I ask those questions, because, over the years, I have begun to analyze the lectionary more carefully, noting especially what is *not* included. I have learned to pay particular attention whenever the appointed readings skip an odd verse or two, because very often the verses that are left out are those that declare judgment against sin--the voice of the Law. The bad news of our sinful nature and condemnation before God is too often carefully removed, so that only the good news of salvation remains. When those lessons are read from Scripture inserts, it is easy not even to notice the actual citation and so not realize that the readings have been abridged in that way.
In the case of yesterday's second lesson, these are the words that, according to the lectionary, were *not* to be read to our congregations. "Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander." What would have motivated the lectionary committee to exclude that first verse from the reading? With the groups of sinners I hang around with, including me, there could hardly be a more germane word. Why would such an important warning be considered inappropriate or unnecessary for public worship?
I don't know, of course, not having been part of the lectionary committee's discussions, but I have my suspicions. There is abundant and distressing evidence of theological weakness in the ELCA today. One aspect of that is a growing anti-nomianism (literally, "against-the-law-ism"). It is the conviction that the Gospel does not merely save us from the judgment of God's Law, but eradicates the Law, so that we no longer need to hear its accusations. In some cases, those accusations are dismissed as merely "negative" or "depressing," rather than revealing our dire need for forgiveness and salvation through Christ Jesus. Closely related to this anti-nomianism is a growing loss of the Lutheran conviction that we are simul iustus et peccator--simultaneously saints and sinners--so that, even as people of faith, we continue to sin and are called to return to the promise of our baptism daily, dying to sin and being raised again with Christ.
As a result, a disturbing trend of moral, ethical and doctrinal laxness is more and more evident in Christian circles. That's why groups like Lutheran CORE and its member movements have become so necessary.
Whether these theological trends are the source of the lectionary's strange elisions or vice-versa is a chicken-or-egg question. What cannot be in doubt is that failing to read Biblical passages that name our sin or call us to repent, no matter how uncomfortable they may be, cannot in any way contribute to the spiritual health of those who come to hear God's Word.
Whether you are a pastor, a lay lector or one of those eager listeners in the pew, pay attention to the readings of the day and note especially what is left out of them. Adding back in what is supposed to omitted may well be necessary in order to hear the whole counsel of God.
Lutheran CORE Steering Committee