The following is from the seventeenth installment of my bulletin insert series at Centenary United Methodist Church:
Scripture - God’s Word usually refers to one of three meanings: 1.) God’s Word written (Scripture), 2.) God’s Word preached (the sermon), and 3.) God’s living Word (Jesus Christ). The reading and preaching of the Word are means by which the living Word (Christ) speaks to us. Thus, in the Wesleyan tradition, we are not simply concerned that God’s Spirit inspired those who first wrote the books of the Bible. Rather, we believe that the same Holy Spirit who inspired those biblical writers desires to inspire the Scriptures a fresh and a new to our hearts and lives, today. Thus, we are called to “sit on the edge of our seats,” listening for God to speak.
Traditionally, at the conclusion of each of the readings, the liturgist will say, “The Word of the Lord,” and the people will enthusiastically respond, “Thanks be to God!” At the conclusion of the Gospel reading, we hear, “The Gospel of the Lord,” and the response is given, “Praise to You, Lord Christ.” (At the announcement of the Gospel, some may make the sign of the cross on their forehead, lips, and heart signifying, “Lord, may your words be in my thoughts, in my mouth, and in my heart.”)
In worship we have three primary Scripture readings: one from the Old Testament, one from a New Testament Epistle (or the Book of Acts), and one from one of the Gospels.
As Jesus indicated to the disciples on the Emmaus Road, all of Scripture points to Him. So, the Old Testament lesson points ahead to Jesus. The Epistle points back to Jesus, and in the Gospel we see and hear Jesus. That leads us to the reason we stand for the Gospel reading. Since the early days of the Church, Christians have stood for the Gospel reading to show that here we hear the words of Jesus, directly.
Information gathered from the following resources:
Hickman, Hoyt L. United Methodist Worship. Abingdom P. 1991.
Sly, Randy (Former Archbishop in the Charismatic Episcopal Church). An Invitation to Living Liturgy. Cathedral Church of the King. Overland Park, KS. 1996
Webber, Robert E.Worship Old & New: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction (Revised Edition). Zondervan P. 1994.