The lectionary offers us two stories of the public reading of Scripture, with the psalm singing the searching and sustaining power of God’s Word. Today, we usually imagine “reading” as a primarily private act and “reading the Bible” as the definitive devotional act. Such has only been the case for a few hundred years. In the ancient world especially, for the vast majority of people Scripture was something spoken. Setting Scripture within its original context of the worshipping community, we are poised remember something central about what Scripture even is.
The Word of God opens a story to us, a mystery that embraces all things. Psalm 19 reminds us that the Word speaks in us because it speaks in all creation. Every time we gather to read the Word, we rediscover a constant common ground, a shared source and experience of life that goes beneath and beyond any personal preference or opinion. The power and purpose of the Word is not only to shape personal stories but to form a people, to give life beyond lifestyle. This is what makes the Word more than any twelve rules, seven habits, or secret. The Word is not a thing or tool we wield but a kingdom rule to which we yield. “Amen, Amen."
Near the beginning of a collection of sonnets for the liturgical year (Sounding the Seasons), Malcolm Guite dedicates a poem to the lectern, the place from which we read Scripture together as a body.
Some rise on eagles’ wings, this one is plain,
Plain English workmanship in solid oak.
Age gracefully, it says, go with the grain.
You walk toward an always open book,
Open as every life to every light,
Open to shade and shadow, day and night,
The changeless witness of your changing pain.
Be still, the lectern says, stand here and read.
Here are your mysteries, your love and fear,
And, running through them all, the slender thread
Of God’s strange grace, red as these ribbons, red
As your own blood when reading reads you here
And pierces joint and marrow…So you stand,
The lectern still beneath your trembling hand.
This Word is more than the collection of texts we call “the Bible.” We are listening to the living voice of God. This is the same Word that shaped the grain of the universe. The same Word that sings silent in the skies. The same Word that already implanted deeper than our own self-understanding. The same Word that becomes flesh and fulfills all that was spoken before. The same Word on which we feast every time we gather. This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.