Archive for the ‘Leviticus 26-27’ Category

The Issue of the Choppiness of Pericopes in the Revised Common Lectionary   Leave a comment


Above:  The Second Reading for Proper 26, Year C

Scanned from the Bulletin for St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, October 30, 2016

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor


The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) (1992) is a wonderful resource for preaching and Bible study.  With its three-year cycle it covers about one-fourth of the Bible (the Protestant Bible, that is, I suppose).  Certainly the RCL covers more of scripture than does its immediate predecessor, the Common Lectionary (1983) and any of a number of one-year and two-year lectionaries the RCL has replaced in a variety of denominations.  Furthermore, as a number of clergymen and clergywomen have said, the RCL requires them to address passages of the Bible on which they might not have preached otherwise.  Another advantage of reading scripture via a lectionary, the RCL in particular, is that it helps one read passages of scripture in the context of each other.  Scripture is, after all, one context in which to read scripture properly.

Sometimes the RCL chops up passages of scripture, skipping over certain verses.  On some occasions this does not change the meaning or flavor of the pericope; the cut might serve the purpose of sparing the lector of having to read polysyllabic names that have no effect on the point of the lesson, as in Nehemiah 8:4.  Sometimes the cuts create an awkward composite reading yet do not change the meaning of the passage.  For example, the First Reading (Track One) for Proper 26, Year C, is Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4, skipping over God’s reply to the prophet and most of the prophet’s answer to God in the first chapter.  The main reason for this kind of cut seems to be time.  Besides, a good homilist can summarize the cut material, so that omission is fine.  I do, however, object to other cuts.

Consider, O reader, 1 Thessalonians 1.  The verses from it assigned for reading on Proper 26, Year C, are 1-4 and 11-12.  This fact makes me more interested in verses 5-10 than I might be otherwise.  In The Revised English Bible (1989) verses 1-4 read:

From Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians who belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friends, we are always bound to thank God for you, and it is right that we should, because your faith keeps on increasing and the love you all have for each other grows ever greater.  Indeed we boast about you among the churches of God, because your faith remains so steadfast under all the persecutions and troubles you endure.

Verses 5-10 read:

This points to the justice of God’s judgement; you will be proved worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.  It is just that God should balance the account by sending affliction to those who afflict you, and relief to you who are afflicted, and to us as well, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in blazing fire.  Then he will mete out punishment to those who refuse to acknowledge God and who will not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the penalty of eternal destruction, cut off from the presence of the Lord, and the splendor of his might, when on the great day he comes to reveal his glory among his own and his majesty among all believers; and therefore among you, since you believed the testimony we brought you.

Verses 11-12, the end of the chapter, read:

With this in mind we pray for you always, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and that his power may bring to fulfilment every good purpose and every act inspired by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Omitting verses 5-10 removes the crucial link between verses 1-4 and verses 11-12.  It also changes the tone of the reading, dropping the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  I understand that the question of the balance of judgment and mercy in God can be uncomfortable for many people, but that question does recur in both the Old and New Testaments.  I do not pretend to have arrived at answer other than “only God knows.”  So be it.

Omitting uncomfortable verses is a pattern in the RCL, which does not omit all of them.  All one has to do to notice this pattern of avoiding reading certain verses is to pay attention to the RCL’s treatment of the Book of Psalms.  The RCL avoids some Psalms entirely and omits certain uncomfortable passages in others.  The emotions in the Psalms are frequently raw and not Christlike.  This fact might make one uncomfortable speaking, chanting, or singing certain lines in Christian worship.  Nevertheless, the RCL does include all of Psalm 137, even the part about dashing the heads of the children of enemies against a rock.  In contrast, I note that the Common Lectionary (1983) omits the final, vengeful verses of Psalm 137.

I have noticed these omissions more than I used to since I began to teach an adult Sunday School class just over a year ago.  For slightly more than a year I have studied the assigned readings ahead of time so I can lead a discussion of them between the morning services.  More than once I have extended readings in class and led a discussion of pericopes as I have thought they should have been, that is, not chopped up, cut, and pasted.

