The word of God is a large part of why we gather on Sunday morning. Lutherans confess a faith grounded in word and sacrament and it’s plain to see from a Sunday morning service that we are steeped in God’s word. While we say a lot of words during Sunday morning services, our primary source is definitely the Bible. Of course, we read passages from the Bible every Sunday, but a lot of our liturgical songs, language, and prayers come straight from the Bible.
The Lutheran church largely makes use of the 3-year cycle called the Revised Common Lectionary (a lectionary is a prescribed group of readings). Each Sunday and Festival has 4 readings that set the themes for the day. Without going into gory detail, there are typically passages from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament (non-gospel), and a reading from the Gospel.
The reading from the Old Testament and the Gospel are chosen to go with one another. These two readings often inform one another and may help us discover a fresh interpretation that we might not see from reading only one of them. Take a look at the Old Testament reading from Habukkuk (Habukkuk 1:1-4;2:1-4) and the Gospel reading from Luke (Luke 17:5-10) for October 6 and see what relationship you find between the two.
The Psalm for each day of the church year becomes the people’s (that would be all of us!) response to the Old Testament reading. In Habukkuk we hear the author’s despair at the world around him and pleas for God’s help; in the psalm which accompanies this reading (Psalm 37:1-9) we sing to each other in encouragement that all is not lost, that the wicked will fade away, and that we should commit ourselves to the Lord.
The remaining reading comes from one of the Epistles. Often we work through one of these books over the course of several Sundays. These readings offer an alternate topic for reflection, although to keep myself engaged on Sunday mornings I like to see if I can manage to find a way to fit it into the other readings thematically. Take a look at the Epistle for October 6 and see what you come up with!
These polarized times would have us believe that there can only be one right way to think about a given issue, or that once you’ve made up your mind, you can’t change it. It’s often said the word of God is a living document; I believe that means we are invited to come to it with fresh eyes and an open mind. The interplay of these four readings on a Sunday morning can change our beliefs about what God’s will is for the world and show us that while facts are facts, there is rarely one side to an issue.
Our place in the world as God’s children is to proclaim God’s love for the world and to struggle together in community. Therefore, listening to passages read from the Bible on Sunday morning is a potent act of grace and witness that is not to be taken lightly. The Word of God enters into our midst through the voices of our community and we must be prepared to challenge our own thoughts by this very same almighty and everlasting God of love.