Sunday, September 05, 2010

Missing Links and a Partial Birth Psalm

Today's sermon was delivered by our deacon who focused on Luke 14:25-33 but skipped referring to Philemon 1-21 except to comment that he, like Paul, was "doing this as an old man."

I found Fr. Dan Martins sermon on Philemon 1-21 helpful today, but he did not tie the story of Onesimus to Jesus's message in Luke 14,
So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
Read both lessons and Fr. Dan's sermon and see if you agree that the two do tie together quite well.

Today's Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) puzzler involves Psalm 139 which was presented in a cut down version for Sunday by leaving out verses 6-12 and 19-24, but for some reason, our church bulletin put in verse 6 and left out verse 13.

Here are the verses we read today (the church used a different translation),
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
Now that all sounds relatively tame, and it goes down well with cheese puffs at coffee hour, but there is the problem of the missing verses, one of which appears to be a significant omission. Of course that just happens to be verse 13.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I think we need this verse to remember to give thanks to the Creator of all, and to acknowledge that it is His creation in the womb. Absent this, might it not be altogether too easy to go down the path which leads to the destruction of God's creation in the womb?

Verses 7-12 are nice and perhaps got left out to shorten the service.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
The end of the Psalm has that imprecatory tone that usually goes unheard on Sundays.
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Cutting up the Psalms in such a way does more harm than good. It is a bit like taking God's creation, examining it before it sees the light of day, and preventing parts of it from coming alive in the ears of Sunday worshippers. There is a modern word for that...


  1. Anonymous2:48 PM

    wow - you really are a totally unhappy person aren't you? Sorry you don't like the RCL but it is what it is. So may I suggest - yet again that since you consider may of us Heretics and since you are using such offensive terms to describe the designated Psalm that you take yourself off to a dusty dank and medieval corner of one of the renegade congregations and fester in your hate!!!!

  2. Anonymous.......

    A bit of positive, constructive criticism, grounded in Scripture and tradition, is always welcome. Your bit of screed, grounded in anger and lack of theological specifics, is unwelcome. When the loony left resorts to name calling you know you are on the right path.

  3. Special thanks to an unnamed friend in the dio who found the verse numbering system varies in different Bibles which might lead to confusion when Psalms are chopped up by the editors of today.

  4. Oh my, my, my. I'm sorry I missed this comment thread earlier. Nothing like the marvelous demonstration of wit and rhetoric anon to put you in your place, UP. Alas, this medium does not allow a tongue-pointing gesture, as well.

    As for the verse you mention regarding being "knitted" in our mothers' wombs, it's one that I always mention to Christians who support abortion as some sort of nod toward our "compassionate" age. I've yet to hear a cogent analysis. Rather, Anon's screed is rather typical.

    "Ad hominem:" The last refuge of the intellectually bereft.

    Cheers, my friend.