The History Theology And Practice Of Christian Worship - Part 61
Once again the discussion was lively last week. When a person who has been praying the church's liturgy his whole life, looks under the hood so to speak, his amazement and appreciation of Christian worship is trebled.
We have started each class with the order of Responsive Prayer I (p. 282) or Responsive Prayer II (p. 285). Take the time to look at those, and to pray them at home. Either by yourself, or with your family. Today we will venture into slightly deeper waters with the Order of Morning Prayer on p. 235. If you don't already have one, you would to well to order your own LSB from Concordia Publishing House. I ordered the Personal Edition because it's slightly smaller than the Pew Version, and has a flexible leather cover. Ideal for carrying with you wherever you go. Cost for this version is $36.00.
Today we will look at the Scripture Readings, and the Gradual and Alleluia Verse that decorate the readling aloud of God's Holy Word. This is an event that deserves all the praise, and glory God's people can muster. To this end please see this blog post on the Alleluia Verse and the Reading of the Holy Gospel.
As often happens things go differently that planned. Here is an update of what actually occurred in the class. We began to speak about the reading of Scripture but got nicely sidetracked into a discussion about Scripture itself. It is our faith that the Bible is the Word of God, written in the language of men.
Like Christ himself, Sacred Scripture has two natures: a human, and a divine. Men wrote it, men chosen and guided by God. We should not think of Scripture, however, as though it were dictated, word for word, by the Holy Spirit. Some people do think that. But when we read the Bible we can see the personalities of the writers shine through.
This doesn't make the Bible any less the Word of God, however. The writers were led and guided by the Spirit of God, and the final product is not man's message, but God's. For this reason I say the Bible has two natures: divine and human.
And so when we hear the Scriptures we are hearing the very voice of God, and we must hear it with deep respect and great faith, trusting that what it teaches us is true. True, however much the voice of culture or sinful nature or the Devil himself says otherwise.
To be present for its reading is to stand in the presence of God himself. And no one who hears it can ever be the same thereafter. The Divine Word has a way of working itself into the bones and marrow, and when it does the hearer is confronted with a dilemma. To hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Or to despise, disrespect and disregard it. May all who hear it, believe it with all their hearts. You will be greatly blessed for such hearing. It will heal your soul, and give you great peace.
We noted that the reading of the Old Testament was a vital part of the primitive church that of Christ and the Apostles, and for 350 years thereafter it was read in church. But for most of the next 16 centuries it was not part of western liturgy. Nor is it part of eastern liturgy even today. If you check The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) you will note that there is no provision for its reading. The Old Testament lesson was only restored with our current lectionary which was first used by Lutherans ca. 1970. But it's the right thing to do.
We also spoke about the reading of the Holy Gospel, which is THE highlight of the first half of Divine Service, the Liturgy of the Word. In it we hear Jesus himself speaking to us. The voice is that of your pastor, but the one speaking is Jesus himself, appearing in the midst of his people. That's why we stand for the Gospel, and welcome it with Alleluia's. When Jesus says: Lo, I am with you always, it's not just a notion. But he comes to his people as surely as he came to his disciples in the upper room on Easter evening. He is present. His voice. His Flesh and his Blood in Holy Communion.
O come, let us adore him!
We also talked about the canon of Scripture. That is, what books make up the Bible. There were many contenders in first and second century, but only these 66 were chosen as official Scripture, and that didn't happen until 367 AD. See this outstanding little article to learn more.
Though 367 AD seems to be the birthday of official canon, what we know as the New Testament was widely in use all along. There was much more, but it's impossible to write it all down, so I hope to see you all next Sunday at 9:00 AM.