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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Reading the Lection in Church

Announcing the Readings

The lection should be introduced in the Divine Service by the reader with the appropriate formula.

There should never be fewer than two readings. At the first reading, the liturgical day should be announced. The basic pattern is as follows:

The Old Testament for Jubilate is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah, the 40th chapter."

There is no need to add "reading" to "Old Testament" or to give verse numbers.

If the first reading is from an Epistle then it is announced as "the Epistle." If the first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles, the Revelation to St. John, or the Apocrypha it is announced as "the First Reading." When the Apocrypha is read it is suggested that rather than ending the reading with the words “This is the Word of the Lord” that the reader simply say “Here ends the reading.”

The Latin names of the Sundays are used for the Sundays of Pre-Lent, Lent, and Easter. Other times the translation of the Latin names is used but the common name may be included in the following manner: "for the feast of the Nativity, commonly called Christmas" or "The Resurrection of Our Lord, commonly called Easter" and so forth.

The books of Moses are named by their number in a similar way as follows: "The Old Testament for Judica is written in the first book of Moses, commonly called Genesis, the 22nd chapter."

The rest of the prophets are named as such, including Job, in the following manner "the book of the prophet Ezekiel" or "the second book of the prophet Samuel." The historical books are given their fuller titles: "The 1st book of the Chronicles of the Kings." Proverbs is declared "the Proverbs of Solomon."

Use of the word "lesson," even though it is a valid translation of the Latin "lectio," is discouraged as it might imply in modern English the idea that the reading of the Bible in worship is for the purpose of teaching moral lessons.

The use of the word "written" is important and much preferred to simply saying that a pericope is from some book. The word written conveys the solidity of the Scriptures and takes away the idea that we are pulling things out of the Bible and out of context willy-nilly. "It is a written" is the formula of Christ Himself.

Introductory Phrases and Proper Nouns for Sense

The Lection often requires some introductory phrase to place the reading into context. So also each reading should be sure to replace any pronouns with the proper noun without antecedents. This is most often required in the Gospel. Each reading has its own conventions for setting the context. The following recommendations are modified from what can be found in Lamburn's Ritual Notes on pages 105-6 and 109.

It is suggested that when these things are printed in the bulletin for worship that the words added to the written text for sense be printed in italic type.

Old Testament

The Old Testament is generally prefaced with the words In those days, or Thus saith the Lord God, or as may be required by the opening words (In those days the prophet Daniel said, etc.) Sometimes no preface is needed.


The majority of the Pauline letters are normally prefaced with Brethren, unless the word “brethren” or “brothers” appears in the first sentence or two. This is because the letters are addressed to the Church at large. If one of Paul's Pastoral Epistles to Timothy, Titus, or Philemon is read it should be prefaced with Dearly beloved. The same formula is for the letters from Peter, John, and Jude. The letter to the Hebrews is assumed to have been penned by Paul.

If the Epistle is from the Acts of the Apostles, the Revelation to St. John, is from the Old Testament reading, or is from the Apocrypha it begins with In those days like unto the Old Testament or as the sense requires. So also, in these cases, the reading should not be called "the Epistle" but should be called "the Second Reading."


The Gospel is normally prefaced with At that time and, if the sense requires it, continued with "Jesus said to" or "Jesus spoke this parable to" and then either "His disciples," "the pharisees," or even, as is the case for Judica, "to the Jewish crowds." For example: At that time Jesus said to His disciples . . . At that time Jesus spoke this parable to the pharisees . . ." or simply "At that time . . ."

Sometimes, early in the pericope, a pronoun will have to be replaced with the proper noun in order to make clear who is speaking or being spoken to or about.

On occasion, since it is not needed, there is no preface at all. On Christmas Day the Gospel begins without preface: “In the beginning . . ." likewise, Epiphany: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem . ."