A month ago, I posted on the relating of the scriptures to Christianity—a seemingly useless or at least redundant topic (not really useless at all!). I know that it’s easier and less consequential to “like” Facebook posts than to read Christian blogs, but I do hope many of you considered those words.
This present blog title was originally “The Scriptures and Liturgy”—because that’s the title of the chapter from which I quote here—but I thought that might turn even more readers off, or at least suggest to them that they can skip this post. If they don’t cotton much to the word “liturgy,” like me, that is.
I’m sharing below some additional words from the author that gave impetus to that earlier post. (Incidentally, I’m acquainted with three John Bartons — a father, a son [both college professors and missionaries-for-a-time], and this one — also a professor. All three have said things worth hearing.) This author challenges me, and maybe you, with thoughts about the use of scripture “in liturgy”—or, if you prefer, as I do, in the planned course of an “assembly” or “gathering.”
The text of Scripture is not God’s word spoken to us; it reveals God as the one about whom, not by whom, various types of literature are written. (72)
. . . The Bible is a vehicle for the Word of God rather than simply identical with it. . . . the words of Scripture are not themselves the sum total of his Word.” (74)
It is quite unnatural to understand the singing of the Psalms as an example of the church listening to the Word of God: on the contrary, the church is manifestly uttering human words to God. . . . Very rarely . . . does the Bible itself declare that its narratives about the “mighty acts of God” are given by God himself as his Word. Normally they are a human account of how God and his works look from a human point of view. When such accounts are read or summarized in public worship, what occurs is not divine teaching, but human praise. (75)
Are you regularly in situations in which you hear the coda “The Word of the Lord” after scripture is read? Then think about the implications of what’s being suggested.
Do you assume that every word you read in scripture is, in the same sense, “the word of the Lord” just like all the rest? I invite you to reconsider that.
Can you accept fairly readily that God’s work in and among people produced literature that manifested those people’s reach for Him? If not, how to do you view the Psalms?
Whatever your particular liturgical bent, discerning the scriptures’ nature is a significant undertaking.