consecutive reading through the scroll. Reformed worship is based largely on what was normal in the synagogue and so it makes sense to see us follow that pattern. There is also the fact that the Bible passage we hear is meant to be heard together. Too much cannot be made about how vital it is to understand that worship on the Lord’s Day is not an independent, individual activity. We are there as one body connected through our common union with Christ in His redemptive work and as that one congregation of our Redeemer the reading of God’s word is salutary to us as we grow together in sanctification and in the knowledge we share for one another’s benefit. If we are all on the same page about what the Lord requires it is that much easier to know how to serve one another in love.
In closing, there are other matters that could probably be mentioned at this time, but my flight just got called to open boarding so I’d better close it down for now. 🙂 As we think more and more about what we do in worship on Sunday it is good for us to meditate a little bit on each part of the worship service. When you have the same, or similar, liturgy every week there can be some negatives to it to be honest. The most significant of those is how we can become numb and treat each section as just another thing to tick off so we can get the hour and ten minutes over with. It’s good for our spiritual and emotional health that we take seriously each step, contemplating what the Spirit is doing each time in order to help us with the trials of life and come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a believer.
Something to add:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church