A view from the pew

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Written by Rev. George Vink

After over forty years of being behind the pulpit, regular pew seating takes some mental adjusting. Do I come to worship with an expectation that my pastor has done his homework? Even before the sermon, wherever it’s placed, do the other elements prepare my heart to listen, my mind to engage? Does it make a difference who reads the scripture? Was I right in being fairly insistent on reading it myself?

This last Sunday morning as part of our breakfast devotions, Shirley and I again opened Buechner’s Meditations, expecting he’d have us thinking. He did. “Hear” it with me:

When a minister reads out of the Bible, I am sure that at least nine times out of ten the people who happen to be listening at all hear not what is really being read but only what they expect to hear read. And I think that what most people expect to hear read from the Bible is an edifying story, an uplifting thought, a moral lesson—something elevating, obvious, and boring. So that is exactly what very often they do hear. Only that is too bad because if you really listen—and maybe you have to forget that it is the Bible being read and a minister who is reading it—there is no telling what you might hear.

Frederick Buechner in LISTENING TO YOUR LIFE-Daily Meditations

When later at church the guest pastor read from James 4:14-26, I heard the “usual.” Yet, when the pastor expanded on James’ writing style or way of saying things, I heard more. Made me wonder…. How can we learn to hear God’s Word as if we’re hearing it for the first time? Would a period of silence prior to its being read help? Could our hour of worship be too cluttered? Can or will I ever hear a familiar passage without “knowing” already what it’s revealing?

Do only retired preachers think this way?

I don’t know, but I know I do.

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