Sunday, July 03, 2011

O Lectionary, Lectionary, Thou that carves up the words of the prophets and the words of the Lord.

Today's readings from using the Lectionary raise some interesting questions about the rationale behind the lectionary edits that we have noted on numerous occasions on these pages.
Genesis 24:34-38,42-49,58-67 I won't focus on the O.T. edits today, but be sure to read Chapter 24 of Genesis as a whole.
Psalm 45:10-17
Romans 7:15-25
Matthew 11:16-19,25-30 is what our Deacon chose as the focus of his sermon today.
‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

(Deleteted verses went here)

At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
You have to give our Deacon credit for mentioning the missing verses, but I have a different take on how they are an integral part of the Gospel.

So, read the Gospel selection again, but this time I have inserted the missing verses,
‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’

Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’


At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Our Deacon pointed out that a judgement worse than that delivered onto Sodom awaits those who reject the yoke of Christ.

Does anyone else see the importance of the Jesus' suggestion in the course of his reproach that repentance is needed from those who accept Him? I have heard it said that there are several points that should be made in the course of preaching, and the need for repentance is one. Without these verses, the Sunday morning crowd at church gets another pass. Oh yeah, the yoke is easy when you don't have to repent.

I also see the missing section as a key to why Jesus is thankful in the next part for this revelation. If there is no judgement, who needs to be thankful?

Time after time, we have seen similar edits. I suggest to you that the Lectionary is contributing to the delinquency of Sunday pewsitters. It is a clear pattern, and you have to wonder why the people who wrote the lectionary chose to present a watered down version of the Scriptures to the congregations (who do not read the Bible regularly and whose only exposure to the text is likely to be on Sunday morning). My theory has been that the editors do not want to scare people with all that judgement and wrath business (as if they might not come back next week for more). I am beginning to think that there are deeper theological implications of the lectionary edits. How does the revision affect our thinking about things such as repentance, salvation, atonement, sin, judgement, and the might and power of the Lord?

The long term effects of listening to an expurgated Bible every Sunday cannot be healthy.

Maybe that has something to do with the decline of the church.

9 comments:

  1. I had our folks open up pew Bibles to see the ignored verses, which were chilling in the midst of our national celebrations this weekend.

    Jesus warns whole communities that they have harmed themselves by rejecting him after having seen his works.

    America has been abundantly blessed with the revelation and works of Jesus. Our studied rejection of him is not good news, for Sioux Falls, for Spartanburg, for the USA.

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  2. Pew Bibles? What's that?

    We don't have those. If we did, it would be that NRSV.

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  3. You are correct, of course. The purpose for the edits is multifold: first to remove those things which are discomfiting to the masses, i.e. sin, judgment, repentance, etc. Second, to deliberately weaken the Scripture to the point where it ceases to be authoritative as God's Word, but is merely some sort of self-help manual.

    BTW, a few years ago, my daughter invited a liberal (ELCA) Lutheran friend to our church. Among other comments, she noted how virtually everyone had his/her own Bible for reference during the sermon and further, it appeared that most copies were well worn from reading.

    Who'd a'thunk it?

    Cheers.

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  4. Not just leaving out the judgement that is now the prerogative of Messiah, but reducing the entire rejection sequence of Messiah, Son and SpiriNt led Servant (chaps 11 and 12) to just one lectionary reading. I added 12:46-50, which seems to sum up the section: who is the real, new family of Jesus? those who decide for Him and follow him in the Way. The weary are not the overworked, but those who are having difficulty finding Messiah for all the customs and rituals. And Jesus promises to assist us in His Way. May He bless this reading and help our people hear truth.

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  5. It is behavior management brought to the pew. Add this, subtract that, the next thing you know Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Viendi.

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  6. Randall,

    Bibles in hand or in the pews are a good sign. I remember the first time I saw Bibles in the pew rack in an Episcopal church. I was surprised, but felt very welcome there.

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  7. Frank,

    Matthew's theme of rejection by some and acceptance by Jesus' followers certainly suffers as part of these edits.

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  8. Dale,

    Did you mean to type "lex vivendi?"

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