Tag Archives: Pentecost

The problem with cut and paste

Jean II Restout : Pentecôte

Jean II Restout : Pentecôte

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
For Pentecost Sunday
Sunday, May 24, 2015

I love most things about the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).  Following the annual church calendar is a wonderful spiritual rhythm that I’ve come to appreciate through fellowship in a mainline Congregational church as well as my Siberian sojourn and exposure to Eastern Orthodoxy.  As an evangelical I wish this was something more of my fellow believers could understand and appreciate. This is particularly true on special Sundays like this Pentecost Sunday.

At the same time, I have a pet peeve with the RCL editors.  Why do you so persistently cut and paste?  This week the verse citation is the give away.  ‘Psalm 104:24-34, 35b.’  Hmmm… so we are supposed to read everything except v. 35a.  What does that say?  ‘May sinners disappear from the earth, and the wicked vanish!”  Ouch.  What’s the harm in excluding it?

The harm is that we change the message.  We allow our present worldview to hold sway over the text rather than giving the text permission to challenge our worldview.  In this case v. 35a is crucial.  Without it we’re focused on the good of the Lord.  With it the focus shifts to the good of the Lord in a world gone bad.

Sin is real.  Wickedness is real.  The world is not what it should be.  Take where I live, for example, Milwaukee.  60% black unemployment, profound segregation, and profound family dysfunction (and not just in the ‘hood).  What causes this?  God?  No!  What then?  Sinners and wickedness.

God is praying (through his Spirit) and acting for the world to conform to his intention.  He is calling us to pray and act likewise.   So two suggestions.  First, when the RCL cuts and pastes refuse to go along.  Second, with respect to this passage, pray the unredacted prayer of the Psalmist: “May my thoughts be pleasing to him.  I will rejoice in the Lord.  May sinners disappear from the earth, and the wicked vanish.  Praise the Lord, O my soul.  Praise the Lord.

O For a Thousand Tongues


Pentecôte, Jean II Restout, 1732 (via Wikipedia).

Acts 2:1-22
For Sunday, May 27, 2012
Pentecost Sunday 

I caught part of a television sermon last weekend in which the preacher mentioned that if the Holy Spirit wanted to make an impact by having everyone “speak in tongues” who are we to question his method?  The problem with this really stems from the translation that the New International Version (NIV) uses when it reads, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”  A better translation would be “… speak in other languages …”  The context makes this clear: the point is that Jews from many nations who were gathered in Jerusalem were hearing a group of Galileans speaking these expatriate Jews native languages when there was no practical way for them to have known these languages.  I will grant that the NIV at least translates consistently the same Greek word used in vv. 3 and 11, but to translate it as “tongues” given what this word connotes at least within Christian circles might be considered dubious.

The Holy Spirit’s method was not as obtuse as the television preacher was suggesting.  What was happening on Pentecost was not a bunch of people clambering, “Yabba Dabba Doo, I want that too!”.   Rather, God himself was announcing in the person of the Holy Spirit that the gospel, the good news of forgiveness through Christ, was not just for the Jews, and not just for others living within national Israel, but that it was for every tribe, tongue (read “language”), and nation on earth.

There is hope for your people and my people not because we’re number one or your number one, but because God is number one and he’s not giving up on any of us.  Good news for us, yes?