Sunday, January 03, 2010

Another Curious Lectionary Edit

At ECOOS this Sunday, we celebrated the Epiphany a few days early, and as a result we used the lectionary readings for January 6. Psalm 72 verses 1-7, 9-14 was assigned and for the life of me I cannot understand why verses 8-9 were left out. Maybe someone out there in the blogiverse can help.

Psalm 72 verses 1-7,9-14

1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.

5 May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts.
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations give him service.

12 For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.

Fair enough. A lot of stuff in there about a just king who loves the little guy and saves them from oppression. Nothing offensive there except maybe that part about "crushing" the oppressor. So what got left out?

Psalm 72 verses 8,9

8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
9 May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust.

Is it that sea to sea dominion thing? It must be too imperialistic sounding for Sunday morning. Maybe the lectionary editors recalled the bad rap given to the notion of "manifest destiny?"

Maybe it was the "lick the dust" prayer that had to be editted. I believe that is a reference to the king killing his enemies in battle. Other synonyms within context found at Webster's Online include:

split upon a rock,
break one's back,
have the ground cut from under one,
come to grief,
go to the dogs,
go to pot,
bite the dust,
be defeated,
have the worst of it,
lose the day,
come off second best,
not have a leg to stand on,

and my personal favorite:
fall between two stools.

How does this sound?
May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies fall between two stools.

Sounds like something that happened to a friend of mine at Pat O's one night.

Anybody out there have any better ideas? I got the worst of this one, and I don't have a leg to stand on after I fell between these two verses.


  1. Of course, the omitted verses support the view that our God is the only one and that all people, like it or not, will one day worship Him. Alas, such a notion is not very inclusive, is it?


  2. R.,

    You have a good point there.

    I recall one commenter, when writing about an earlier post on chopped up Psalms, said the RCL did this to shorten the readings and thus enhance the worship service. Today's example, where only 2 verses are omitted, seems to disprove that theory.

  3. Bill in Ottawa2:18 PM

    Maybe they wanted to annoy us Canadians. :-) Psalm 72:8 is the origin of the official name of our country - the Dominion of Canada - and our motto -"A mari usque ad mare" or "From sea to sea".

  4. Perhaps this is in the category of trivia, but - in the late middle ages the introit on the Feast of the Epiphany was "Behold the Lord, the ruler, comes; and dominion, power, and empire are in his hand," followed by the first verse of psalm 72, the Gloria Patri and a repeat of the above antiphon. In the BCP psalters, psalm 72 remained intact for Epiphany until '79.

    I agree with you pewster, enhancing the worship service is a dubious explanation

  5. It is not an enhancement, but a denial. Denial that Messiah's return will be with the power described by OT prophecies, in the Revelation, or even by the Lord himself in the Gospels (Mt. 24:30, and even the progressive approved separation of sheep and goats in Mt. 25!) Denial that we are made in the image of God and that even our anger, though warped, expresses something of our Creator. Denial that Jesus took on our full humanity, since certain aspects of humanity are simply denied. Denial that ALL Scripture is God-breathed and useful.

    Anything remotely violent or angry in the Psalms is lumped into the category of "imprecatory verses." There are some disturbing ones, to be sure (Psalm 137 ends with a doozy). It became fashionable in the last several decades to edit them out of public worship, because they are uncomfortable if religion is to be of, by and for the nice.

    But there is a reconsideration of that practice underway. Even the materials at Blue Cloud Abbey (Benedictine) here in South Dakota now speak of engaging the imprecatory verses rather than avoiding them. Our best spiritual insight comes through some of the most uncomfortable passages. And our whole being, including our anger, must be offered to God as part of our "living sacrifice."

    And of course the verses you point out take this up a notch because they are prophecies of what Jesus will be like when he comes again. We want to cling to the gentle shepherd who walked the earth, the one we easily kill and ignore. We don't want to look at his return, when he will be attentive to what we try to hide and he will be the one inflicting the judgements.

  6. Bill in Ottawa,

    I never thought of that one, you guys must be imperialists eh?

  7. Tim,

    What is deemed "imprecatory" is really a matter of human revisionism and is thus suspect. I agree that we gain insights from these difficult verses. Jesus Himself challenges us with one of these:

    "eloi eloi lama sabachthani" (Psalm 22)

    Where would we be if this got editted out?