As much as I affirm the RCL as a useful tool, I also recognize its limitations.  There is, of course, the three-quarters of the (Protestant, I presume) Bible it does not cover.  According to my reading regarding lectionaries, a seven-year cycle would cover just about all of the (Protestant, I presume) material.  How many congregations and homilists are ready for Years A. B, C, D, E, F, and G?  And how much of Leviticus does one what to hear read aloud in church on Sunday mornings?  The main limitation of the RCL is one pastors can fix easily; they can extend readings and restore omitted verses.








God Cares, Part II   1 comment

Ozark Family

Above:  A Destitute Family in the Ozark Mountains, Arkansas, 1935

Photographer = Ben Shahn (1898-1969)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-006071-M2


The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 23:26-41 (Monday)

Leviticus 25:1-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 53 (Both Days)

Revelation 19:1-8 (Monday)

Revelation 19:9-10 (Tuesday)


The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

–Psalm 53:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


The New Revised Standard Version (1989) offers a more traditional rendering of that verse:

Fools say in their hearts,

“There is no God.”

–Psalm 53:1a

Singular versus plural in the realm of nouns is not the issue that really concerns me.  I do not live in fear or distrust of masculine words, but I do guard the distinction between the singular and the plural in the realm of pronouns zealously.  My tenacity regarding language aside, I focus on my main point:  the translators of TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) rendered Psalm 53 and its basis, Psalm 14, correctly.  Every scholarly commentary I have consulted regarding Psalms 14 and 53 agrees that the issue is practical atheism, not the denial of the existence of God.  Atheism was rare in the ancient Middle East, but living as if God did not care was rampant among Hebrews.

God cares.  For God to exist God must care.  God cares for us and the rest of the created order.  God cares about justice.  The Sabbath laws and codes for the year of the jubilee in Leviticus reveal that God cares about people so much as to give them time off from work.  One needs to rest and play as well as to work in order to lead a balanced life.  Unfortunately, the annals of Christian history are full of instances of people labeling proper recreation as something sinful.  I note that targets for this mislabeling have included chess and other games, which medical experts know to be helpful for keeping one’s mind sharp and which educators consider useful in building mental acumen.  Even drinking tea, an excellent source of antioxidants, has been the target of condemnations for indulging one’s appetites.  Some people need to relax in their attitudes and lay legalism aside.

More to the point, time off is a mark of freedom, for a slave in Egypt had no day off from work.  Freedom from oppression, the context for Revelation 19, is not an invitation to impose new forms of oppression–legalism, needless guilt trips, et cetera.  God frees people to live in the liberty of mutual responsibility in community.  Each of us is accountable others, who are, in turn, responsible to each of us.  And everybody depends entirely upon and is accountable to God.  In this model there is no room for oppression or exploitation.  God frees us to lead lives of active compassion, empathy, and sympathy.  And God cares if we pursue that path.





Adapted from this post:


Posted November 30, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Leviticus 26-27, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, Revelation of John 19

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A Better Society   1 comment


Above:  A Boomerang

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 26:3-20 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 92 (Both Days)

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (Monday)

Ephesians 4:17-5:2 (Tuesday)


Those who are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God;

They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be green and succulent;

That they may show how upright the LORD is,

my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

–Psalm 92:12-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


What we do to others we do to ourselves.  This is a timeless truth which the readings for these two days affirm.  The lessons from Leviticus and Deuteronomy speak of obedience to the Law of Moses as the prerequisite to prosperity and security in the land of Canaan.  The best of the Law of Moses rests partially on an ethic of mutuality.  People, when not stoning others for any of a host of offenses (from committing blasphemy to having premarital sex to working on the Sabbath to being disrespectful to parents) were not supposed to exploit each other.  By harming others they injured themselves and damaged their society.  That reality informed the Pauline readings.  How we treat others in a variety of ways–in attitudes, speech, sexual acts, et cetera–matters, St. Paul the Apostle said accurately.  Why?

