As a pastor, I’ve discovered that while many people know Bible stories about Jesus, few can readily articulate the Scriptures’ great overarching themes of creation, fall, and redemption. And I’ve become more convinced of the necessity of telling God’s people the whole story.
In a recent evening service we dispensed with the usual sermon and let the Word of God be the message. Telling the whole story requires a careful selection of passages that can be tied together in a coherent sequence without doing serious damage to each passage in its own context. Two people did the readings; I tied each of the readings together with three or four transition sentences. For example, in moving from Joshua 24 to Judges, I mentioned how pointed the Scriptures are about the penchant of God’s people to promptly forget about him. One would think that those who made the solemn vow “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” would raise their children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord. But the writer of Judges helps us to see that it doesn’t happen. These readings helped us realize that we were not only telling the story of God’s covenant dealings with the people of Israel, but also with us, as members of the church.
To mark the end of each section of readings, we sang appropriate stanzas of “I Will Sing unto the Lord” (PsH 152; see p. 30), an Israeli folk song that celebrates God’s goodness in leading Israel safely through the Red Sea. The additional Easter stanza (only one line change) invited its use at that point in the story; I adapted the text similarly for the other sections.
The service as it stands took about ninety minutes. I tried to choose selections that would continue the flow of the message and advance the story line at the same time. I also tried to include as many types of biblical literature as I could, given the constraints of time and continuity.
The response to this service was far beyond anything I had expected. It is my hope that other churches may also want to use this way of telling “the whole story.” Why?
- Hearing the whole story helps God’s people make sense of it in their hearts.
- Told as a whole, the story is so compelling; although God’s people were far from faithful, we see that God never gives up on them (or on us).
- God’s people need to understand that the story continues even today as we live in the time prior to the second coming of Jesus.
- Providing this short, readily accessible set of readings can enable God’s people to share the story with someone else who needs to know it too.
The Story of Redemption: From a Black Hole to the Fullness of Time
Welcome and Call to Worship
Songs of Praise
Confession of Faith: Lord’s Day 6, The Heidelberg Catechism
(Note: The congregation recited the answers to the four questions about the revelation of Jesus Christ as mediator, revealed “already in Paradise” and “by the holy patriarchs and prophets” until fulfilled in Christ.)
Prayer for Illumination
Genesis 1:1; 2:1-3—Creation
Genesis 2:15-17—Covenant of Works
Genesis 3:6-9—Fall and Initial Search by God
Genesis 3:15—Mother Promise
Genesis 9:8-11—Covenant of Nature
Genesis 12:1-4a—Covenant of Grace, Abram’s Call
Genesis 15:1, 6—Imputed Righteousness
Exodus 3:1-10—Call of Moses
Exodus 12:12-14—The Passover of God
Exodus 12:31-33—The Exodus
Song: “I Will Sing unto the Lord” (see p. 30)
Exodus 20:1-17—The Ten Commandments
Joshua 4:19-24—The Crossing into the Promised Land
Joshua 24:14-15—Choose Whom You Will Serve
Judges 21:25—Everyone Did as They Saw Fit
2 Samuel 7:5-16—Covenant of Love to David and His House Forever
1 Kings 12:25-30—The Golden Calves
1 Kings 18:20-21, 38-39—The Contest on Mount Carmel
Song: “I Will Sing unto the Lord” (new line: “the fire fell from heaven, don’t you see?”)
Amos 5:4-6, 14-15—Amos’s Call for Repentance
2 Kings 17:7-20—Israel’s Exile Reasoned
Isaiah 1:16-20—Written Prophecy, Promise of Forgiveness
Hosea 11:1-11—God’s Love for Israel
Psalm 137:1-6—How Can We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Foreign Land?
Isaiah 53:1-6—A Substitute to Bear the Curse
Song: “I Will Sing unto the Lord” (new line: “he gave a Lamb to save us wondrously!”)
Psalm 126:1-3—“When the Lord Brought Back the Captives”
Haggai 2:4-5—Encouragement to Rebuild the Temple
Zechariah 3:1-5, 9—Promise of Forgiveness
Luke 1:26-33—He Will Reign Forever
Matthew 1:20-21—Name Him Jesus!
Matthew 3:13-17—The Baptism of Jesus!
Mark 1:16-18—“Follow Me!”
Song: “I Will Sing unto the Lord” (new line: “and now we hear him calling, ‘Follow me’.”)
John 3:14-17—God So Loved the World
John 10:14-15—The Good Shepherd
Mark 8:27-29—You Are the Christ
Mark 9:2-7—The Transfiguration
Mark 10:32-34—Predicting His Death
Luke 22:19-22—The Lord’s Supper
Luke 23:44-46—The Crucifixion
Matthew 28:1-6—The Resurrection
Song: “I Will Sing unto the Lord” (new line: “the grave is empty, won’t you come and see?”)
Ephesians 3:7-11—The Mystery Revealed
Galatians 3:6-9—Children of Abraham
Revelation 21:1-5—The New Order
Song: “I Will Sing unto the Lord” (new line: “and he will reign in heaven eternally!”)
Song: “Savior, Again to Your Dear Name We Raise” PsH 319, PH 539, RL 517, TH 388, TWC 835.
Tips for Reading Scripture in Worship
You’ve been invited to read the Word of God in worship. That means you have the privilege of letting the congregation hear God’s voice. Remember that the focus should not be upon you as a reader but on the Scripture text. The following tips will help you prepare to be an effective Scripture reader.
- Understand. Read and study the passage carefully for its meaning.
- Analyze. What are the parts or sections, speakers or participants?
- Plan. Mark up your text for emphasis, pauses, volume, and so on.
- Rehearse. Read the passage out loud several times.
- Posture. Stand straight but comfortably; if there is no lectern, hold the Bible at chest height.
- Enunciation. Project your voice and speak clearly.
- Volume. Adjust your volume to the sound system (if any).
- Pace. Speak more slowly than your normal speech (with some variation in rate).
- Pause. Pause at appropriate places for understanding and emphasis.