This Is The Word Of The Lord

Marcus Borg (in his book Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001) p.33) disusses the custom of adding “This is the Word of the Lord” after Scripture readings. After amusingly suggesting replacing the statement with “Some thoughts from ancient Israel” or “Some thoughts from the early Christian movement”, he expresses his appreciation for the words used in the New Zealand Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church“.

Those words are, of course, derived from the Book of Revelation. Yesterday in my class on Paul’s letters I came across another phrase from the Bible that could perhaps be used in the same context: “I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 7:25). Although I am to a large extent kidding, would there be anything inappropriate about using such a phrase? What confusion can potentially arise if, after reading 1 Corinthians 7, the reader concludes with “This is the Word of the Lord”? How does the latter phrase need to be clarified in its meaning so that it is understood in a way that does not conflict with that Scripture claims about itself, and in other ways shows itself to be?

Let me end with the well-known joke about another affirmation and response. A minister rose to his feet to begin the morning service, approached the microphone, and said “The peace of the Lord be with you”. No one could hear him, since the microphone was not working. Fiddling with it, he says in a slightly louder voice, “There’s something wrong with this microphone”.

Automatically, the congregation gave the response: “And also with you!”

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  • Mystical Seeker

    I would be so much happier attending church if the services followed Marcus Borg’s advice. I sporadically attend a church that has a very progressive pastor, that offers seminars from the Living the Questions series, and so forth. And yet, right there in the service, Bible readings are followed with a formulaic incantation by the congregation of praise for the Bible as “Holy Word”.

  • Robin

    That joke is hilarious. I remember my church-going days as being filled with that sort of rote response. (Not to mention, there *was* something wrong with my Pastor, as he was arrested for propositioning a cop in a mens room, but that’s a story for another day!)

  • Tim

    One should choose one's affirmation to fit the moment. The New Zealand approach has the advantage of being truly generic (and, following LtQ, one of my favourites now as well). Personally I would consider "this is the word of the Lord" only after a passage where God or Jesus are quoted. Similarly I wouldn't really bother with "I give an opinion" unless I, or the passage, was actually an opinion.Mystical Seeker: yes, quite. There is a huge gap between theory and practice in the church. Amongst conservatives, people preach hatred but fail to stone their family members for the same actions. Amongst liberals, there's a "respect for tradition" that gets in the way and comes out as lethargy.