Lectionary woes

We follow the three-year series for the lectionary here. I’m not one who gets his shorts in a wad over which lectionary a congregation uses. Provided it teaches the church year, which teaches the life of Christ and of the Church, I’m really ok with it.

But my gripe is this: why must we play the cut-cut snip-snip game with a text? Today as I was putting together the service for All Saints’ Day, I stopped short at the appointed Old Testament reading. I’ve never put so many commas in a pericope reference: Isaiah 26.1-4, 8-9, 12-13, 19-21. Here is the whole text, with the elisions italicized:

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust.
The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”
The path of the righteous is level; you make level the way of the righteous.
In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.
My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the Lord.
Lord, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.
O Lord, you will ordain peace for us; you have done for us all our works.
O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance.
They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them.
But you have increased the nation, O
Lord, you have increased the nation; you are glorified; you have enlarged all the borders of the land.
Lord, in distress they sought you; they poured out a whispered prayer when your discipline was upon them.
Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O
we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.
For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.

So my question, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone in this, is “What’s wrong with 5-7, 10-11, and 14-18?” Are these somehow not written for the edification and instruction of God’s people? With the use of a lectionary cycle there is indeed some interpretive work that must occur, but such selectivity is excessive. I haven’t worked much with the upcoming LSB lectionary, but I pray that it will leave whole texts, well, whole.


3 Responses to Lectionary woes

  1. Derek K says:

    Most egregious examples of “snippity-snip” happen in texts that present difficult passages. One recent one was the Second Sunday of Easter where Acts took the place of the OT reading. That week the text was Acts 3:13-15, 17-26. Peter is addressing a crowd at the temple after healing a beggar. The omitted verse reads: “And his name – by faith in his name – made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” (ESV)

    Our Lutheran theological caution flags go up at the idea of this man’s faith being somehow related to his healing. I’m not sure what the lectionary committee or whoever chose the passage was thinking – that the passage would contribute to a misunderstanding among lay people? That pastors were not equipped to handle the passage? Personally I find the omission deceptive. Anyone following along with the reading in the Bible rather than on the back page of a bulletin will notice the missing verse. I’m not sure if there was condescension at work, as to whether the average parish pastor could in a doctrinally sound way deal with the passage. What I do know is that it appears, whether it is the case or not, that we are people not interested in dealing with what God’s Word has to say. It contributes to the notion that the LCMS is a denomination that dismisses parts of God’s Word out of hand. Why not challenge our pastors and laity to work with all of Scripture, not only that which is “safe?”

    The Concordia Self Study Bible bothers me in much the same way. The notes on the bottom half of the page invariably miss talking about the strange and difficult passages. No specific examples to corroborate this statement, so dismiss it if you wish.

  2. OSC says:

    No, I think you and I are on the same page. God has given us all of Scripture, to make us wise unto salvation. And I’ve found that many times the Gospel (broad sense) takes on an whole other dimension when we’re forced to reckon with some of those passages. Too often we work to massage those difficulties away.

    I don’t have enough info to say much to your comment about the self-study bible, except to say that I don’t think Scripture is really intended for self-study.

    BTW, congrats on finishing the year. God’s blessings in the one to come.

  3. Sean says:

    how many times are the omitted sections “mean” things too?

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