I have long believed that a church should read as much scripture as possible out loud, together, during worship. I know this in my mind and heart to be right. However, as a worship leader and pastor I’ve been woefully deficient in bringing this conviction to fruition in our congregation.
I first encountered the practice of the communal reading of scripture from my wife. While we were dating we would often attend Catholic Church together. As a devout evangelical, I was always mystified as to why they would simply read a segment from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament and Gospel out loud and then not explain it to anyone. Often none of the readings had that much to do with what the Homily was about, though it was usually connected to the Gospel or one of the New Testament readings. But I was drawn to it anyway. I loved that the Psalm was always a responsive reading. I loved that everyone stood in reverence to the Gospel reading. Making a tiny sign of the cross over forehead, mouth and heart they would say, “Glory to you oh LORD.” Later when I began to learn more about the lectionary and how if you’ll read the lectionary texts in your church each week, you basically read most of the bible out loud every three years, I was hooked on the idea. Sadly, it’s not a part of our practice at my church. But I hope we can get closer to it, anyway.
I’m still reading Life Together, slowly; drinking it in. Here are a few of Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on the lectionary readings:
“There can be equally little doubt that brief verses cannot and should not take the place of reading the Scripture as a whole. The ‘verse for the day’ is still not the Holy Scripture which will remain throughout all time until the last day.” 50
“It will be objected that it is impossible to take in and retain such an abundance of ideas and associations, that it even shows disrespect for God’s Word to read more than one can seriously assimilate. These objections will cause us quite readily to content ourselves again with reading only verses.” 51
“In truth, however, there lurks in this attitude a grave error. If it is really true that it is hard for us, as adult Christians, to comprehend even a chapter of the Old Testament in sequence, then this can only fill us with profound shame; what kind of testimony is that to our knowledge of the Scriptures and all our previous reading of them?” 51
“Because the Scripture is a corpus, a living whole, the so-called lectio continua [our lectionary] or consecutive reading must be adopted for Scripture reading in the family fellowship.” 53
“Consecutive reading of Biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of men. We become a part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness.” 53
I’m with him.