Sunday, August 28, 2016

What the Lectionary Left Out: "The City That is to Come"

The Sunday lectionary in use by many churches all too often cuts out segments of the Bible and splices verses together so that the original context is not presented to the Sunday pewsitter. If Sunday's bits and pieces of the message are the only exposures to the Bible that large numbers of pewsitters get, then is it any wonder that most of us are failing to spread the Gospel to the world?

This Sunday's example of lectionary omissions may seem harmless enough. We get to hear Hebrews 13:1-8,15-16

Let mutual love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence,‘The Lord is my helper;   I will not be afraid.What can anyone do to me?’
7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. 15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
The jump from verse 8 to 15 is so smooth that it will probably go unnoticed, but there are a few good points in the deleted section that should be noted. Here is what people missed,

9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them. 10 We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. 13 Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 
Yeah, all that stuff relating to the dietary laws and temple regulations get the ax. These were important to the Hebrews back then, but what about us today? Certainly the warning against strange teachings should be something that the people should hear. We should also hear about the abuse we will bear, and since it is so rarely discussed in many progressive churches, we really should hear about "the city that is to come".

In fact, I think one of the great verses that will go unheard today is,
"For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. "
I'll walk with that one today.

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