Skip to main content

Why We Come Together to Hear Scripture

Way back in September, when I was just digging into commentaries on Isaiah, I remember reading that it is very likely Isaiah - the prophet - intended for his vision to be performed.  Isaiah wasn't just something to be read in the quiet hours of the evening, but a drama to be enacted and enhanced by music.  Yes, Isaiah even intended parts of his vision to be sung in the context of a believing community, for his messages to fill the cavernous space of the Temple that he imagined standing again in renewed glory.

I imagine Isaiah would have been very pleased had he been present for our Cantata this past Sunday.  I was more than pleased.  I was moved and moved deeply.  Sitting in the front pew between the choir before me, Brady and Rebecca reading to the right, Cheryl and other players moving us through the various songs and announcements, I found myself finally realizing the fullness of Isaiah's vision.  I heard and experienced the Word of The Lord come to life through song and performance.

Several of the passages that were read in "Journey of Promises" came specifically from Isaiah, and they were also passages I had read on my own over the last few weeks as well as passages I had read with the small group of us who have gathered here on Wednesday nights.  I am struck by the stark contrast between the different ways I have experienced Isaiah over the last several weeks.

The first experience - sitting and reading it quietly in small carousel at Roy O. West library or in my office - is a very solitary act indeed.  It requires the most:  the most attention, the most imagination, even the most work to unearth surprises and new details.  It requires an honest, naked listening to the text.

The second experience occurred on those Wednesday evenings when a half dozen or so of us would gather in the sanctuary - reading large chunks of Isaiah's prophecy and stopping occasionally to raise questions and discuss.  This enhanced the text, brought it to life in new ways.  Every time I walked away from those Wednesday evening conversations, I left convinced that the Word of God truly is a living and breathing thing and that it comes to life every time believers gather around it, listen to it, discuss it and try to discern all over again what it is saying to us today.  I never once have felt reading Scripture together and out loud has been futile, even when it was just three or four of us.

But, the first two experiences cannot come close to comparing to the experience of hearing Isaiah in the Cantata.  The text came alive all over again.  New meanings and connections were made in my mind.  The thread of lament became tighter and more pronounced, but so to the joy and awe of God's shaping history to bring about salvation.

It strikes me that all three are important:  quiet, solitary times of devotion; more intimate gatherings with a small circle of friends to speak our minds and hearts; and - occasionally - larger gatherings where our Scriptures come alive through the gifts of music and drama.  Indeed, the very natural rhythms of the week are intended to give us this full compliment of hearing and receiving God's Word, and it is why those who have practiced reading Scripture as a holy, personal text over the years recommend that all three ways of receiving God's Word are present in our lives.  You might think of it as a type of spiritual
daily bread pyramid:  daily, private readings of the Word; gathering in small groups through the week; and topping it off with hearing the Word as a full community on Sundays.

In any case, I'm tremendously grateful for the work Cheryl Beck did in order to bring this year's Cantata to us.  I believe recordings have been made of the Cantata, so if you would like a copy, please contact Carol Jervis or see Mark McKee.

As we continue to move closer to Christmas, we are turning our attention back to the Gospel of Luke.  This will be the first year in my ministry that I will intentionally walk through Luke's gospel.  My hope is to continue on as well to Luke's follow up letter, The Book of Acts - which details the early life of the Church.  I invite you to begin reading Luke's gospel.  You can begin by focusing on the first two chapters.

These opening chapters serve as a prelude for Luke's overall message and themes.  It ties heavily into the stories of the Old Testament and is a great link between God's promises in the past to the people of Israel and God's new promises to all nations through the long expected Messiah, Jesus Christ.

I hope you were similarly blessed by the Cantata this past week, and I pray God will continue to reveal the beauty of His Living Word to you ... in all ways.




Popular posts from this blog

Acts 5:1-11 - Questions for reflection & prayer

This past Sunday we looked at one of the more unsettling stories in the Book of Acts:  the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.  As shared by Luke, this couple sold a piece of land and then proceeded to bring only a portion of the profit to the apostles - laying it at their feet for the good of the community.  However, what appeared to be their grave mistake (pun intended) was their collusion in claiming to have brought all the proceeds to the apostles when - in fact - they were keeping some back for themselves.  Peter announces first to Ananias the Lord's judgment, followed by a similar verdict being handed down to Sapphira a short time later.

Seen by itself, this is a strange story, but it begins to make more sense when we see it as "part of the whole."  The story of Ananias and Sapphira comes right after we hear once again of the community's unity and generosity, including their willingness to share their own goods and resources to take care of one another (ch. 4).  Th…

Acts 6:1-6 - Questions for reflection & prayer

As the Holy Spirit empowers the Christian community, new life emerges and new members are added.  This is a beautiful thing, and it is extremely important to point out that this is God's doing.  God is initiating diversity within the Christian community.  However, this also creates new tensions and new challenges.

Acts 6:1-6 gives us our first glimpse of a tension that will extend all the way to chapter 15, until the leaders of the early Church come up with a way to address the growing differences within the Christian family.  Some feel that they are being left out and that others are getting preferential treatment.  The Hellenized Christians feel they are getting the short end of the stick.

All of this is extremely relevant to thoughts and feelings occurring in our own day and age.  Across the spectrum, a majority of Americans feel like they face some form of discrimination.  But, it also points to an ongoing challenge we all face from time to time, the challenges that arise when…

Life in Greencastle: That Greatest Architect

God's peace to all of you on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.  I hope you are enjoying the warm sunshine.  Perhaps you are even still enjoying one last sunset at the beach.
We stayed fairly close to home this Spring Break, taking two short trips, including one to Turkey Run State Park and the other to Columbus, Indiana.  Anna and I had been longing to go to Columbus for quite some time.  Back in the day, we became friends with Emily and Manish Desai in our small apartment complex in Pasadena, both of whom had recently graduated with degrees in architecture from Cal Poly.  Manish would go on to earn his license in architecture and has designed a number of really beautiful spaces, including private residences but also a church out in the desert for a Native American tribe.  Anna and I have always appreciated Manish and Emily's aesthetic, which is why we knew to take note when they started telling us about Columbus, Indaina a number of years ago.  They didn't know much abo…