Wednesday, June 16, 2010

There's Something Wrong with Our Bloody Lectionary Today

With apologies to Admiral David Richard Beatty who made a similar comment about his ships as they went down at the battle of Jutland.

So what is going on with our bloody lectionary? For those of you who do not engage in a daily church service or on-line worship, there does exist this lectionary thingy that over the years has evolved into what we call the Revised Common Lectionary, or RCL for short, that provides groupings of Psalms, O.T. readings, Epistle readings, and Gospel readings for morning and evening worship and for worship on Sundays, Eucharistic readings, and feasts and Holy days. For the past several years, I have been providing some humble commentary on the verses of the Bible that get left out of the Sunday Eucharistic readings. These missing verses appear in the middle of the Biblical texts and most pewsitters are unaware of the omissions as they listen or sit reading along in their bulletins. Some of these edits appear suspicious in that imprecatory, difficult, or potentially controversial verses wind up being the ones that are expurgated. I don't see as much of this going on during the week as I see on Sundays, but today the RCL tried to sneak one by me. You see, during the weekdays, the RCL usually reads straight through a book of the Bible so that you can get through the entire Gospel of Luke for example in a series of daily readings. But look at what happens to Paul's letter to the Romans between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

On Tuesday we read (or hear) Romans 1:16-25.

On Wednesday we get Romans 1:28-2:11.

Does anyone notice the missing verses???

I have heard the excuse that the lectionary shortens some Sunday readings so that the service does not run long. I think we have debunked that myth in the past when it was noted that one or two verses were all that was cut. Just yesterday I was reading an explanation of the Lectionary in the Prayer Book Society's Spring Quarter 2010 (print version not on-line) of "Mandate," and while the Rev. Gavin Dunbar gives a capable commentary on the history, weaknesses, structures, and purpose the lectionaries, there was no comment like the one I am about to make about the RCL:

There is a conspiracy to keep you from reading things that might offend the zeitgeist.

I hate conspiracy theories, and here I go starting one, but what else can I do when I pick up the Bible and read today's missing verses:

26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Or as we used to hear when read from the KJV:

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

(Romans 1:26-27)

Does this rank up there with the time the RCL dropped the following from the Sunday reading of May 16, 2010 (reported here)?
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."
(Revelation 22:18-19)
Maybe not, but when even an under the radar Bible reader like me notices that the verses that sound easy, sweet, and soothing never seem to be the ones that get sunk, is it any wonder that one's mind starts questioning the intentions of those commanding the fleet?


  1. As an outsider to TEC, let me opine that the evidence of a deliberate policy to dilute the truth of scripture is approaching the point of being irrefutable.

    Regarding the missing verses from Romans 1, one wonders how its possible for some to read those verses without their heads exploding from cognitive dissonance.


  2. Anonymous5:18 PM

    Your point is well taken, and I think it points to something rather problematic about the Daily Office Lectionary. As a member of ACNA, I hope that when the ACNA prayer book committee gets to that portion of the ACNA BCP it corrects this "oversight."

    That said, I've got a nitpicky question. Isn't the Romans reading from next year's reading at this time of year? That is, I thought we were in Year One because the cycle started in Advent 2009 (an odd year), which would make the readings for this week from Acts, nor Romans.

  3. Anonymous3:01 AM

    It s APPALLING that TEC deletes part of the Words God wrote. If He hadn't intended us to read about gays, He wouldn't have written about them. As a good Calvinist, I too am obsessed with them. Next, the TEC will be deleting all reference to shellfish in Leviticus!

    1. Which is, perhaps, the point. Many prohibitions in the Bible are not practiced - dare I say valid? - in our society.

  4. Fr Hugh,

    I assume that your obsession is with the words of scripture and not the last noun that your pronoun, "them," might be taken to refer back to.

  5. Erik sent this today from his J.C. Ryle pages:

    Erik | June 17, 2010 at 12:00 am | Categories: False Doctrine

    "We have no right to expect anything but the pure Gospel of Christ, unmixed and unadulterated, the same Gospel that was taught by the Apostles, to do good to the souls of men. I believe that to maintain this pure truth in the Church—men should be ready to make any sacrifice, to hazard peace, to risk dissension, and run the chance of division. They should no more tolerate false doctrine—than they would tolerate sin. They should withstand any adding to or taking away from the simple message of the Gospel of Christ."

    ~ J.C. Ryle

    Warnings to the Churches, “The Fallibility of Ministers”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1967], 105.

  6. Richard Yale7:33 PM

    Anonymous, we are in Year 2. When the lion's share of the year is an even number (2010) we are in the second year.

    Pewster, this is the 79 BCP that omitted the verses in question. In fact, they were omitted from the 1928 Daily Office lectionary, possible during the 1943 revision of that lectionary, as well. They are included within 1662, as the entire first chapter of Romans.

    That a lectionary might not include all verses of scripture does not necessarily constitute a omission from scripture itself. Nevertheless, the particular verses in question do raise important issues. There was an agenda in play, as opposed to saying you were going to read Matthew but start after the genealogy.

  7. Dr. Fredric Lozo6:13 PM

    Points well taken. Omissions from the Word of God are an offense against our Father in Heaven, especially when they are at the heart of the current zeitgeist.

  8. I have been checking various options for episcopal calender selections. I need several dozen for my congregation.