The Revised Common Lectionary cuts out “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount features in Year A’s season after Epiphany. Like many other blocks of teaching, the RCL chops the block into smaller bits, leaving some texts on the cutting room floor. I can understand redacting Judges 19 or swaths of Levitical code. But ‘Judge not’ is quintessential Jesus.
Luke’s parallel Sermon on the Plain also includes Jesus’ teaching to ‘judge not’ (Luke 6). The RCL assigns this text to Year C, week 7 in the Season after Epiphany. But how often do we get 7 Sundays after Epiphany?
I certainly hope that Lectionary based preachers are paying attention to this. I for one can’t go 3 years without hearing Judge not. I certainly can’t go 6, 9 or 12 years (however often the moon cause us to cut out Epiphany 7, Year C). As I joked this morning, I can often forget things in 3 to 6 minutes!
As I have worked my way through the Sermon on the Mount this year, I am struck by those matters which get repeated and the way that Jesus cycles back to central themes. In teaching us to pray, Jesus teaches: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Of all the tenets of the Lord’s Prayer, this is the only one that get editorialized. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespass.” Judge not, lest ye be judged, followed by “the measure you give will be the measure you get” is Jesus returning to that central theme that he introduced in chapter 6. The repetition seems to be an important part of Jesus’ teaching: don’t forget this one!
I wonder if this omission plays into the church’s reputation for being judgmental and hypocritical. It’s not really fun to look into the mirror and have to see that log in our own eye. It’s easier to gloss over it, pay it lip service and scurry out in time to make the buffet. And yet, people are still dying for this Gospel, still crying to God to be freed.
Image is screenshot from textweek.com taken via Screen Capture