Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sometimes squeamish, sometimes not,,,

Sometimes I wonder what was going on in the minds of the scholars and divines who put together The Revised Common Lectionary--the Sunday and Holy Day readings used by the Episcopal Church and most Main Line denominations.

Today for example.

In the Gospel from Mark, we hear Jesus telling the crowds to 'cut off your hand', 'cut off your foot' and 'pluck out you eye' if your hard or foot or eye causes you to sin. (This is from Mark 9.) "It is better," Jesus tells them, to enter God's kingdom short a hand or foot or eye than to be whole and go to hell. Some rather detailed descriptions of the horrors of hell are added just for good measure.

I remember preaching at a church as a supply priest when this gospel was read. (It shows up every three years on the Sunday nearest September 28th, in case you care--and why should you?) When I finished reading it, all the kids left for Sunday School. "Boy," I said after they were gone, "I'm glad I'm not to one to have to explain that to them!" The congregation laughed nervously. They were glad they weren't too....

But on this same Sunday, the lectionary gives us a reading from the Hebrew scriptures, from the Book of Numbers.

In it, the children of Israel are complaining that they have no meat to eat--or fish or onions or garlic or anything good--just the sticky manna that shows up in the dew every morning. Manna, as it is explained in Numbers, is sort of like communion wafers--hardly something to stick to your stomach. So Moses complains to Yahweh about making him in charge of this whiny people out in the Wilderness, wandering for 40 years. So God promises 'meat' to them and makes 70 other Israelites share the leadership responsibilities with Moses.

Thing is, the Numbers reading is chapter 11, verses 4-6, 10-16, 24-29. So 7-10 and 17-23 are left out. Now it is a long lesson, so I guess the lectionary folks didn't want to make it longer.

However, what is left out is what Yahweh/God says to Moses about the pigeons that will fly in every evening and die so the Children of Israel can have 'meat' to eat. God is angry with the whiny band as much as Moses is, so he says: "They will eat meat....until it comes out their nostrils...."

That seems to be, to me, a real insight into how God can get really pissed off!

So maybe the lectionary icons wanted to spare us a view of God that unfavorable.

If so, why do they let us hear Jesus tell us to maim and lame and blind ourselves to avoid hell?

Sometimes squeamish, sometimes not, it seems to me....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.