…for we are all parts of the same body.

–J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

Thus whatever we do to another we do also to ourselves.  If we love our neighbors in need, we benefit ourselves.  If we seek to enrich ourselves to the detriment of others, we deprive ourselves in the long term and injure ourselves spiritually in the short, medium, and long terms.  Those who make others victims of violence (even that which might prove necessary to a higher purpose) become victims of their own violence.  It is a law of the universe.

The world is a messed-up place.  Often we must engage in or become complicit in bad just to commit some good.  I wish that this were not true, but it is.  We must work within the reality in which we find ourselves, but may we seek to transform it for the positive, so that more people may share in a better society.






Adapted from This Post:


Active and Effective Love for Each Other   1 comment


Above:  Herod’s Temple

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11786


The Collect:

O God, the strength of all who hope in you,

because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing without you.

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 26:1-15 (Thursday)

Leviticus 26:34-46 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-91 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:1-8 (all days)

James 1:12-16 (Thursday)

1 John 2:7-17 (Friday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Saturday)


Some Related Posts:

Leviticus 26:

Deuteronomy 30:

James 1:

1 John 2:

Matthew 15:


You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

–Psalm 119:4, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)


These readings contain much sage advice:

  1. Obey God’s laws, whether or not one lives among foreigners with different religions and customs.
  2. Love one’s fellow human beings actively and effectively, trusting in the power of God to enable one to do this.
  3. Do not use God and/or religion to to cover up or to attempt to cover up one’s own perfidy.

The latter point requires some explanation.  Korban was a custom by which one gave money to the religious establishment for the support of the professional religious people there.  Many people used this practice to deprive their relatives of necesssary funds while looking pious.  And many Temple officials knew it.  Thus religion became a means of circumventing a basic ethic of the Law of Moses:

Honor your father and your mother.

In other words, motives mattered.  They still do.

Ethics are concrete, not abstract.  Since we human beings live in communities, our actions and inactions affect each other.  Our actions and inactions flow from our attitudes.  Thus how we think of each other matters greatly.  Do we value each other or do we seek ways to exploit and/or deprive each other?  Which people do we think of as our neighbors?

May we not use the letter of the law to the cover up or to attempt to cover up violations of its spirit.





Adapted from this post:


Leviticus and Luke, Part VIII: Sin and Suffering   1 comment


Above:  Jesus Carrying the Cross, by El Greco


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 26:1-20 (34th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 26:21-33, 39-44 (35th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–34th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–35th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–34th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–35th Day of Easter)

Luke 13:18-35 (34th Day of Easter)

Luke 14:1-24 (35th Day of Easter)


Some Related Posts:

Luke 13-14:


The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod lectionary of 2006 (from the Lutheran Service Book) skipped over Leviticus 25, which includes the year of the Jubilee.  People should have observed it more often than they did.  If one had lost an inheritance of land, he was supposed to get it back.  Slaves were to become free people.  the land was supposed to lie fallow, for its benefit and that of the people.  The underlying principle was that everything belonged to God.

The theology of sin and suffering in Leviticus 26 is overly simplistic.  Sin leads to suffering; righteousness leads to blessings.  The Book of Job argues against this theology as a universal rule.  And Jesus, in Luke 13 and 14, was en route to Jerusalem to die–not for his own sins (as he had none) but for and because of the sins of others.  Herod Antipas (Luke 13:31-33) wanted Jesus dead.  His father, Herod the Great, had also wanted Jesus dead.  Seeking the death of another is certainly sinful.

Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!–your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Jerusalem Bible

Not all will go well for us when we walk with God.  Yet it is good to walk with God, regardless of the price one must pay.  What can one offer in exchange for one’s soul?

I close with words by William Alexander Percy (1885-1942):

The peace of God,

it is no peace,

but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for just one thing–

the marvelous peace of God.








Adapted from this post: