Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

On the Public Reading of Scripture

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In 1 Timothy 4:13 Paul tells Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture.” The public reading of long sections of Scriptures was an essential practice in the early church. The church came together on the first day of the week for worship. They sang, prayed, gave, listened to teaching, observed the Lord’s Supper, and heard the word of God read aloud to them. Sometimes entire letters were read aloud at one setting. This was a necessary part of worship since not everyone had a Bible and not everyone could read. They needed to hear the word of God read aloud.

Bibles are now readily available and many of us possess more than one. Illiteracy has almost been wiped out in our culture. Nearly everyone has the ability to read. Even though we have made great strides in these areas, this does not mean we know the Bible any better than Christians who lived in the first, second, or third centuries. Hearing the Bible read aloud on a regular basis helps us to learn what is in the Bible and commit it to memory. Hearing is different than reading. It is a different style of learning. Paul is advocating that people listen to the word of God being read in the worship service. He wants us to hear the words of Scripture being spoken out loud. This should be an important part of our worship. This reading should not consist of just a verse or two, but an entire section of Scripture. We need to get a feel for the context of the passage and we need to allow it to speak to our lives.

This is not easy for us. This is a difficult task in our day and age. In ancient times people were accustomed to long public readings, but we live in a world of short attention spans. We would rather hear a sound bite than a full lecture. We are accustomed to YouTube videos that give us heavy doses of information in a few brief minutes. The public reading of Scripture takes time and concentration. We must discipline ourselves to get ready to receive the word. We must put down our phones and simply hear the words of God. This has been the practice of Christians for 2,000 years and it is important that we hold on to this apostolic tradition. We must give attention to the public reading of Scripture just as Paul tells Timothy to do, and we must pass this tradition on to our children. There is something very valuable in coming to worship, fasting from the hustle and bustle of social media, and allowing God’s holy word to speak to us.

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