In Church history circles, Marcion is known for all the wrong reasons. He formed the first Canon – though most unfortunately, it was severely edited due to his heresy. Marcion taught that there were two Gods: Yahweh – the cruel God of the Old Testament; and Abba- the kind father of the New Testament. Because of this belief, he eliminated the Old Testament as Scriptures and kept only 10 letters of Paul and two-thirds of Luke’s gospel for his version of the New Testament. He also deleted all references to Jesus’ Jewishness. Marcion’s “New Testament”, (the first to be compiled) forced the church to decide on a core of what was considered Scripture: the four Gospels and the letters of Paul.
“Well enough about Marcion,” you say? After all, he was born in 85AD and died in 160AD. However, in Marcion is alive and well in our Australian Lectionaries.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Lectionary is helpful for the reason that it encourages the daily systematic reading of God’s Word, it can be a wonderful servant. However, I believe the Lectionary is a cruel master due to the fact that it appears that those who compile the pericopes have an agenda when it comes to what they think people should be reading. Here is an example.
In 2012, I was thrilled to discover that starting on the 15th July, (Seventh Sunday After Pentecost) the reading from the Epistle was Ephesians 1:1-14. So naturally one would expect the next reading the following week to be Ephesians 1:15 -2:10? Well apparently not! The reading was Ephesians 2:11-22. For some reason, the powers at be thought it problematic to include Ephesians 2:1-10. But why?? Of all the passages in Ephesians, this passage clearly articulates the gospel! It talks about:
- Our Spiritual condition (vv.1-3)
- What God has done to rescue us (vv.4-6)
- The future of those God has saved (v.7)
- Salvation is a gift that we cannot earn (vv.8-10)
In other words Ephesians 2:1-10 explains the gospel this way:
- Rebellion (vv.1-3)
- Rescue (vv.4-7)
- Response (vv.8-10)
But no! The Lectionary skips all this.
But this is not all! The lection then moves from Ephesians 2:11-22 to Ephesians 3.14-21; So conveniently it omits Ephesians 3:1-13 which is about the mystery of God has been revealed in the gospel – where through the Gospel God is making a new humanity consisting of Jew and Gentile.
The week after, the reading then goes to Ephesians 4:16 as it should but then the following week there is more Marcionism! The reading is Ephesians 4:25-5:2 with vv.17-24 being optional. I wonder how the Lectionary deals with chapter 5?
Well predictably the reading Ephesians 5:11-21 and yes, you are right, it omits Ephesians 5:3-10 which talks about how God’s people are not to have a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, vulgarity, and how those practice the like will not enter the Kingdom of God.
Finally we come to the last week on Ephesians (26th August – 13th Sunday after Pentecost), the reading Ephesians 6.10-20 with Ephesians 5:22- 6:9 obviously not being irrelevant for today’s culture with all this talk of how the Gospel is to permeate into all human relationships (ie. Marriage, Family, children, parents, employer/employee.
Marcion would have loved this lectionary!!!