Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pride and The Lectionary Editor

Today's supply priest gave a very good sermon on the subject of "Pride" based on Matthew 23:1-12.

I was thinking about how our pride shapes how we read the Bible. We tend to ignore the parts that we don't like and focus on the parts that please us.

Many times the lectionary does this for us by presenting us with the expurgated Bible as has been pointed out on this blog as well as over at the Churchmouse blog.

Today's lectionary provided another cleaned up Psalm for the Sunday masses. This time, Psalm 107 felt the chopping block. The result was a "psalmette" that left me feeling warm and fuzzy, and I don't do warm and fuzzy. This is what we read:
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
7 he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry live,
and they establish a town to live in;
37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
and get a fruitful yield.
Lots of good vibes in that one, but I was left wondering about verses 8-32 and why they got left out. After all, they contained the following,
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

9 For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.
10 Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
prisoners in misery and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 Their hearts were bowed down with hard labour;
they fell down, with no one to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
14 he brought them out of darkness and gloom,
and broke their bonds asunder.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze,
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
20 he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.

21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.

25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.

31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
Granted, Psalm 107 might seem a tad bit too long for a Sunday morning service, but it looks like the part that was cut is the part containing lots more great reasons why we should be so thankful to the Lord.

Verses 9-16 give us a recitation of the reasons for the distress of the people: Thirst, hunger, imprisonment, hard labour. Bless the Lord who relieves all who so suffer.

Verses 17-20 describe the sickness the people suffer as a result of sin. This would be an obvious choice for the lectionary committee to cut because it is not at all in keeping with the modern world view. I like it, and think we are sick with sin, and therefore I see no problem with presenting this subject to the Sunday morning crowd.

Verses 23-30 give us a wonderful premonition of Jesus calming the stormy sea. I really think that should have been heard.

Verses 31-32 conclude that because of God's great deeds of saving grace we are to shout about it in the congregation, not cut it out and leave it to some lowly blogger to dredge up in a half forgotten part of the web.

To be fair, Psalm 107 goes on for five more verses at the end, but the only objectional lines are the "negative" things God does to princes and wickedness.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their cattle decrease.
39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of distress,
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad;
and all wickedness stops its mouth.
43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.
At the risk of repeating myself, when we cut and paste the scripture to either make worship more pleasurable or in order to direct the message rather than let the message direct us, we are guilty of the cardinal sin of pride, and we are giving people a watered down version of Christianity which does them no favors.

6 comments:

  1. "Verses 31-32 conclude that because of God's great deeds of saving grace we are to shout about it in the congregation, not cut it out and leave it to some lowly blogger to dredge up in a half forgotten part of the web." My favorite line. Went straight to Facebook.

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  2. Verses 17-20 describe the sickness the people suffer as a result of sin.

    As our pastor mentioned yesterday, disobedience and sin have consequences even for Christians. Fortunately, God's grace is more than sufficient, provided we confess and repent.

    Cheers.

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  3. Anonymous1:45 PM

    "...and I don't do warm and fuzzy." I love this blog, Pewster. Though you may find it odd that it's among the things drawing me to the Episcopal Church.

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  4. Thank you for the mention, Pewster! May God's many blessings be upon you for furthering the cause of the missing Lectionary verses.

    Keep it going!

    Churchmouse

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  5. Thanks Anon...I think.

    Thanks Churchmouse, and our prayers are with you as well.

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