Anglicans read four passages of Scripture during Sunday worship. Out loud.
So do some other traditions, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutherans and others. We’re not competing with our fellow believers in other traditions, but we do read a lot more Scripture in our worship than most Bible churches do (intentional friendly barb).
Why do we do this? How do we select the readings? How can other churches start doing this?
Why Read Scripture Out Loud
Here is a great reason: Paul literally told us to read Scripture publicly, out loud. He wrote to Timothy, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” And to the Thessalonians, “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.”
Jesus stood up in the Synagogue and read Scripture. The Jews read Scripture out loud together because Deuteronomy says to do so, “Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’”
Reading Scripture publicly should really not be seen as optional. Its not the same as reading alone by yourself. And its not the same as just hearing one passage read before a sermon. Reading Scripture aloud is its own thing – and it is an ancient, biblical, and helpful practice.
We read from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles.
Reading from the Old Testament is important. It is the book that prepares the way for Jesus Christ. It connects us with the People of God all the way back to the creation of humankind.
Reciting a Psalm together is the biblical way to praise and pray as a response to the rest of the readings.
Reading from the Epistles fulfill’s Paul’s directive to read the Letters aloud, and pass them along. These letters also teach us the meaning and effect of the Gospel.
Reading from the Gospels is the capstone moment. This is where we hear the words and deeds of our Lord. As the Head of the Church, he speaks to us.
This is an ancient tradition that goes back even to the Jewish practices before the time of Jesus. By sharing the same readings, we are worshipping together with Christians all over the world.
And the Lectionary also has the effect of keeping the personality of the priest from overly dominating the themes and focus of worship. The priest may not mean to do so, but if one person selects all the readings personally, all year long, they will inevitably follow a narrow pattern of personal interest.