Thursday, July 17, 2008

Clip, Clip Here, Clip, Clip There

My last post of 07/13/2008 included another comment on the Lectionary and how certain passages were being snipped out of the readings assigned for Sunday Eucharist. The resulting collage of the scriptures was what we the masses typically hear. This subject was picked up at the StandFirm website and a number of interesting comments were made. I have picked out a few for further review.
"I originally sent this heads up to Jackie (after seeing it at Underground Pewster’s “Not another Episcopal Church Blog"). I never wrote anything about a conspiracy theory, nor did that idea cross my mind. (Though I do think that studying the passages omitted from the Lectionary is very interesting and illuminating, it almost becomes something like “the hard sayings of Jesus”—the things our culture doesn’t want to hear.)

Every now and then (as perhaps in this case) the omission might be justifiable due to length or theme—in this case to more tightly elide the two portions of Mt. 13 that focus on the Parable of the Sower.
However, given the extremely small percentage of Episcopalians who ever crack open a Bible on their own (i.e. apart from Sunday church worship), over time, the omission of all these passages about sin, judgment and repentance adds up, BIG TIME.
My title in the e-mail to Jackie was something like 'Why we’re in such a mess… part one million something...'
Anyway, I think this is a crucial passage to help understand the process of repentance and how to find healing when our ears and hearts are dull and shut to God’s Word. And by cutting it out of the lectionary, I think the Episcopal church is much poorer for it. We avoid passages that speak clearly of the call to repent. And it is shrinking from repentance that has got us into this mess… or so I believe."

[29] Posted by Karen B. on 07-15-2008 at 01:13 PM

I had to chime in,

"This topic has been a pet peeve of mine ever since waking up to the realization that most of us pewsitters' only exposure to the scriptures comes during the Sunday readings, and when the hard bits are left out of the text, we are not going to create tough Christians, people prepared for the tough times in life. The result of many years of only hearing the soft sell is soft mushy Christianity. The daily readings are tougher, but fewer people follow the daily obligation of reading and studying the lectionary. The Eucharistic readings appear to be the most watered down, but that is what most people hear."
[30] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 07-15-2008 at 01:26 PM

There were some interesting defenses of the Lectionary for example read this exchange:

"Move along, people. Nothing to see here. No conspiracy, no plot, nothing nefarious. The RCL lectionary is that same as the BCP lectionary on this one. The reason is obvious: The focus is on the Parable of the Sower. Omitting the verses the lectionary omits allows for the interpretation to follow immediately on the parable itself. It’s done all the time and there’s nothing 'unorthodox' about it. But the rubrics allow any reading to be lengthened (though not shortened) at the discretion of the celebrant, so if anyone had wanted to read the omitted verses, they could have done so."
[16] Posted by Fr Dan Martins on 07-15-2008 at 10:52 AM

"I have to agree with Fr. Dan on this one (its nice to be able to do that for a change). Personally speaking, I would prefer a lectionary that took about 5 years and covered all of scripture. Short of that some edits have to be made. The cuts that are most offensive to God’s Word are those that seem designed to Marcionize the lectionary...edit for the purpose of removing some section that will make us uncomfortable by either confronting us with sin or undercutting an idolized image of God and/or His character.
One of the most egregious examples is glaring omission of the sections of Romans 1 that identify homosexual behavior as sinful in the daily lectionary. The lectionary text goes right to that point and then, for no obvious reason, skips the verses in question, and continues on the other side.

[17] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 07-15-2008 at 11:00 AM

(Note that Matt Kennedy has noted that maybe something is up in some of these clip jobs. UP)
"And it is with equal pleasure that I can agree with Fr Matt on his observations re cuts that 'marcionize' the lectionary. I try to keep an eagle eye out for such things, both in the Eucharist and more especially in the Daily Office, and exercise the prerogative of lengthening readings to include such excised material."
[18] Posted by Fr Dan Martins on 07-15-2008 at 11:04 AM

Not everyone agreed with them,
"Fr. Dan and Fr. Mat - with all due respect - I disagree."
[24] Posted by Jackie Bruchi on 07-15-2008 at 11:19 AM

(Cartoon by See Mike Draw)

Others raised the flag that once deleted, some passages are never read in the whole lectionary cycle,
"I’m reassured by Matt+ and Dan+, though I went through the RCL online and was sorry to see that over the course of the three years, the lectionary never returns to the omitted verse.
Complete coverage of scripture would be nice… "

[22] Posted by kmfrye on 07-15-2008 at 11:08 AM

Others experienced a similar feeling as myself that I am being manipulated in some way,
"For some reason those two points never came out in the message, probably because the mid section of the gospel lesson (always hearing, never understanding) had been redacted by modern lectionary scholarship. How very therapeutic of them to keep us from considering why we might not understand or digest what we read and hear in Scripture."
[5] Posted by Rom 1:16 on 07-15-2008 at 10:33 AM


"Awakening from my pew slumber opened my eyes to what I have come to think of as sub-liminal programming. Having sold us on the convenience of the printed programs and such, our trust is used against us - once again. In reality, the part of us we cherish the most, being a Christian, is what makes us so susceptible to these innovations."
[10] Posted by Jackie on 07-15-2008 at 10:42 AM

"#10 Bull’s Eye!!!! “Awakening from my pew slumber opened my eyes to what I have come to think of as sub-liminal programming.” I think you hit the nail right on the head with this very statement. We’ve all been programmed with what they WANT us to hear. They’ve very carefully edited out what they DON’T WANT us to hear. They don’t expect us to study our Bibles at home for ourselves, and most don’t. It was when I started to study my own Bible that I had my eyes truly opened to the manipulations of the church leaders."
[12] Posted by Mugsie1 on 07-15-2008 at 10:47 AM

"Leaving out passages like the one Sunday makes complacency easy."
[14] Posted by oscewicee on 07-15-2008 at 10:49 AM

And who is ultimately responsible for what we hear at Church????

"The HOMILIST, at least, should certainly know what the context of his text is. You don’t prepare a sermon from a lesson sheet, after all (right?)
At my parish, the congregation heard the entire reading, and the importance of the omitted portions for a right understanding of the text.
It is the rector’s responsibility to keep these things straight - no one else’s.
As far as I know, none of the lectionaries encompass the whole of this pericope, but the homilist can and should.
But without a robust sense of the power of the doctrine of election (Article XVII), who would want to?"

[41] Posted by ericfromnewyork on 07-15-2008 at 04:29 PM

There have been occcasions at ECOOS where the Homilist has told us about things left out of the lectionary readings. An example from this year was from Fr. Dunbar's sermon on Genesis 9.

Which is better for the health of the Church, to leave out the forbidden scriptures or to take 'em on?

Clip, clip here, Clip, clip there, We give the roughest clause.
That certain air of savoir faire, In the Merry Old Land of Oz!


  1. Anonymous10:40 AM

    I believe that our new lectionary is the same one being used in the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches. The purpose of which is not to omit critical or "uncomfortable" sections but to promote unity and dialog between Protestant Denominations out side of the weekly worship service.

    On the reverse side - isn't ommiting sections of the scripture in the Lectionary the same thing as only reading the parts of the Bible printed in Red?

  2. I'm high church. The Mass is the centerpiece of the service for me. However, if we're going to have a lectionary, then we ought to do it right. Or Fearless Leaders are always going on about how well educated the average Episcopalian is. So why not include the uncomfortable stuff?

    All it would do is create more grist for the sermon mill. Which, judging by the moans from most priests on Saturday afternoon, should be welcome.

    Further, and much more cynically, trimming the time allocated for the sermon is rarely wasted.

  3. Dear anon,
    Unity and dialog has to start with what we have in common. The common ground we share are the scriptures in their entirety. We can then pray together over the difficult parts. Like them or not, they are what we are.

    My brain starts to wander after 11 minutes. Many homilies likewise wander after that time.