Saturday, May 22, 2010

Removing the Judgment of God

Because tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday I checked the Revised Common Lectionary online to see what readings it selected for worship. I found the Psalms selection very telling. The Lectionary listed Psalms 104. 24-34, 35b. My interest became piqued; why would the RCL ask for an extended pericope (passage) of Scripture to be read aloud from verses 24-34 and then jump to the second part of verse 35? What did the first part of verse 35 read that was considered, uh, objectionable? Extraneous? Superfluous? What was it and why was it deleted from the reading?

The first ten verses were excellent as the Church focuses on the Holy Spirit:
(24) O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
(25) Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.
(26) There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
(27) These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.
(28) When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
(29) When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
(30) When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
(31) May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works,
(32) who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!
(33) I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
(34) May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. (ESV)
Then the RCL jumps one half of verse 35 to 35b:
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD! (ESV)
It's a great part. But it left out 35a:
Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! (ESV)
Hmm...the common reading from the Lectionary left out the call for the judgment of God. It took away the imprecatory (curse) sentence.

Why? Why have ten verses of a Psalm read all over the world on May 23, 2010, skip one half of a verse and then conclude on a "happy note"? Why take the bite out of Scripture? Why delete the call for justice from God? Why excise part of Holy Writ from being heard?

I don't know what was in the hearts of the committee that published the readings. I don't know what they were thinking.

But I know what I am thinking. And it's not good. As the Bible says:
Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29 ESV)