Sunday, May 01, 2016

Splicing and Dicing Through Revelation: The Passed-Over Verses

A sharp-eyed Episcopal priest was doing their sermon prep this week and called to my attention another one of those curious lectionary decisions that we have presented on this blog from time to time. This one will go completely unnoticed by the pewsitters this Sunday.

Here is a reminder about last week's reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter which was Revelation 21:1-6,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,‘See, the home of God is among mortals.He will dwell with them;they will be his peoples,and God himself will be with them;he will wipe every tear from their eyes.Death will be no more;mourning and crying and pain will be no more,for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Rev 21:1-6 

This week's reading for the Sixth Sunday of Easter is Revelation 21:10, 22:1-5

And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.
 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. Revelation 21:10, 22:1-5

Notice that between the two Sundays by jumping to Rev 21:10 on May 1, a few verses get passed over. Readers of this blog can easily guess the likely content. For those who are not familiar, lectionary edits tend to soften chapters of the Bible that mention sin, damnation, or things that are particularly imprecatory in nature. These omissions eliminate a lot of things that would otherwise cause unpleasantness for Sunday preachers and church visitors, but the long-term spiritual effects of being fed a diet lacking in essential Bible verses is not healthy for shepherds or for their flocks.

Revelation 21:7-9

Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ Revelation 21:7-9

In all my years in the Episcopal church, listening to thousands of sermons, not once was Hell fire and brimstone discussed in a sermon except in a negative sense such as, "Those churches over there belief in that eternal damnation stuff."

Seems to me that any Church that follows the Revised Common Lectionary may be in peril of beong sliced, diced, and roasted if they treat their pewsitters to a Gospel that has been sliced, diced, revised, and sanitized.

Addendum: And just wait and see what happens to Revelation next week!

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