The lessons that are read in the Sunday service are based on a three year lectionary. Every three years most of the biblical account is read in our worship services. We are currently in year C of our lectionary. Starting next Advent we will move to year A. The lectionary is a great value to our Anglican tradition because it ensures that much of the bible is read. It helps preachers to contemplate passages of scripture that are not in there typical purview. In other words, it forces preachers and congregants to look beyond favorite passages or topics and consume scripture in a holistic way.
Sunday services have four lessons appointed. These include a lesson from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a reading from the New Testament and then a Gospel reading. Following ancient Christian custom the Old Testament lesson is structured around the theme of the Gospel reading.
Lessons from the Apocrypha are occasionally appointed for Sunday readings. The Apocrypha are books found in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint), but not found in the Hebrew Bible. Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles states “the Church doth read [these books] for example of life and instruction of manners, but yet it doth not apply them to establish any doctrine.” The Thirty-Nine Articles put Apocryphal readings on a sub level to those found in the Bible. Traditionally this has been expressed by the reader concluding the Apocryphal reading by saying “here ends the reading” rather than the typical “The word of the Lord”.
The Gospel lesson is the climax of the first part of the liturgy and “from the earliest times the people have stood in reverent attention while it is read.” The procession from the altar to the middle of the congregation is a powerful symbol of the “Good News” coming from heaven to the people. In the Gospel according to St. John we read “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14. When we see the Gospel read in the midst of the people we are reminded that Jesus first came to us.
One of the exciting updates that come with the 2019 Prayer Book is the Psalter. In 1539, under the direction of King Henry VIII, Miles Coverdale produced what became known as the Coverdale Psalter. Coverdales translation has made it into every Anglican prayer book until the 1960s. “In 1963, the Church of England attempted to update the Coverdale Psalms to more modern language – with a committee including notable members T.S. Elliot and C.S. Lewis – but the Cathedral musicians opposed the revision [musical psalters would have to be rewritten] and their update was not adopted.” The 1979 Book of Common Prayer departed from the Coverdale Psalter. In the 2019 Book of Common Prayer the 1963 Coverdale, Lewis, and Elliot Psalter will be recovered and slightly renewed with modern language and musicality.
One or more lessons, as appointed, are read, the Reader first saying
A Reading from __________.
A citation giving chapter and verse may be added.
After each lesson, the Reader may say
The Word of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.
Or the reader may say Here ends the Reading.
Silence may follow.
A psalm, hymn or anthem may follow each reading.
All standing, the Deacon or Priest reads the Gospel, first saying
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according
People Glory to you, Lord Christ.
After the Gospel, the Reader says
The Gospel of the Lord.
People Praise to you, Lord Christ.