Notes From The Balcony

Progressive Reflections on Post-Modern Living in a Multifaith Age

From My Archives – Standing For The Gospel

Posted by John Montgomery on August 14, 2010

[Note: This post was first published in June of 2008.]

Does your congregation stand for the reading of the Gospel?

A friend who knows that I am interested in this subject put me on to this wonderful video. Enjoy! They do!

Now most of us Methodists don’t do a formal “Gospel Procession” as part of our worship, although they do one at Duke Chapel each Sunday morning. Most of us are Episcopal light (as in not heavy, as opposed to dark!)

At the same time, a lot of us have embedded in our morning worship a series of lectionary readings – sometimes three, more likely two. Following the assigned morning texts, they begin with a reading from the Christian Old Testament (not the Jewish Tanakah), followed by a reading from either a Pauline epistle or one of the later writings, and then usually we have a reading from one of the four Gospels (Gospel as in literary type).

At Glenn Memorial where I attend, we usually only do two readings, but clearly, if the second reading comes from one of the four gospels, the congregations stands. If our second reading does not come from one of the four “gospels,” we seem a bit confused!

WHY?

The Lutheran website that talks about this liturgical element in our worship describes the ritual as a gesture of respect, but don’t the other texts need similar respect?

Are those four texts privileged? You would not be surprised that a study of Christian responses to that question yield at least two different answers. Some say yes, the rest of the texts are commentary. Others, ofttimes the same author says, no, in the Christian Bible, all texts are potentially a vehicle for the gospel. Paul clearly talks of his teaching as the gospel, probably 20 years before Mark is written.

I prefer the latter. My current fantasy is that at the time of the second reading, our pastor will say the following, “Please stand for the Gospel reading taken this morning from the book of Exodus.”

To make things worse, in my mind, our last pastor reserved the Gospel reading for clergy! No way….

Now those who know me understand that the real reason behind these comments is my suspicion that there lurks a subtle assumption that Christianity supersedes Judaism and post-holocaust, most of us find that doctrine an abomination. Still, every morning, we begin with a reading from the OLD testament before moving to the NEW testament and then we eventually liturgically climb up the stairs of the temple to exalt the Gospel. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a Christian and for me Jesus is the key source of my understanding of the Word of God, but what that means practically is quite another question.

This all got brought to a head this week because our pastor preached on the Isaiah text and the second reading came from Psalms. So when we were ready to stand, instead we just sat there.

I’ve got two ways of dealing with this. First, why don’t we stand for every reading? Second, perhaps we should put the main reading for the day in the first position and follow-up with one or two related readings. During Advent, we experimented with the key text of the day functioning as the call to worship. I likes that model, it set the tone for the whole experience of worship.

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One Response to “From My Archives – Standing For The Gospel”

  1. John Meunier said

    I explain the standing because the four gospels are where we find the words of our Lord Jesus Christ written.

    We do two reading each week. I mostly preach from the gospel, so the first is usually an epistle or OT reading. Then we sing the Gloria Patri, which we stand for. Then I either ask them to keep standing for the reading of the gospel or invite them to be seated – on Sundays I preach from the OT or an epistle (only two sermons from the Psalms in the last three years.)

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