Imagine yourself at the theater, you’ve settled into your seat, ready for the curtain to open. You have your script of the play open and ready to follow as the curtain reveals the actors, and the dialogue begins. The lines on page one move quickly and as the actors are speaking, there’s an uneven rustling of yours and several hundred other pages being turned, the spines of the scripts are being pressed down in small waves of sound that obscure parts of the dialogue from the stage as you continue to read along. The play darts along swiftly, page 5, 6, 7, and on and on through to the intermission, picking up afterward until the play ends. You fold the script in half and toss it in a bin on the way out or leave it in the car for a month.
What a silly scenario! Or is it? Those of us attending Church in person do it every Sunday. As the service leaflet replaces the Prayer Book (good news/bad news … watch this space for more on that another time), we have all we need in hand to follow the liturgy easily and conveniently and to know when and what to respond. At the 10:30 liturgy, except for a piece from Lift Every Voice And Sing, we rarely use the hymnal, as the music and lyrics are also provided. Yet, while we read everything as the liturgy progresses¸ perhaps we can let go of reading the Lessons, specifically the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Gospel, in order to simply listen. (Oh, and have you noticed there are slightly different sources of the readings in this season of Eastertide?)
As we verbally respond to the Psalm, naturally we need that in our hands. And, of course, if you have hearing problems, that’s a different matter. Otherwise, here’s a challenge: put the service leaflet in your lap and listen to the readings. You may be surprised to hear a word or a phrase differently when it’s spoken than when you are reading. You may notice more quickly that some of those words and phrases from the readings find their way into the sermon, even the hymns, and those prayers of the people.
It’s time to truly Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s People. Listen to the Word proclaimed. And then, take that service leaflet home and over the following week, read the lessons, and then, read through the words of the opening and ending collects, the words of the consecration, and the other prayers, even the lyrics of the hymns that are specifically chosen for that liturgy.
Sure, much of it is so familiar you can recite many of them but have you really listened and, outside of Sunday, read through them? Think on them. Ponder them in your heart. Offer your thoughts on them in prayer. Discover the Word of the Lord in a new way, again! And you won’t miss the crumpling paper sounds at all.
When Our Worship is over, Our Service to the Lord Begins! (And yes, I’m guilty of leaving my leaflet in the car for a month or possibly longer.)
All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:16
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Every week, Christina Brennan Lee writes the Prayers of the People we use in our worship services on Sundays. She also leads weekday prayer services. Click here to see her People’s Prayers website.