The Word of God
Central to our weekly worship is listening for the Word of God through Scripture readings, psalms, anthems and the sermon. And so, in our weekly service following our 'Approach to God' (which we considered in last month's magazine) the reader for the day goes to the lectern and - from the Bible which has been brought into church during the processional hymn - reads the first reading, which is usually from the Old Testament.
Following this the Psalm of the day is sung (or occasionally said) before the reader returns to the lectern to read the Epistle (that is, a passage from one of the New Testament letters). For parts of the year there will be a continuous (or semi-continuous) reading of one of these New Testament epistles over a series of Sundays.
On most Sundays the choral anthem is then sung and then finally the Gospel is read. During the period from Advent to Pentecost, the selected portion witnesses to Jesus' life and ministry as he journeys towards Jerusalem and his death, resurrection and ascension. After Trinity Sunday the lessons focus on Jesus' teachings. Except during the penitential season of Lent, the congregation sings an 'Alleluia' following the Gospel.
In our Reformed tradition there is great emphasis placed on the Word of God and as part of this the Sermon is a very important part of Presbyterian worship services. One of the ministers will preach the sermon (usually based on one or more of the Bible Readings) from either the lectern or the pulpit.
Our Sunday Scripture readings are almost invariably taken from the Revised Common Lectionary. This lectionary is a table of bible passages used by Christian churches of various denominations and is printed in the Church of Scotland's Book of Common Order. In using the lectionary passages we are enabled to closely follow the Christian Year and we are linked with other churches of many denominations who will be using the same passages in their own worship.
So while we hear the passages for the day being read in our worship, it is more than likely that our neighbours in St John's Episcopal Church and St Andrew's & St George's West will be hearing the same passages, as indeed will our partners in Jerusalem and Amsterdam along with countless others of all Christian denominations and in different parts of the world.
The lectionary readings are in a three-year cycle, so that one of the three 'synoptic' Gospels (Matthew, Mark or Luke) is the Gospel for a year (with readings from the Gospel of John used in each of the years according to seasonal appropriateness.) Over a three year period, therefore, we will have heard a significant proportion of the Bible read especially the New Testament and notably the Gospels.
When the Bible reader on a Sunday introduces the scripture readings, he or she will say 'Listen for the word of God'. Each Sunday as we hear the Bible read, sing or say the psalm and listen to the sermon being preached, let us indeed seek to listen for the word of God.
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