Looking at the readings for next Sunday, it is clear that the revisionists have been at it again; trying to cut the nasty bits from the Scripture readings in church. We have become very selective in our reading of Scripture. The Gospel reading for next Sunday is from Saint Matthew Chapter 11, from verse 16 to verse 30, but leaving out verses 20-24. Mention of judgment seems to offend the sensibilities of the editors:
Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Standing on a hillside on the Somme today, questions of what happened to the refugees in 1914 arose. Being refugees was an experience endured by Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus, but the editors who cut judgment out of Jesus’ words also cut exile out of the Epiphany story, the Gospel reading for 6th January always stops short of telling what happened when the wise men returned to their own country by another route. The disturbing reality, that the Holy Family escape from the bloody slaughter of children by Herod’s men is omitted from the Epiphany story – the excuse being that it is read on Holy Innocents’ Day: how many people are in church to hear it then?
The thought of running from a place, with no more than what we stand up in, is not something that would occur to us. It happened in 1914, it happens in many places today. Leaving out verses of the Bible doesn’t change the reality of what is going on. It doesn’t take the painful parts away from the Gospel story, nor does it change the fact that judgement was a reality to be faced.