Hearing the scriptures being read is an act of worship & formation?


How do you feel about the bible? How do you enage with the bible? How does the bible enage with you? How do we interact with the bible in our faith communities and what place do you feel does public hearing of the scriptures being read have in our spiritual formation (and does scriptures have less negative connations for you than say the holy bible?).

Maybe I'm getting old. I'm having nostalgic flashbacks to my childhood and how I grew up with the bible. I remember how solemn church (twice on sunday) was and the steps my parents took to keep us kids hushed, the old bag full of books and a few spankings out in the church hall when I wasn't quiet (sunday school used to happen before the main church service so we'd have been at church for double the length of time of most of the adults!).

Maybe some of you can relate to this and are getting a tinge of nostalgia too.

One thing I do remember is the reading of scripture. I remember the separate lectern from which someone would go and read from the big bible. Next to the plaque on the wall with the hymn numbers for that day was another one with the bible passage details on it so people who arrived early could find it in advance and if they were keen read it too.

It was considered a special honour to be chosen to do so and if someone like my dad with his rich deep voice and sense of rhythm, it was a magical moment. All of us kids would listen. Listen to a story unfolding. Listen to strange words (it was the good ol King James), names, places. People really liked the bible in my church so we didn't just have a couple of verses but often a whole chapter was read out (even if the focus of the sermon was going to be on the use of the word "BUT" in v3 contrasted with its use in v5 :).

Lots of people who could read would follow along in their bibles but a lot of people would just listen as well. When I was young I used to listen and when I was older I'd read along too in my own bible. Sometimes we'd have 2 bible passages being read out with a hymn in between (and it seemed that pretty much all of our hymns were bible verses but set to music).

All bibled out?

I went to that church from when I was 5 to when I was 18. 13 years of being taught passages in sunday school. 13 years of hearing each wk 2 chunks of the bible read out. 13 yrs of learning that this book should be treated with reverence and it was an honour to be able to hear the scriptures being read out loud and follow along in my own bible.

No wonder I was heartedly sick of the bible by the time I left. It just felt like one great big burden. Read it daily. Hear it read on a sunday. Memorise it. Ponder it. Revere it. God was the great big librarian in the sky who said Sssshhhhhh! Be quiet and just read my book literally!

The Holy Spirit being the Holy Spirit didn't let me keep that impression of God and shook me up quite a bit over the years. No bad thing at all really I need shaking, God is not just a God of the head and the cerebral but of the heart, the soul the body! I had to learn to love (and still am) how to love God with all of me.

So now when I reflect I think what a wonderful heritage. What an amazing formation. Hearing the bible being read out each week. Being immersed into a story. Making connections with other stories. Being captivated and having my imagination fed and my soul shaped. And beginning to recapture that sense of awe that this is us listening to God talking through ordinary people like us, that the voice of God can be heard in so many different voices told through so many different lives.

Other experiences: lectionary

I went to an Anglican church for a few yrs and was introduced to the lectionary. I didn't like that so much as it seemed like the reading of a set passage which might have no relation to the rest of the service. But I can see why again the public reading of scripture is used to each week tell more of the ongoing story of God. If I'd have gone to that church for 3 yrs I would have heard all of the bible being read out loud.

Ongoing formation

So I am more and more convinced that hearing the bible read out loud is not just nostalgia or a desire to replicate how christians would have heard the scriptures over hundreds of yrs, it is essential part of worship and spiritual formation. The act of listening, the act of being submerged into God's story can not fail to leave its own tide mark on my soul.

You may have a different view entirely and that's ok to share as well.

Incorporating scriptural formation into our worship?

In 21st century busy western life can we rely on people having the time to read their bibles? How much should this communal act be introduced to them in the faith community? How good is it for us to read together a whole chapter or even a whole book? What if we did it as play/drama with different voices rather than just one?

What resources, ideas, innovations, practices have you come across that are helping you and your faith community?

Resource suggestion: Hear the voice

One of the things that has been exciting and engaging me is the Voice project and I am enjoying immersing myself in their translation of the New Testament. The project seeks to capture the individual voices of the writers of the bible (by pairing great writers and expert scholars together) to bring out the poetry and beauty of the bible.

The voice is a dynamic translation to retell the story of God to help people enter into that story [you can see a brief clip with people like Chris Seay & Brian McLaren talking about the project here). It's a translation where even the format is set up to encourage people to read it out loud with a movie script style set up when people speak to help make it more dramatic.