Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lectionary Boo Boo: No Scary Verses Allowed This Halloween

Lectionary edits have become a recurring theme here.

Our O.T. reading today was Habakkuk 1:1-4,2:1-4

Removed from the reading was part of the prophesy, the fate that awaits those who do not follow God's commandments.

5 Look at the nations, and see!
Be astonished! Be astounded!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe if you were told.
6 For I am rousing the Chaldeans,
that fierce and impetuous nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 Dread and fearsome are they;
their justice and dignity proceed from themselves.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
more menacing than wolves at dusk;
their horses charge.
Their horsemen come from far away;
they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
9 They all come for violence,
with faces pressing forward;
they gather captives like sand.
10 At kings they scoff,
and of rulers they make sport.
They laugh at every fortress,
and heap up earth to take it.
11 Then they sweep by like the wind;
they transgress and become guilty;
their own might is their god!

12 Are you not from of old,
O Lord my God, my Holy One?
You shall not die.
O Lord, you have marked them for judgement;
and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment.
13 Your eyes are too pure to behold evil,
and you cannot look on wrongdoing;
why do you look on the treacherous,
and are silent when the wicked swallow
those more righteous than they?
14 You have made people like the fish of the sea,
like crawling things that have no ruler.

15 The enemy brings all of them up with a hook;
he drags them out with his net,
he gathers them in his seine;
so he rejoices and exults.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and makes offerings to his seine;
for by them his portion is lavish,
and his food is rich.
17 Is he then to keep on emptying his net,
and destroying nations without mercy?

The Epistle reading for today was 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12

So what happened to verses 5-10?

This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marvelled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

It should be obvious that those verses contain taboo words. "Judgement", "repay with affliction", "flaming fire", "vengence", punishment", and "eternal destruction" are possibilities to which the average Sunday visitor to church shouldn't be exposed.

Stripped of this language, the letter loses its punch. Read how the Word was presented in church (I left in the verse numbers and added a "..." so you can see where the imprecatory verses were removed).

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring....
11 To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you serve fluff, you are killing God's people with kindness.


  1. The deletion of those verses from the Thessalonian reading amount to scoffing at the Lord's return. It is a theology of immanence, devoid of any eschatological consequence. Well did Jude say that certain men have crept in who change the grace of God into licentiousness.

  2. It always amazes me that people wish to concentrate on God's love and grace while ignoring judgment. You cannot have one without the other. Grace means nothing absent a Judgment, satisfied by Christ in His death and resurrection.


  3. I have tried to look at this issue (the avoidance of judgement, the absence of absolute truths, and the elimination of right/wrong verbage) from the perspective of the infrequent church goer, and from the perspective of the "liberal" preacher. I think that they might desire an "all is well" gospel as the means to help communicate the message that we are saved. Unfortunately, the question that they must avoid is, "Saved from what?"

  4. UP, That is correct. This is an "All is Well" Gospel not the Gospel of Christ as has been understood across the millennia. Saved? Salvation? These "all is well" do gooders have no need of the concept of salvation. Of course that doesn't mean that these people are Christians.

  5. Alexi,

    The editors of the revised common lectionary consider themselves to be Christian, but one has to wonder when we see the fruits of their labors.

    I see where they have the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, ELCA, and TEC in the mix of contributors. (web page is here) I guess the "democratic process" works its way out in those meetings, hence we wind up with "politcal correctness" in place of scriptural truthfulness.