Sunday, May 12, 2013

RCL and the "Abbrevelation of John"

I posted on this 3 years ago, and this week I see that I am not alone in sensing a problem with today's suggested reading from Revelation. Dave Halt at  Benedict, Birettas, and Beets posted on the issue as he noted it during his sermon prep. This particular reading, Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-12, creates what one might call the "Abbrevelation of John" (should that be added to the Revisionist Dictionary?). When read without the imprecatory verses, the Abbrevelation of John sounds sweet and soothing, and perfect for the unsuspecting Sunday sheep. Unfortunately, most lectionary edits seem to result in this, a pasteurized scripture.

 The lectionary cycle is such that once a reading is written into the schedule, like clockwork, like a meteor shower, like a bad penny, it keeps on re-appearing. So, I will repost this from May 16, 2010.

A Warning to the Writers of the RCL

I usually blog about the Sunday sermon, but this was really bugging me today.

This Sunday's readings highlight one of my pet peeves, and that is the problem of the "missing verses." We use the Revised Common Lectionary for the assigned readings, and quite frequently this presents us pewsitters with an expurgated version of the Bible. What they did today to Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-12 sounds innocent enough,
12 ‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work.
13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.

16 ‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’
17The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

20 The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen

I wonder if they just wanted to make things sound pretty by cutting the verses of warning,
v. 15
"Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood."

We sure should have heard that one the day after the consecration of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles. I know, that verse is exclusionist (bad), and we are living in the age of theological pluralism (everybody gets in), and rationalism (there is no absolute truth so there is no absolute falsehood), but at times like this, I am beyond suspicious of the motives of the composers of the RCL.

And also left out was the part that the RCL really, really should not have tried to expurgate, vs. 18-19
"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."

Uh oh...

So, if you did not hear the full text today in church, and if your preacher did not point out the omissions during their sermon, please ask them if they believe that John's Revelation is prophetic, and ask them if they believe that God wants us to hear the whole thing, and ask them why they feed God's sheep skim milk instead of whole milk.

Then, advise them to read the whole text, or else use the omission for useful instruction to the congo. 


  1. You have hit a ten penny nail on its head with a 16 pound sledge hammer. My time in the rear-most pew is spent in muttering more-or-less along with the Mass...from my 1928 Book.
    Very few are present who..."Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn unto him. Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden and I will refresh you. (etc.)

    The wrapping up of a point, the eloquence, the art and science of the content of the 1556 Book as it stumbled into the 1928 least was not skimmed milk. No low fat! No sugar substitutes! No low cal!! Especially when souls are involved.

  2. Can't blame this one on Protestants; the Roman lectionary does exactly the same thing, and did it first.
    In my parish, we open our Bibles and read the whole thing.
    Both omissions contain Gospel Good news:
    Verse 15 assures us that our tormentors will not be around to harass us any more in the Heavenly Jerusalem, and vv 18-19 assure us of the absolute sufficiency and vital necessity of the Word of God written.
    Real Protestants should not be led astray by this Rome inspired misstep.