The Good Book

Reading with Expression

 (Thinking about Proper 25B, especially Mark 10:46-52)

B_Proper25-mediumIt must have been twelve years ago. I was back in seminary, very part-time, after a year's leave, and the kind Senior Pastor at my home church took every opportunity to involve me in worship leadership. On the Sunday in question, I read the gospel lesson before his sermon. I got to church early to look over the text, and as I read it, I felt very excited.

You see, once upon a time, when I was a student in Mrs. Barber's 2nd grade class at St. Agnes School, I was called across the hall to read aloud to a circle of mostly boys. Their teacher told them to listen carefully, because "Songbird reads with expression."

I've always been proud of that.

And I saw my opportunity on that Sunday morning in 1997, because the story of blind Bartimaeus is one of those that begs to be read with expression, nay, enthusiasm!

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

I sang the words out with spirit.

"Son of David, have mercy on me!"

I gave it all the expression I could.

I looked over at my dear Senior Pastor, feeling I had done all I could to help set the tone for his sermon about Bartimaeus, hoping to see his always charming smile of appreciation. But that day it was not forthcoming.

And then I realized that a big part of his sermon? Was rendering the words of Bartimaeus in as dramatic a fashion as possible.

Now-retired Senior Pastor is a member at Y1P. I'm grateful that when he hears me preach now, I get that smile. It's very dear to me.

And if you are preaching this story, and someone else is reading it for you? Check in with the reader ahead of time. Just in case.

(Read more about the image at Vanderbilt's Revised Common Lectionary website.)

4 thoughts on “Reading with Expression”

  1. I can so relate to your story. I’ve served as liturgist at church’s before seminary and have gotten the emphasis wrong more than once. I learned the hard way that it is good for the liturgist and preacher to consult with eachother before the service to know how the flow should go. However, it is very hard to do because things are so busy before a service begins.

  2. Or the reader could just pretend to be an Episcopalian, and read each lesson with the cadence of Alastair Cook introducing an episode of Masterpiece Theater, even if the accent is pure Virginia. Channeling Candace Bergen also works. 😉

  3. Oh my. I’m one of the readers at our church, and this kind of conflict has never occurred to me. But then, lay people don’t read the gospel in the Episcopal services.

  4. But, I would welcome a reader with expression. A few of my liturgists do not read the scripture until they…read the scripture.
    Some of them really miss it up, but then I have a few gems who read beautifully

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