If there’s anything that I envy about those who attend more “liturgical” churches, it’s the opportunity to serve as lectors. In fact, the more I think about this, the more convinced I become that the office of lector is the single greatest honor that could be bestowed upon a Christian.
For starters, the position is relatively safe. A preacher or teacher, for instance, must be constantly on the guard against speaking error. Not so the lector! What could be safer than proclaiming the Scriptures directly? How could the Word of God speak more clearly, than on its own terms?
Additionally, it seems worth mentioning that Jesus himself served as a lector in his home synagogue. Luke 4:16-21 relates:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Likewise, in 1Timothy 4:13 Paul urges Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture.”
Justin Martyr, writing about 155 AD, relates how each Sunday “The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.”
The Scriptures, of course, were written in a highly illiterate society, and only in recent centuries have Bibles become available to the masses. For the better part of history, Scripture was received almost exclusively through oral proclamation. In light of this information, how important is the office of lector! What a privilege, to be the mouthpiece of God! What an honor, to convey his very words to his people!
Of course, it isn’t likely that my church will be instituting lectors anytime soon. They are, it would seem, a dying tradition of the church, being quickly discarded by today’s literate world. Even so, we might all do well to pray:
Lord, anoint me to preach good news, to proclaim freedom, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor!