Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lectionary Excisions

Today's sermon was delivered by our Deacon who did a good job with the story of Nicodemus and the "born again" question in John 3:1-17. Not bad for someone coming back from major surgery. I still wonder if many have their foundation firmly established enough so that when asked, "Have you been born again, and are you saved?" they can proclaim in the affirmative, "Yes I have been born again, and Christ is my Saviour!" I suspect our Deacon is correct in saying that many Episcopalians tend to want to run when the subject comes up.

The saving grace of our Lord is a gift from above that is recognized by those being reborn. It is such a wonderful gift that people have to pass it on, even to strangers on the street.

The lectionary editors, in their wisdom, excised part of the gift today when the service called for the reading of Romans 4:1-5,13-17.
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
*cut verses here*
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
Paul's reasoning is undermined by excising all the talk about circumcision in verses 6-12,
So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness irrespective of works:
‘Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.’
Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’ How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.
The letter to the Romans is hard enough to follow without modern day redactors messing with it by trying to protect our virgin ears on Sunday morning by cutting away the unpleasant bits.

8 comments:

  1. God bless you! I enjoyed reading this. Keep up the good work.

    En Agape,

    R. H.

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  2. Thanks BNAF,

    Keep calm and carry on!

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  3. I was also well-pleased with the commemoration of the spring solstice, using the druid's preface which celebrated the "vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns" etc. We also praised the "primal elements which brought forth the human race". I guess we are moving away from any recognition of the words of Genesis.

    My kingdom for a couple verses of Nun danket alle Gott

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  4. Yeah Cato,

    We used the "Star Trek" Eucharistic Prayer C. Ideal for the Equinox. I am thinking up new funeral rites.

    What do you think about "Primordial ooze to ooze and sludge to sludge?"

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  5. Good for your deacon.

    I preached on the Doctrine of Works today, with plenty of ammunition from all three lessons, whether verses excised or not.
    My current events comparison with Grace was Islam. Even got in a couple of "This guy died and went to the pearly gates..." stories.

    You may also have noticed the BCP Lectionary includes 4 extra verses to the Genesis lesson than what the RCL appointed.

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  6. Rob+,

    DO you think the verses in Genesis 4, "At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’"
    Might be considered politically incorrect these days?

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  7. UP,
    Your comment was probably tongue in cheek, but I'll let you know anyway that except for Matthew Mead's analysis of the differences between RCL and BCP lectionaries (and all did was judge the difference as "OK", meaning neutral) there is nothing that I found on the WWW that explains the removal of vv 5-8.
    The two sections are, indeed, two separate incidents between God and Abram, so perhaps the committee's wisdom was to separate for the sake of highlighting?
    As far as Islam is concerned, 12:1-4a is not problematical; the promise of geography in 5-8 certainly is problematical.
    Or even better (and now the reason I attempted to answer your query at all), perhaps the RCL committee, way back when, was simply attempting to protect unprepared Lectors stumbling their way through 5-8! Ai!!

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  8. I'm back and catching up.

    In reading this passage from Romans, I'm reminded how meaty that epistle truly is. In my view, that and The Gospel Of John can sustain a Christian throughout his/her entire devotional life.

    Cheers.

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