Sunday, June 17, 2012

What Does He Need a Sickle For Anyway?

One recurring issue that I have been documenting here is the way the Sunday scripture readings get shortened by our lectionary. All too conveniently, it is the imprecatory verses that get cut. This does provide the congregation the short term benefit of a pleasant Sunday morning free from hearing about God's judgement or His wrath, but what are the long term effects?

In the long run, a steady diet of sweet tasting scripture leads to loss of the teeth that one needs to be able to chew on the tougher parts of the Bible.

And if you never get to work on the tough parts, your body will end up suffering from one deficiency state or another. Perhaps our denomination's deficiencies of doctrine and Theology can be traced back to an underlying problem with dentition.

Today's examples add weight to my theory that it is usually the tough parts that get trimmed by the knives of the lectionary committee.

Psalm 92 was shortened to,

 Psalm 92:1-4,12-15; (It was listed as 1-4, 11-14)

1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
   to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
   and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
   to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
   at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
   and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
   they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 In old age they still produce fruit;
   they are always green and full of sap,
15 showing that the Lord is upright;
   he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

That is pleasant enough, but what did we miss?

5 How great are your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The dullard cannot know,
the stupid cannot understand this:
7 though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction for ever,
8 but you, O Lord, are on high for ever.
9 For your enemies, O Lord,
for your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.

10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
Case closed?

Next we got 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17 which reads,

6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Inspiring? Yes, but reading between the lines we see what got left to be mixed in with the hot dog material.

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

I can only guess that "the fear of the Lord " made someone uncomfortable. And so it should, as we were presented with this graphic image from our Lord in today's reading from Mark 4:26-34,

26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
My concern is that sans the references to God's judgement, folks in the pews just might start thinking that everything that is growing on this Earth is good for the harvest.

Anyone remember the parable of the wheat and the tares? 


  1. Indeed. Absent judgment, there's no reason for grace. The existence of judgment is what makes the Gospel "Good News."

  2. As far as God's judgement goes, I think people are often guilty of thinking of it in human terms. Much the same as the common problem about God's love. Both are beyond our imagination, but I believe both are evident in the love he has shown to us.