Write, if you have a question you would like answered, or to add to the answers given below.
Are there any responses to follow a scripture reading which are alternatives to “This is the word of the Lord,” for the many occasions when it patently isn’t?
In the Prayer Book, the readings end: “Here endeth the first/second lesson” in Morning Prayer, and, by implication, in Evening Prayer. In the Prayer Book communion service, the end of the Epistle is simply “Here endeth the Epistle.”
The response “This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God” was introduced in the new liturgies from the 1960s onwards for all designated scripture readings other than the Gospel in sacramental services. If the reading is from the canonical books of the Bible, then it is “the word of the Lord”, whether we find it comfortable or not.
One reason for a short homily or sermon every time the Bible is read in a service is that sometimes the relevance of scripture to our situation may need further explanation. When reading passages on judgement, however, I have often felt that the response to “This is the word of the Lord” ought to be “Lord have mercy.”
(The Revd) Ian Enticott
When confronted with difficult passages, it is helpful to remember that, while the General Synod has authorised the words we should say in the liturgy, it has been mercifully silent on the faces we might pull as we say them.
Here at St Mary’s, Maldon, we use: “Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.” Response: “Thanks be to God.” This seems to have a good precedent in Revelation 2.29.
(The Revd) Stan Swift
Thank you to those readers who have written to say that the response quoted above is authorised in the Prayer Books of New Zealand and (since 2004) Wales. Editor
I have long considered that “Hear the word of the Lord” would be preferable. Those for whom the biblical text was dictated by God to the original writers and, in the version being used, has been translated exactly as he meant it should find these words unexceptionable.
Those for whom it “patently”, or even possibly, isn’t can ponder it in the light of other messages being communicated during the act of worship. Others may debate inwardly why they find the passage in question unacceptable, and whether their conclusion may more authentically accord with what they believe about God and his intentions. Others may be reminded of some incident in their lives and ponder the rightness or the wrongness of their reactions then.
The power of biblical and liturgical language lies in the resonances of words and open-ended ambiguity rather than the superficial unquestionable finality of expression in so many modern texts and versions.
M. J. Leppard
I always knew when a colleague did not really approve of what he had just read when he ended the reading with “For the word of the Lord thanks be to God” — thereby making the thanks more general.
(Canon) Peter Calvert
In these circumstances, I always say “Here ends the first [or second] reading,” although this does still bring forth “Thanks be to God” from a few members of the congregation.
A few incumbencies ago, our Vicar allowed readers of such passages to say “Thus it is written,” which did not seem to offend anyone.
David Wilsdon (Reader Emeritus)
Kilmington, East Devon
The other day, a friend asked me if the Church believed in evolution. I said that I thought, in general, it did accept it. He then asked when the soul arrived: did Homo habilis have a soul two million years ago? Could someone comment on this, or direct me to something written on this question?
Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.