"then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a paradise within thee, happier far. Let us descend now therefore from this top of speculation; for the hour precise exacts our parting hence" Paradise Lost, Book XII, lines585-590

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

All things necessary for salvation

Last Sunday was Pentecost, and among the readings was a portion of Psalm 104.  I really love this Psalm because it has one of the best lines ever in the bible in verse 27 where amidst its rapturous glorification of God's creative powers it says; “and there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it.”  I am strongly attached to the notion that God creates partly for the pure joy of doing so.

But this week, the Revised Common Lectionary (which lays out the scripture readings for worship in a 3 year cycle) does one of the things that really annoys me - it edits the scriptures, ostensibly I suppose, to make it more amenable to the modern listener.  It's bad enough that we can't hear the entire psalm, but in this case they also leave out a single verse (36) which says; “And let sinners be consumed from the earth; let the wicked be no more.”

I’m willing to bet that almost everyone has, at one time or another, said a prayer just like it – “God, please make the bad people go away.”  The first human to turn their eyes heavenward and pray to God probably prayed a prayer just like it.  God is great and God's creation is awesome, but sometimes people really suck - they let us down, they lie, they cause mischief and too many of our fellow humans are subject to capricious injustice and true bodily harm at the hands of others.  Yes, please let the wicked be no more.

But the thing is, of course, that all of us are one time or another the one disappointing rather than the one disappointed.  All of us have broken a heart or wounded the feelings of others.  Maybe we've even been willing  to harm or did actual physical harm to another.  I know that I was willing to annihilate millions of people I'd never met with nuclear weapons in my time in the Navy because of our fear of the Red Menace.  

The disciples were expecting a Messiah who would lead a rebellion to restore the Davidic kingdom and make the wicked be no more through killing them - they wanted a sacrificial purification of Israel.  I have long harbored the suspicion that Judas's motivation may have been his realization that Jesus would do no such thing. Because Jesus and therefore God's intention is to remove the wicked, not by sacrificing them, but by loving them and breaking down the fear that lies behind all our selfishness and wickedness.  

Shame on the RCL for leaving that out!

1 comment:

  1. I too get annoyed when the RCL does that! Our weekly lectionary Bible study group laughs at me because I get all animated whenever they chop off a story or leave out a verse. Context is important, people, we need it all!