While the more experienced Episcopalian may have experienced it so often that he is not even aware, the newcomer to our worship will recognize that we read the Gospel lesson in a different way than we do the lessons from the Old Testament and the ones from the rest of the New Testament. “The Holy Gospel,” as we refer to it, is read at celebrations of the Eucharist always while standing, for instance. Lay people are often assigned to read the Old Testament lesson and the Epistle but the reading of the Gospel is typically reserved for an ordained person, traditionally the privilege of the Deacon. It is read, with additional emphasis, from a different place than the first two lessons, either in the pulpit or even with a procession into the midst of the congregation. Those who grew up with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer will remember that the priest read the whole of the liturgy from the high altar. He would begin with the altar book on his right and the liturgy would proceed through the reading of the Epistle until the reading of the Gospel, when the altar book would be moved to his left. Such is the reason the right side of the church facing the altar is still called the Epistle side and the left side the Gospel side. Ever since the liturgy was formalized, in fact, the Holy Gospel has been distinguished as the most important part of the Holy Scriptures.
Ordinands recite, as part of their public vows, “…I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation….” Indeed we are people of the Old and New Testaments and the whole of scripture is the telling of our salvation history. Yet we declare that Christ is the center point of that salvation history. All of the Old Testament leads up to the Christ and the New Testament springs from the Christ. His crucifixion and resurrection are the center of God’s purpose for his people and the Christ event gives full meaning to the scriptures.
Matters of ceremony in the liturgy are meant to emphasize spiritual truths. In the case of the Holy Gospel, we read it with such ceremony to encourage the listener to hear it as the fulfillment of the scriptures. And that is more than just saying it is the most important part. All of scripture reaches its meaning in the Christ; without the Christ scripture has no meaning. Another layer of meaning is that the truth of any one part of scripture lies in the shadow of the cross. If part of scripture seems to contradict the grace of the cross, then we have yet to understand the truth it contains for us.
Occasionally we dismiss parts of scripture as merely old or outdated ways of conducting affairs. Certainly culture has changed over the thousands of years scripture covers and certainly there are rules in scripture which we have learned do not apply to us in the same way in which they applied at the time of writing. Some of scripture seems overly harsh. Some, if taken out of context, seems more the word of man than the word of God. Yet as Christians we hold it all dear and true.
Each part of scripture points to the truth of God becoming incarnate, taking on human form, suffering and dying on our behalf. All of scripture, all of life itself, must be understood as a reflection of that greater truth. Amazingly it all fits together to form a perfect and unified whole. And all of it is commended to us as a means for us to experience grace. Accept the truth of the scriptures and live with the writings daily. Depth and grace await the reader, as we allow God ourselves to bring the meaning. As we sometimes impatiently seek to understand the truth of the scriptures, it could be said we are simply called to stand under the truth and be formed by it. Trust that things beyond your capabilities to understand are being redeemed and woven together by God’s grace. And in times when we cannot understand, it is enough to know that we are understood.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Sunday, October 6, at noon
Thursday, October 10, at 5:00 pm
Sunday, October 13, at noon
Tuesday, October 15, at noon
Sunday, October 20, at noon
Plan to attend one of these 45 minute meetings, hear our vision for 2014, and pick up your pledge packet. Those unable to attend will be called on by a canvasser. Begin now to consider your financial pledge to your church.
Blessing of the Animals – Sunday, October 6, 5:30 pm
In the Labyrinth Garden
Heavenly Host – Parish Covered Dish Supper
Tuesday, October 8, 6:30 pm
At the Bradfords’ – 1735 Hillwood Drive
Choral Evensong – Sunday, October 20, 4:00 pm
Halloween Carnival – Wednesday, October 23, 6:00 pm
Honduras Presentation – Sunday, October 27, 9:15 am
Pledge Cards Due – November 3
Daylight Savings Ends November 3
Bazaar – Wednesday, November 20
Ordination for Daniel Cenci and Candice Frazer – Saturday, November 23, 11:00 am
Thanksgiving Eve Eucharist – Wednesday, November 27 – 6:00 pm