Which bits of the Bible do you miss out?
Oh, if you are starting to huff and puff about that question, I hear you, I really do. After all, once you start to edit the Bible you’re making God in your own image, putting up idols of your heart and mucking about with the eternal truth of the ages which will stand undiminished, unchanged and with everlasting immutability forever and ever, Amen. Right?
But seriously. Which bits do you miss out?
Unless you are keeping kosher in the kitchen, don’t borrow or lend with interest and are prepared to take off all those mixed fibre clothes you are wearing now (yes, right now, take them off!) then you are doing it already.
I preached last Sunday morning all about how I believe women and men to be created with equal dignity and worth. I said I would believe it whether I was a Christian or not because it is right anyway.
Then by the evening I found myself in a church full of wandering eyes, sniggers and general incredulity as someone read the second lesson at Evensong.
It was this passage from the letter to Titus.
But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.
Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behaviour, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.
Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to answer back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Saviour.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
Now, there we have a passage where women and men certainly are not regarded as equals and where slave owning is not so much as challenged but supported directly by the text.
You know, the “so long as you are nice to them” argument in favour of slavery just ain’t kosher around here. It ain’t halal to us in St Mary’s. It ain’t righteous, godly or holy. And neither is treating women and men as anything other than of equal dignity and worth.
Now, as a result of that, I found myself doing some quick mental editing to the prayers and giving thanks to God that we have learned so much more about the world since the letter to Titus was written.
But what would you do? Would you put a note in the lectionary to ensure this isn’t read out loud the next time we get to that place in the cycle of readings that we use for Evensong? Unless I’m much mistaken, the compilers of the Revised Common Lectionary that we use in the morning have carefully and quietly nudged that passage out of use – it simply isn’t read once in the three year cycle. The last paragraph can be read on Christmas Day. But not the rest.
So, what should we do with it when it comes up in the evening lectionary that we use? Read it and roll our eyes knowingly? Read it and denounce the things it represents in sermon, deeds and action?
Or quietly cause it not to be read at all?
Over to you.